Starting Up in Chile

Jan and Ed’s experiences while participating in the Startup>Chile program in 2014

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We are now back in San Francisco, after a six month stay in Santiago.  The time went by quickly, but we are glad to be back in the USA.  We hope to continue to work on RahRah4Good and get the website off and running! We now have inventory for several major universities  ... the next steps will be marketing and sales!

RR4G Collection

We'll always think fondly of our time as "SUPPERs"  (the affectionate name for Start Up Chile folks).  Even though we were twice the age of most of the participants, the "kids" treated us well and we made some new friends from all around the world.

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We loved our apartment in Las Condes, and were very impressed with our 25-year old landlord.

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What were the highlights of our stay? Did we effectively spend our $40,000 grant from the Chilean government?  Well, we:

*Traveled to Ghana, Uganda and Rwanda to develop our supply chain.  Along the way, we were fascinated by visits to gorilla families in Uganda and Rwanda.gorillas 308 - version 2

*Enjoyed traveling on the Nile by boat and sampling the local brews.P1070931

*Reconnected with friends in Accra. And, were constantly amazed by African ingenuity.P1070939

*Traveled to the US to investigate retail opportunities for RR4G. Along the way, we visited GG in California, and Nancy and family in Boston.

*Explored new regions of Chile, including Concepcion and Toquihua, Vina del Mar and Valpariso.  Enjoyed skiing at Valle de Navarro in July.IMG_6877

*Connected with AGEP, the group of women entrepreneurs in Vina who are supported by a group of women in their sister city Sausalito.photo 3 (6)IMG_7085

*Cycled through Santiago on its numerous bike paths.IMG_7011

*Made friends with our 8 doormen who informed our Chilean guests, "those people in 507 don't speak Spanish very well!"

*Navigated through the Chilean banking system. We were sad when we had to cut up our Chilean ATM cards! IMG_7094

*Made friends with entrepreneurs from Austria, Germany, Argentina, Canada, Russia and more.  Enjoyed learning about their businesses and maybe gave them a bit of counsel.IMG_6792

*Became experts at navigating the awesome Santiago subway system.

*Enjoyed tasting Chilean wine at various wineries , including Kingston Family Vineyards, founded by Courtney and Andy Kingston, Stanford MBAs.IMG_7020

*Learned Spanish using the online program "Start Spanish" and the in-person classes at SUP

*Got to know Marcelo and his family. Enjoyed the rodeo!

*Enjoyed seeing Chile through Leslie's eyes.  Amazed at her flexibility and versatility in Spanish! Enjoyed meeting some of her friends. IMG_6855

*Cheered for Chile during their numerous World Cup matches! (When we weren't cheering for Chile, we also cheered for the US, Ghana, and Brazil!) photo 2 (7)

Did the Chilean government benefit from our stay in Santiago? (We got asked this question frequently.)  We hope so! We:

*"Gave back" to the local entrepreneurial community by networking. Ed delivered a "Crossing the Chasm" presentation in Concepcion to entrepreneurs at a co-working space.IMG_6739

*Presented in Leslie's entrepreneurship classes. Helped the students learn about US perspectives and social businesses. They were especially interested in the ZBoard!

*Provided a bit of "grey hair" to add diversity to the SUP community.

*Met with the AGEP entrepreneurs in Vina del Mar and gave a brief presentation on Marketing tips.photo 2 (10)

*Delivered the SUP presentation in both Accra and Kampala ... thereby spreading the SUP "love"  in both West and East Africa. We taped a testimonial from our friend, Kojo from Ghana, and showed it at both events.P1080085

*Hopefully added a bit of "wisdom" and "business experience" to the SUP crowd. One 30-year old kid was asked by his mother, "Are you the oldest person in the program?" He replied, "No mom ... there's a couple who is even older than you!  You could do this too!

While in Chile, our "Tripit" app considered our six-month experience to be one trip, since it was bookended by SFO - SCL - SFO flights.  We loved the graphic that showed the journey:

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So, Gracias Startup Chile!  Thanks for the great six-month adventure.  We are grateful for this experience and will evangelize the opportunity to other entrepreneurs.  Who knows, we may even recruit another pair of "grey hairs"!

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Chile is rich in natural resources and natural beauty. We’ve enjoyed getting out of Santiago to visit the countryside.

Domuduras Toquihua

One of the most exciting weekends in the tiny hamlet of Toquihua is when the rodeo comes to town!  Toquihua is Marcelo's home town, so he was our host.

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Chilean cowboys, named "huasos",   came to the rodeo in droves to represent their teams in a bull riding competition. Jan made a new friend since she liked his chaps.

Jan and Chilean Cowboy

The bull riding was super challenging. We were glad that no one we know depends on this sport to make money!  But, these huasos do – and they gave it their all.

