A couple of years ago, I was contacted by the Columbian government and asked to travel throughout the country meeting with the country's top manufacturers of leather goods, jewelry, shoes, luggage, etc., in a coordinated effort with the United States to improve legitimate trade. I thought they must be kidding, Columbia? I was and experienced traveler but I had never been to Columbia and like many Americans I associated the country with drugs and kidnappings.
After meeting with senior representatives of the governments export department “Pro Export” at the World Trade Center in Dallas. I realized that Columbia had some very creative and talented manufacturers and designers. They had an image problem in the U.S. and shipping was an issue. Most companies were frustrated and most did not have packaging in English.
I traveled throughout the country with well educated, English speaking government guides who introduced me to some of the most fantastic designers and small manufacturers you can imagine. From Bogotá trade shows to factories in Cartagena, and seaside production faculties in Santa Marta, I had the opportunity to work with some excellent companies that were successfully selling thought-out South America. You have to be willing to seek new opportunities where others may not think to go. Are you willing to find the next chance, open new doors?
Through a collaborated effort and an image revamp with numerous U.S. based importers, barriers are being broken, successful North American companies are buying from vendors and the market is starting to open in Columbia. If new trade agreements get passed as they will eventually, those companies that have been there building relationships will have the end game and they will win.
You have to be open to real possibly and be willing to search out the next opportunity.
Many years ago when so many products were being manufactured in Japan and the exchange rate was 240 yen to the Dollar people were not in such a hurry to buy things from Taiwan. Why should they be? Japan was cheep and efferent. Taiwan’s products were considered inferior and poorly made. But, when the Yen strengthened, property values soared in Japan and the cost of goods went through the roof, where do you think all those factor owners from Japan headed? Taiwan and it was not that long afterwards that the managers in Taiwan were headed to China to do joint venture projects with the China government resulting in what I call the new China manufacturing empire. Really, it’s not that old and Viet Nam, India, and others are evolving all the time. Don’t underestimate places like Columbia in some instances.
Tom’s shoes are a great example. Made in Argentina the shoes are sort of a phenomenon or at least some would think so. Simple, casual, and ultra cheep from a first cost perspective, Tom changed the colors of the shoes, made some new designs, and gives one pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair that he sells. The company is highly profitable, socially admirable, and sells great product.
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