For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with international business and travel. After graduating from college, I chose to live abroad to pursue my dream; analyzing businesses in frontier markets in East Africa, Asia, and now Latin America. I love the unique challenges that force socially-minded companies in these regions to innovate continuously in order to create impact.
My work over the past few years in Latin America has focused on advising social businesses on how to attract seed investment — essentially helping them prepare their financials and presentation materials for impact investors. Of course, my work has always involved much more than that — I have shoveled cow manure to fill up biodigesters and met with interesting people from all walks of life. I have had incredible experiences working alongside entrepreneurs to generate systemic social change through business, but always from the sideline as a consultant, advisor, or mentor. I felt a deep yearning to get out there and try and start something on my own, but I was never sure of what that something was.
Then, it all came together last summer when I learned about Peter’s idea to work with artisans making shoes in Guatemala. The company would be called Adelante Shoe Co. As someone who was working on a daily basis evaluating startups in Latin America, I was instantly drawn to the potential and ready to join. After a successful kickstarter campaign, I took the leap and moved to Guatemala to launch our first production run.
The obstacles involved with transforming an idea into a well-functioning business are immense anywhere, and Guatemala has its own unique challenges. We’ve entered an industry with an international supply chain that can be extremely opaque. But I wake up every day thrilled to meet with our craftsmen and business partners who are as passionate about mastering their craft as we are at Adelante.
I have been asked many times what Adelante has to do with international relations, a discipline more associated with the foreign service than the shoe business. For me the two undertakings are deeply intertwined.