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To win maximum points, each cowboy tried to make three moves on the bull. First, he had to ride the bull out of the shoot. The bulls were not excited about this prospect and they tried to buck the rider off.

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Then each rider crossed his hands on the saddle, and performed a 180-degree turn, flipping around so they faced the rear of the bull. Not everyone was successful with this maneuver and instead ended up on the dirt.

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The final stage is to take the bull down to the dirt and remove the saddle. Even fewer huasos completed this task.

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We watched the “preliminary” round. The top scorers advanced to the semi finals the next day, and then the finals were on the third day. Also, in the center of the bull ring during an intermission, these two young local dancers performed the “cueca”, the national dance of Chile. Not sure this was designed to do in the mud!

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It was a warm and sunny day – perfect for the rodeo!  We were lucky to get an up-close-and-personal tour. Since it was Easter, we enjoyed visiting with Marcelo's family and even hosting an egg hunt for the kids.

Jan at rodeo

Cascada de Animas

In the nearby Maipo valley, we spent the night at a “new age” resort, where we enjoyed staying in a Yurt and hiking to the falls. The legend of the falls states that the initial explorers of this area saw water nymphs in these falls, and this legend gave the falls their name.

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The resort was warm and cozy – and the restaurant did not disappoint!

Santa Rita Winery

At this winery in Buin ,which you can reach via the Santiago Metro and a short bus ride, we enjoyed the beautiful surroundings and the yummy wine.

A highlight of this winery is their (free) museum, which dramatically displayed an enormous collection of Chilean artifacts. We especially liked the wood stirrups.

As we recall, we've previously purchased the wine from Santa RIta at Trader Joe’s! Neither the wine nor the visitor experience is low-end!

Empanadas From Roadside Stands

Many locals along the main road in the Maipo Valley sell empanadas (and other local treats) to travelers. This woman had just baked these empanadas de “pino” -- onion-based, but always with an olive so watch for the pit -- in her wood-fired outdoor oven. Warm and delicious.

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Concepcion

The second-largest city in Chile is the home to Independence Plaza – where Bernardo O'Higgins signed the Chilean Declaration of Independence. We traveled here last weekend by sleeper bus (a 6-hour ride) for a business engagement and enjoyed visiting the main square.

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El Chiflón del Diablo

Lota, a town 45 kilometers from Concepcion hosts an old coal mine that is open to tourists. We joined a tour of 15 other visitors and discovered that the mine is actually under the ocean. An ex-miner led us down into the mine in an old German elevator and then we walked in the mine to end up 850 meters under the Pacific Ocean.

Never before had a hard hat been more valuable!  In other underground visits to mines or caves, we’ve felt that the hard hats were just for show – or to protect one’s head from dripping water or falling debris. But here, they were worth their weight in gold, as we kept bumping our head on the ceiling of the mine!

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We had to crouch very low to maneuver along the trails in the mine. I guess the guide may have mentioned this (in Chilean Spanish), but we were surprised!

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The life of a miner in the 1800’s was pretty bleak.

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The bathroom facilities would not meet US code!

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And, Ed was glad to be able to stand up straight upon exiting the mine!

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We were once again glad that no one we know has to make money as a coal miner in this type of mine!  This view of Chilean history was very interesting. The mine was the setting of a 2002 movie, Sub Terra, based on a book about the history of this mine. We look forward to watching it (with English subtitles) when we return to the US.

For the movie, an authentic turn-of-the-century mining village was reconstructed. Also, Ed was captivated by the rusting equipment near the mine entry and took lots of photos.

The amount of variety in the Chilean countryside is amazing. Since the country is 2700 miles long (and never more than 150 miles wide), almost every type of ecosystem is represented. This results in endless opportunities for exploration.

 

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28 Games, 19 TVs, 9 Cities, 4 Countries …(and we didn’t keep track how many cervezas, vinhos, pisco sours, caipirinhas, and other adult beverages we consumed.)

As we roamed the globe working on RahRah4Good, we took time out to watch many World Cup matches on TV—in sports bars, apartments, hotel rooms, and restaurants. Now, we’re in withdrawal …

World Cup madness has been part of our lives for years, including:

Ed was in Brazil in 1970 when Pele played and Brazil won the whole thing! He still occasionally hums Pra Frente Brazil, the tune that captured the nationalistic spirit of Brazil during the period of military control.

Ed with Brazilian Friends and Family 1970
Ed with Brazilian Friends and Family during the !970 World Cup
Ed in Brazil with Jose RIcardo 1970
Ed with Jose Ricardo at the time of the 1970 World Cup

With Leslie and Ben, we attended the 1994 World Cup at Stanford Stadium – cheering for USA and Brazil (against Germany and Cameroon).

