Q&A with our Mexico City Expert Isabel Corral
By: Isabel Corral, Mexico City Location Manager
My journey with Unsettled started in May 2017. I wrote to them because of two reasons. One, I really connected with their culture and value proposition. I also consider myself a nomad (I have traveled to 30-35 countries in my life), and secondly, I thought Mexico City would be a really great spot for Unsettled to explore and host retreats.
I think that Mexico City is very appealing to anyone. It has a growing, vibrant, designer, artistic, entrepreneurial community. It has a very rich and unique cultural heritage, and there are really cool spots — working spaces and galleries — that really speak to what nomads are looking for. We started collaborating on Unsettled: Mexico City in 2017 and then the earthquake happened. We had to stop because of all the chaotic things happening in the city. Then in May 2018, together with Raul, Lala and the incredible team at Unsettled, we started working together again to put on our first pilot retreat that October.
Mexico City’s Coworking Culture
The cool thing is, I have this background in coworking spaces. I was part of the founding team of Centraal, a coworking space in Mexico City that was a hub for tech entrepreneurs in Latin America. I had a strong connection with tech entrepreneurs in the city, and I learned very quickly that the best way to spread your value proposition, and what you are offering to the public, is to create alliances with already existing communities.
We started Centraal in 2012 and officially opened the coworking space in 2013. We didn’t do any pre-sales or strategy or anything! We just focused on designing the house neatly and incredibly, and when we opened it was empty. We wanted to let people know we were there, and that we had created a space where people could grow and connect. This background really helped me a lot with Unsettled. With Centraal, we had to connect with a lot of already existing communities, and as a result we created two more brands as part of Centraal. Yearly we had 10,000 people coming. We became this reference for the tech entrepreneurial ecosystem in Mexico City.
This experience also helped me a lot with working for Unsettled because of this organic way of getting involved with any community that you want to belong to. The Unsettled: Mexico City pilot retreat was a really incredible experience. We only had two-weeks but I think we really accomplished our objectives.
My Entrepreneurial Journey in a 60-Year-Old Family Business
Apart from my work with Unsettled, I have had these projects of my own. I am originally from the northern part of Mexico. It is a small town in Chihuahua, and my family for more than 60 years have grown apples. We are an agricultural family and for the past many years we have just grown the apples and sold them. But now there is interest and an opportunity to do more with the apples. Apples are a very rich fruit and have a lot of very good properties.
I am starting a project to produce apple fibre and apple flour. This project started last year because we saw that people wanted a more healthy lifestyle and were interested in taking greater care of their bodies and their health. We saw this tendency outside of Mexico City, in Europe and the US, for products like this to have a lot of traction. We thought about it, did some research on the types of products we could produce and sell, and we went with the apple fibre.
What is very interesting about this project is that it is a family-owned business. The owners of the business are my father and his two brothers and one sister. They all have very different backgrounds. One is in finance, one is in agriculture, another is a lawyer, and another is an engineer. They all provide different points of view for the business. Now that they have sons and daughters, the third generation of us as cousins, are starting to give value to the company. I wanted to propose to them another type of business. To not only produce, but to add more value to the product we are already selling. So, my role in that is creating a brand, a strategy for the apple fibre. I have reached out to different people in the community that are already interested in this matter, and have already started different channels where we can sell the product.
I work from Mexico City and they are producing the fibre in Chihuahua. We have just started and like everything, it is a process. As a family business that has been doing the same thing for several years, we are used to working the same way for 30 years, the new generation comes and has different points of view and strategies. It is very interesting but also very enriching. I have learned a lot. I think there is a huge opportunity for us to become pioneers in the market because we are one of the first roleplayers in the industry.
What Have I Learned as an Entrepreneur?
I am happy that I have had the opportunity to build one successful project from scratch (Centraal), and now I am putting together a new venture with my family. Now it is too early to say that we succeeded since we are still in the process of producing the fiber and trying to sell it, but we are definitely working hard to build our road. It is a new type of product in Mexico and new in the food industry here in the Country, but we think there is an interesting opportunity to grow. I’ll keep you posted 😉
Finally, what have I learned in my experience as an entrepreneur?
1) You need to use your network and leverage from already built communities surrounding your industry, to spread the word about your product.
2) Build a great product and once you have it look for organic marketing, it is the best: word of mouth and recommendations are the best sales, so make your clients happy and make them talk greatly about you.
3) Learn from your clients/users needs and wants, listen to their recommendations, opinions and from there be able to iterate and adjust your product. It is not always the product you initially thought would work that is going to work. Be able to pivot and iterate the product accordingly.
4) Be bold, be persistent, and always be open to listen. Failing is a good opportunity to learn and understand what not to do. Keep trying there is always a way.
Our next collaboration with Isabel is coming up in Mexico City! You in?