black business, business, ecuador, Ecuador expats, ecuadorians, entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, esl teaching, expats, expats in Ecuador, female business owners, female entrepreneurs, imbabura, new business
“Do you know what today is? It’s our anniversary…It’s our, it’s our special day.”
Last weekend I celebrated three months of operating Mama California. This may not seem like a big deal, but in Ibarra it’s huge. You see, many new businesses close within three months out here to avoid completing legal obligations and paying all the fees for opening. To me, it’s a little odd given it usually takes a year for a new company to see profits. But I think this is a reflection of the need for more government and NGO support of budding entrepreneurs in Ecuador.
Ecuador doesn’t lack the entrepreneurial spirit. I have seen one location have three businesses open and closes with in a three month span. People have ideas and a desire to own a piece of the world. The problem is receiving the proper guidance and support to maintain these businesses; all any entrepreneur needs is a little help to develop a dream. I know this as I attended a course for new entrepreneurs in my hometown of Los Angeles. And one day I hope to open my tea garden in the great City of Angels.
So why isn’t the government organizing programs to help? I’m not sure. Why aren’t small businesses banning together to help each other? I’m not sure and maybe there are associations that I am not aware of, which is also problematic given I am a new entrepreneur.
But I think the main reason I am still standing is because I kept my day job, and I’m taking my time to figure out my business in the local context. My Seoul-Cali ideas are foreign to Ibarreños; my “coffee house” is not the typical cafeteria out here because, for starters, I sell tea and not coffee. I don’t have a bunch of tables and chairs; I have couches to lounge in. It’s also has a heavy “English-speaking” vibe, which could be intimidating; however, people actually want a place to practice their English with a native speaker/EFL teacher of 10 years, which I’m slowly realizing. Being able to develop my brand in the Ecuadorian environment was only possible because I’m still teaching English, which provides a steady income. So it is true– keep your day job until you can really break free.
Another reason I am still standing after three months is because I made a personal commitment to self that I would be open for an entire year. So come next Halloween, I’m either having an anniversary party or going-out-of-business celebration. Having that one-year commitment embedded in my entrepreneurial spirit allows me to tell people the truth: “I’m happy to have my shop and I’m going to be here for at least one year.” Some look at me like I’m a gringa loca and extremely naive; but what this simple sentence does is stop the cascade of doubt and negativity about my business success. This is my life to gamble with, and I’m betting on self. I think people — friends, colleagues, neighbors– don’t realize how negative they are when they constantly ask “Are you making money yet?” “You should sell almuerzos.” “You know, you should move to the center of town.” Because they don’t believe in their own abilities to make their dreams a reality, they throw shade on me; but, I got a repellent for that negativity; it’s called faith, hope and optimism.
I dream big dreams, knowing that God can dream bigger dreams, as Oprah always says. So why can’t I have a successful tea business in coffee land? Why can’t I have the area’s first English writing school if my talent is writing in English? Why can’t I publish my novels with my own publishing company? Why can’t I do me?
It’s simple, I can, I will, I am. Period.