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Leslie and Ben at the 1994 World Cup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Åsaone of our au-pairs in the 90’s showed us how to cheer for Sweden!

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Asa Cheering for Her Team

And we shared the agony of the Dutch loss in the 2010 final in Geneva with Kitty, another of our au-pairs from the 90’s, and her family.

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Kitty and Sienna for the World Cup Finals in Geneva in 2010

This year we had a lot of teams to cheer for.

Naturally we cheered for the USA, whenever possible.

In Africa, we had to set the alarm to wake up to watch the June 16th match between midnight and 2 am. (Then we had to arise again at 5 a.m. for our trekking activities.)  No photos here!

When possible, we also cheered for last year’s adopted country – Ghana, with our custom Black Star jerseys!

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Jan and Ed Wearing the Ghana Football Kits From Ghanian Friends

World Cup

And, we extended our loyalty to all-things-African to include Nigeria, and Côte d'Ivoire, home to some of our SEED clients, and even Cameroon and Algeria, (where we’ve never been).

Of course, we also cheered for Chile, our current adopted country, with Leslie and Marcelo.

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Ed, Jan, Leslie and Marcelo Cheer the Chilean Team at Flannery's

In memory of Nana Petra, who took care of Leslie and Ben when they were very young, Mexico got our support. For Kitty, we had to cheer for the Dutch.

It got complex, but a clear hierarchy of favorites emerged.

When necessary, we found sports bars that showed two games simultaneously!  Marcelo brought his Chile jersey from his childhood to selected games to bring good luck!

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Marcelo with his "Marcelito" Shirt to Bring Good Luck to the Chilean Team

Jan met this Chilean soccer fan, who reminded us of San Francisco!

Jan and Friend at World Cup
Jan with a friend at Flannery's Between Periods

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also, we attended parties, went to sports bars, and used our Slingbox from the US, and watched in hotel rooms. We found ourselves scheduling other activities around games involving our “favorites”.

During matches involving Chile, activities other than watching games ceased.  Avenida Presidente Riesco, a main boulevard, was completely empty during the Chile/Brazil game:

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Empty Streets During World Cup in Santiago

Many matches were shown on the enormous roof display at the Startup Chile incubator.

World Cup at CMI
The World Cup on the Huge Screen on the Ceiling of CMI--The StartupChile CoWork

World Cup at CMI

We couldn’t believe that some the SUP Chile participants worked through the games despite the blasting commentary. Talk about dedicated entrepreneurs!

We watched the championship match in a Peruvian restaurant in Concepcion, Chile, right next to a mural of Machu Pichu.

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Watching the World Cup Championship "Surrounded" by Machu Picchu Decor in Concepcion, Chile.

Atypically, one of our “favorite” teams wasn’t in the championship match, so we found ourselves cheering for Germany in solidarity with our Brazilian friends who couldn’t bear the thought of Argentina winning on Brazilian soil.

So long World Cup! We’ll miss you. It’s been fun. See you in 2018!

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(Cartoon courtesy of Åsa, a true soccer fan! )

While the ladies in Walakuba were making our beads, we took a side trip to Rwanda to experience this country and go trekking to see the chimpanzees and mountain gorillas.  Our flight took us  to Kigali, where we were met by our guide, Enos. Enos was very knowledgable about Rwandan (and Ugandan) history. Originally from Uganda, he speaks many native languages, and added a lot of "local color" to our trip.

Our first trek to see the chimpanzees was one of the hardest hikes we had ever taken!  We went up and down the mountains (no paths of course ... just  guide with a machete...)!  We trekked for about four hours and only had a few glimpses of the chimps.  They were very speedy at moving though the jungle -- and they seemed to want to avoid us!  One tracker would have a sighting of the chimp family and would radio our guide.  We would hustle (the best we could) to that spot only to find that the chimps had moved!  Oh well.  We really gained an appreciation for how well the chimps are acclimated to this type of jungle!

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Rwanda offers some very sobering memorials to the genocide of 1994.  We were there during the 20th anniversary of this mass slaughter.  And, instead of sweeping this history under the carpet, the Rwandans have adopted a "never again" approach to the telling of the story.  Many school children were visiting the memorials and there were billboards everywhere reminding people to remember the horror of those days.

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The highlight of the visit to Rwanda was our gorilla trek.  We started out early in the morning and were joined by our other trekkers at a very organized trail head. Enos relayed our previous chimp experience, and lobbied for a trek to a gorilla family who was relatively close by!  This was a good thing, as we were still a bit sore from the chimp adventure.

We hiked for several hours, and arrived in this clearing where a gorilla family was enjoying the jungle. We saw the silver back, several moms, a baby, and many young gorillas playing in the trees.  It was an exhilarating experience to be able to witness their life in the wild.  Even though the trek is quite pricey, the funds go to conservation of this amazing species.

