TEM Lab: Discover the Magic of Colombia

By Caroline Hafele, Jessica Knutzon, Ana Carillo, and Alina Buzgar

In Colombia, the TEM Lab team has been working in Bogotá with CampoReal and Fruandes, two medium-size businesses that are part of Emprende País. Emprende País is an enterprise accelerator program run by Fundación Bolívar Davivienda. The foundation is managed by Thunderbird alum, Fernando Cortes (MBA ’99, Colombia) and is a trailblazer in the Latin American small-and-growing business community.

CampoReal is a women owned and operated artisanal cheese company that values social as well as economic impact.  The company asked TEM Lab to evaluate how its target market perceives the value proposition and to define a brand and marketing strategy. Fruandes processes dried fruit for the domestic and international markets. TEM Lab worked to establish feasibility and a market plan to use fruit waste products as revenue streams.

Both of these projects have involved lots of interesting technical and business themes. To learn more about this project run in collaboration with a great Thunderbird-led organization join them on Thursday, August 27 in Yount for their presentation and check out their blog.

CampoReal

Market Research in Bogotá Supermarkets
Market Research in Bogotá Supermarkets

CampoReal is a Colombian cheese company that makes 450 tons of cheese per year. All by hand. The company is dedicated to making a social and economic impact in the country through supporting a number of philanthropic causes. Luz Marina Mora, founder and general manager of CampoReal, has been working in food retail for over 30 years. When she started the company in 2002, she had the goal of providing not only delicious and healthy cheeses, but also helping the community. Lili Santrich, head of value management and marketing, has been working for the company since it began and leads the team in providing innovative solutions for their customers.

The CampoReal team had the chance to see the many neighborhoods of Bogotá during their second week in Colombia as their entire week was dedicated to market research throughout the city. This included observations of consumer behavior at more than 15 different supermarket chains, as well as online survey distributions. While completing the observations, Caroline Hafele (MBA ’15, US) and Jessica Knutzon (MBA ’15, Brazil/US) gathered information about the CampoReal brand, its competitors and cheese consumers in Bogotá. The population of Bogotá is 10 million, and it is extremely difficult to predict traffic patterns. That being said, one should always assume that traffic would be in full force, at any given hour of the day. For this reason, the observation routes had to be carefully planned, yet flexible.

CampoReal Team with Owners
CampoReal Team with Owners

Caroline and Jessica also had the opportunity to bond with some of the CampoReal team, including the Founder and CEO Luz Marina and the Value Management Director Lili Santrich. On Monday morning Caroline and Jessica’s bosses took them out on an all-day excursion. The first stop was the Mercado (a flea market), where they walked, shopped and discovered various items from delicious artisanal arepas to jewelry and coats. When they wrapped up a long walk at the flea market, the four hopped back into the car to discover a new part of Bogotá found at the end of a long car ride up a mountain and down the other side: La Calera, a happening spot for locals to enjoy Sunday afternoon and eat parrilla, the traditional Colombian barbecue. The following Thursday evening, Luz Marina took the whole TEM Lab team on an excursion to Monserrat, the famous church at the top of the mountains surrounding Bogotá. After a long ride up the cable car, the team walked around the small mountain top town, enjoying coca tea and breathtaking views. The evening finally ended with dinner at Andres D.C., a restaurant with traditional Colombian food, set in the midst of lively neighborhood: Zona T.

Monserrate
Monserrate

The CampoReal team had the opportunity to participate in another exciting event with their clients. Expo Vinos was started ten years ago to incorporate wine into the Colombian culture. CampoReal had a booth at the event and the TEM Lab consultants were invited to join their clients for the opening event, which included a concert and an exclusive walk-through of the trade show. The concert featured Fonseca, a popular singer, and the Colombian National Symphonic Orchestra.

Fruandes

Fruandes Team in Ibagué
Fruandes Team in Ibagué

It is evident that Fruandes is a booming business. The company started with three full time employees, all of who are still employed at Fruandes fifteen years later, and now employs 58 full-time employees. The crowded production plant and offices are representative of expanding operations. In order to cope with growth, they are planning to soon relocate from Bogotá, the capital city, to Ibagué, a small town just three hours away. This move will allow them to build a processing plant according to their needs and to address the growing demand for Fruandes products. It will also bring them closer to the growers and allow them to foster important company values such as work life balance. It is Ibagué where the company and the TEM Lab team, Ana Carrillo (MBA ’16, Mexico) and Alina Buzgar (MBA ’16, Romania) traveled across the country to participate in the company’s quarterly planning meeting during their first week in Colombia. The beautiful Andes mountainous winding roads surrounded by luscious green were mesmerizing. The easy going nature of the employees and the plentiful supply of fresh fruit juice available in local stores kept the TEM Lab team smiling and content throughout the journey.

Enjoying Colombian Coffee Countryside
Enjoying Colombian Coffee Countryside
Fresh Juices
Fresh Juices

Colombians are serious when on the job and the Fruandes team worked hard identifying the processes, projects and mid-year successes and failures. This opportunity has also allowed the team to analyze the company strategy and the unexpected events that affect it. Some of these issues include fruit availability, harvest timing, and warehouse problems. In addition, the proximity to the employees allowed the TEM Lab team to establish relationships and identify the strong and weak links to operations.

Finding ways to transform fruit parts into new revenue generating products is not an easy task and the Fruandes team has been dedicated to experimenting with their various proposals. The team got to experiment with mango flour and make biscuits, which turned out to be delicious. Additionally, the dehydrated pineapple cores and leaves made wonderful tea! The opportunity to create new products out of what is considered “waste” keeps the team motivated. The Colombian organic market is continuously gaining strength, and the team is excited to make recommendations that can position Fruandes as a natural food groundbreaker.

Final Presentation Rooftop Picture (from left to right: Jessica Knutzon, Andres Bello, Ana Carrillo, Caroline Hafele, Fernando Mcallister, Alina Buzgar)
Final Presentation Rooftop Picture (from left to right: Jessica Knutzon, Andres Bello, Ana Carrillo, Caroline Hafele, Fernando Mcallister, Alina Buzgar)

Ana Carrillo (MBA ’16, Mexico) says “Participating in TEM Lab allowed me to obtain experience in emerging markets consulting, an area in which I wish to specialize. Furthermore, the opportunity to go outside the classroom and own a consulting project is extremely gratifying. The feeling of competence that comes after successfully finishing the program is beyond description.”

Jessica Knutzon (MBA ’15, Brazil/US) adds “TEM Lab was amazing: I got hands-on experience in my field; got to know and love a new country; and build a closer relationship to my fellow T-birds.”

Caroline Hafele (MBA ’15, US) concludes”Working with Emprende Pais in Colombia was an invaluable experience. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to use my T-bird knowledge to help small enterprises grow and improve.”

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