Interview with Ana Cecilia Haro: "Entrepreneur of the Year 2022"
Interview with Ana Cecilia Haro: “HHM Entrepreneur of the Year 2022”
the Day of the Entrepreneur (DVDO) an initiative by MKB Nederland, is celebrated on the 3rd Friday of November to celebrate entrepreneurs in the Netherlands and beyond. As has become tradition, Holland House Mexico organized the fourth edition of the “HHM Entrepreneur of the Year” – Award. On 17 November, HHM in collaboration with the Dutch Embassy hosted an evening to celebrate entrepreneurship and announce this year´s winner: Ana Cecilia Haro, CEO of Latina Corner.
Latina Corner was founded in 2018 and is an online platform that connects local Mexican producers with foreign markets. Specifically, the digital marketplace offers sustainable opportunities to small local producers and communities to offer their Mexican food products and recipes in other countries, including the Netherlands and other EU countries.
Our intern Janko Rinkema invited Ana Cecilia Haro to share her experiences and learn more about her and Latina Corner.
Ana, congratulations! Tell us, what´s the story behind Latina Corner?
It’s a funny story. About five years ago I wasn't involved in this kind of business at all, I worked in the financial world and it came easy to me, it was mostly office work. I still don't know how it happened exactly, but I got lucky. A colleague of mine was supposed to go to the Netherlands for a business trip and unexpectedly I was asked to do the job instead of him. I was told I was going to participate in a commercial trade mission. I had already been working for the company for 12 years and had no idea what was expected of me, to be honest.
And just like that, I was suddenly part of a mission for Mexican avocado traders. All the people there were owners, big companies, businessmen and women, and me. I was unfamiliar with most of the topics of the meetings, such as logistics and collaboration between Mexico and the Netherlands. Before coming on the mission, I assumed it to be a simple affair, but the opposite turned out to be true. On my return to Mexico, my boss was concerned about the complexity of the project but I was determined and enthusiastic and so we got the project started!
Gradually I realized that I had a lot of potential and passion for international trade. I decided that it was time for a career switch and to explore and develop this potential. At the time I had already built up a solid network of contacts because I attended as many relevant events as possible. I was like a little Virus, nobody noticed me but I was there! I called up all my contacts and offered them my services. And all of this happened at the start of 2019.
In that same year, we completed our first successful export abroad. Of course, nobody at the time knew what kind of a year 2020 would be! But all of the calls I made turned out to be successful. People told me: “Yes sure, why not? Let’s talk!” and they trusted me with issues they had trouble resolving themselves. My job was to identify obstacles and create solutions to overcome them. Even though 2020 was an extremely difficult time for all of us, it was also my best season, it was a year in which we learned a lot.
Looking back, what would you have done differently than when you initially started the business?
I think that at times I encountered some difficult situations that only occurred because of my own fear or uncertainty. Besides that, I might’ve been too enthusiastic with investments. Nonetheless, I think I am quite financially responsible and I tried to do the best I could. It would have been beneficial if I could have gotten some advice from experts at the time to help me out. Now I know that making investments is important but you also have to realize that you can't make every sacrifice and sometimes have to choose between investments.
What do you like most about Latina Corner and the work you do for the company? What are your favorite parts?
Travelling of course! I really love travelling, even when I have a free weekend I like to go travelling.
Regarding my work, I really like having the opportunity to meet a lot of people, both in the Netherlands and in Mexico. I also like having the opportunity to help people. Fortunately, people trust me and the company and they know that they can be sure that everyone in our team is doing their best. I’m very proud of this.
Besides that, as a female entrepreneur, it is often more difficult than it is for men. Even though the situation has improved over the past 10 years, it is still a male-dominated industry. This is difficult at times, but I am up for the challenge.
I also think it is important to give back to society, to really help people. I’m looking into how we can use part of our profits to support people that need it. I’m considering creating a foundation to help do more for the good of others.
What advice could you give to people starting up a business in The Netherlands or Mexico?
I believe globalization is here to stay. We need to be open to these new opportunities chances, making the most of positive international partnerships that exist, making use of our shared knowledge to help improve each other. In short, we need to find the means to communicate with each other in the same language.