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This hour was one of the most memorable hours of our life. Being "up close and personal" was amazing.

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We continued on our journey and ended up back in Uganda, for another gorilla trek.  Our hotel near the impenetrable forest was beautiful, and perched high on a hill. (This was a fantasy hotel built by a German woman who had been inspired by the location.)

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We were very impressed by the quality of roads and beauty of Rwanda.  Being here with a terrific guide was a treat.

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We even taught Enos a new skill!

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Flying from Accra to Kampala, we traveled through … Dubai!

Our options for this segment were not ideal, since there are no direct flights. The four options were:  spending the night in the Nairobi airport for a 4 am departure (hmm… not so good); spending the night in the Lagos airport (ugh!); traveling through Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) with a long middle of the night layover (again… not so attractive); or flying a bit further on Emirates with a three hour 6 – 9 am stop in Dubai. As all the choices were the same price, we opted for the Dubai route.

When we landed in Kampala, we were met by a driver who took us to Jinja, a bustling town on Lake Victoria. This is where the Nile River starts its long journey. We checked into our peaceful guesthouse and crashed. ...continue reading

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To make sure our jewelry is being made to the highest standards, in the right colors, and in fair-wage working environments, we traveled to Africa to visit our suppliers in Ghana and Uganda.

Landing in the Accra airport was like coming home. Gone were the butterflies and trepidation we felt when arriving for the first time in 2013.

This time, we knew the drill:

  1. Stand close to the door of the bus from the plane; get off quickly to be near the front of the immigration line.
  2. Wave our proof of yellow fever vaccinations in front of the Health Officer.
  3. Proceed slowly in the queue to get our passports stamped.
  4. Show our Resident Permits.
  5. Stamp, stamp. Stamp, stamp. Stamp, stamp.

Tony, our favorite driver, greeted us with a smile, and took us to 5A, our old apartment. ...continue reading

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Sorry for the lapse in blog posts!  In the last few months we’ve been “crazy busy” in a good way. We’ve been working in Santiago and have been on the road.

As part of our effort to understand customer needs and wants, we took a three-week trip to the US in late May/early June.  We visited Stanford, Harvard, University of Texas, Texas A&M, and Baylor and interviewed potential customers to find out their views about our RahRah4Good jewelry.

As much as this might sound like a boondoggle, it was real work!  We were constantly showing our jewelry and soliciting feedback. ...continue reading

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Slowly but surely, we are making progress on our social enterprise, RahRah4Good.

Our accomplishments to date include:

  • Analyzed market size and segmentation. (We are MBAs, after all!) Sport fan apparel and accessories is a $20B per year global market, 75% in the US and mostly involving university teams. We also have looked at the established fan jewelry products. We analyzed the relative size of team fan bases and also gained an understanding of the range of team colors and color combinations.

  • Researched numerous jewelry designs with the Startup Chile entrepreneurs.  It was interesting to note the difference in preferences across demographics.  We narrowed our offerings based on the feedback.

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  • Identified five jewelry workshops in Uganda and Ghana as potential sourcing partners. This has involved a lot of emails, Skype chats and video conferences. All these producers employ local women to make jewelry, seem capable of scaling production and are anxious to export.

  • Selected the test markets for our original production runs. We’ve looked at the sizes of the fan bases and assortment of color schemes of various universities in the US, and have selected four colleges -- Stanford, Harvard, University of Texas and Texas A&M as our test markets. (Distribution contacts for any of these universities are welcome!)

  • Specified the details for the samples to be produced by the African sources. This has included a lot of photos and bead-by-bead specifications to insure uniformity. We’ve put in orders for samples with all the workshops and expect delivery any day. Part of what we are trying to figure out is a style of communication that makes commitments clear.

  • Planned a trip to the four US universities to show samples and refine potential distribution strategies. We’re scheduled to travel April 22 - May 11. At present we are planning marketing tests at 3-4 US campuses in the fall involving college bookstores, social media/ecommerce and partnerships with on-campus organizations.

...continue reading

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Hola Blog Readers! Yes, you read it correctly. We are no longer in West Africa, but have moved to Santiago Chile. Quite a change, but it’s exciting.

Why Santiago? While in Ghana, we applied and were selected to be a part of the Startup>Chile business incubator. Our application (for our concept-stage social enterprise) was one of 1500 applications from around the world. 100 were selected.

Startup Chile is a Chilean government program designed to encourage and support entrepreneurship. The government gives each company a $40,000 grant to work on their business, as long as the entrepreneurs live in Chile for a six-month period. We are part of “Generation 9”; 800 other companies have participated in the program over the past three years.

...continue reading