The interview was transcribed and adapted into an article by Audrey Coggins
The Lockdown Economy: Interviews by think tank AlterContacts.org with real entrepreneurs sharing insights, challenges and successes during the COVID19 global pandemic to inspire, motivate and encourage other entrepreneurs around the world.
In June 2020, Julia Skupchenko from Lockdown Economy interviewed Victor Cámara, a small business consultant who helped to start over 70 new companies in Mexico in the last ten years. His practice was done in-person and due to the lockdown, he had to cancel most appointments. At the same time, Victor saw an even higher need in advising people on how to start their business, especially now that many were forced to create their own jobs. He decided to produce a series of training for beginning entrepreneurs and gives small business survival tips in Spanish and launched a youtube channel with tips. Victor mentions that before the lockdown, people in Mexico were reluctant to use virtual services and especially to pay for them online. But now since there is no choice, the trust online is growing. He shares that people who will be paying for his courses will be contributing to free education for the ones who cannot afford it.
Can you tell us more about your business prior to the lockdown there in Mexico?
Victor: I am a business consultant in Yucatan, Mexico and have had the opportunity to work with more than 200 entrepreneurs from all sectors of business. I have helped launch 70–80 new companies, some of which have become national successes in their own right.
Prior to the lockdown, my mode of operation was traditional: you come to my office with your specific needs and we’d have one-on-one consultation sessions, much like when you visit a psychologist. Now with the COVID lockdown that has had to change.
You mentioned these 200 entrepreneurs that you have helped. Are they based in Mexico?
Victor: Yes, all from Mexico, mostly from Yucatan and surrounding areas. Yucatan is very close to Cancun, southeast area of Mexico.
You mentioned that with the lockdown, social distancing has put a strain on traditional ways of working. Can you tell us more?
Victor: At the beginning of the lockdown, I cancelled appointments with my customers — while continuing to avail myself via Zoom and other web services for their needs. However, I found that this was only feasible for existing clients. I wasn’t gaining new clients/business. I feel that now is the time to begin new businesses and new entrepreneurship; with the lockdown, there’s a new market where people are needing items sent to them remotely. On the other hand, people still need to work; there are so many job losses but people still need to work and earn a living.
I feel that now is the time to begin new businesses: people are needing items sent to them remotely and people are needing to work.
I see a big need now for people who need to start a company to make that living and I am not able to help them via the traditional way I mentioned earlier. So I started to think outside that traditional way to help these people now. I am now working on a new product for me and a new way to help the entrepreneurs. This new product is more focused on education and training, rather than consultancy.
So this new product is going to be a series of courses, held online?
Victor: Yes. A series of online courses for new entrepreneurs, new small business and companies. This is also targeted to small businesses who are already existing but need extra education and training on administration, accounting and marketing — specifically online marketing. While developing these courses, I have already begun a Youtube channel with short videos containing tips for entrepreneurs. In these videos, I discuss topics such as
“Does the client or the product come first?”
“How can I identify my client?”
“How can I develop value?”
“How can I start a new business while looking to reduce my initial investment and risk of failure?”
I started the Youtube channel last March 2020. The plan is to release a new video every two weeks.
In Europe, there is a lot of competition with online courses offering business training and education. As a new entrepreneur here in Europe, it is extremely easy to be swamped by choices. What is the scene like in Yucatan and Mexico?
Victor: This lockdown has forced our people to go online for products and services. Prior to these, online activity for business was still fairly underused, for fear of information theft. The lockdown has changed that: people are now having to buy food online, as well as study online.
I myself am attached to a university here in Yucatan and while there have been online components to our courses, these are not technically fully online courses. As compared to platforms around the world that offer full courses online — some paid and some free. There are platforms that offer education in all sorts of areas, e.g., programming, business, cooking. But there aren’t many platforms that offer training in very specific areas within a larger topic. For example, in Spain, there is a platform for the design industry, where you can learn skills like Photoshop and other Adobe software via an online course.
I have found that this provides a very good opportunity to develop education into very specific skills in business, at a time when people now need to learn how to start and run a business, perhaps as the main or additional source of income, as well as having the need to turn to online platforms.
Right now, are the Youtube videos you mentioned free?
Victor: Yes, this is the idea. Generally, they are free, these tips and tricks to starting a business. In the past, I worked with brand companies. I work to develop and promote an existing company’s brand.
But now, I am giving myself time to develop my own brand. Developing me. I have spent the time to promote myself on social media. I intentionally do this so that I can link to the other projects I am doing.
You want people to know you, Victor Cámara, as a specific knowledge expert in entrepreneurship. How do you plan to monetize this? You mentioned your free courses and tips and advice. But how and where do you plan on earning your own income?
Victor: In my own business, the plan is to offer a monthly subscription to join these online courses. (As opposed to free tips and tricks via my Youtube channel.) There are open/free courses or you can pay for a specific course.
I also want to make a social impact. There are a lot of Mexicans now from low-income families who need an income, or women/single mothers who need to be breadwinners. These groups of marginalized people won’t have the income to pay for my courses. So I’d like to start a program whereby a percentage of the fee from those that are able to pay for my courses will go to ‘scholarships’ for the aforementioned groups of people.
Another idea I have is to collaborate with other consultants to enable these groups of people in tech and online skills; many of them will not have finished high school studies, so basic education will benefit them greatly. I hope to be able to actually go to these communities physically with other partners.
So those that will pay for your courses will be made aware that part of their payment goes to enabling lesser able members of the community to earn an income?
Entrepreneurship is not just for a particular group of people, it is for everyone, hence we are doing this #lockdowneconomy series. So the social aspect of your plan is exciting to hear! Have your past/existing clients reached out to you and said that they need help through this lockdown?
Victor: Yes. I have continued to work for my clients. For example, some travel agencies I work with now have very big issues because now travel globally is so difficult. No one is travelling and there is no word on when we can start to travel again. So they cannot sell flight tickets and all-inclusive holiday packages. In the beginning, dates were postponed from March to June to September. But now, there is so much uncertainty about when hotels will reopen. They’re working with me to work out a way to earn income despite their challenges.
Some of my clients are also artists and singers. Their business involves gigs at private homes or a social event. They don’t have work anymore. So I am working with them to redefine their ‘gigs’ by using online platforms for online live concerts with a ‘donate’ option. I am also working with them to utilise platforms like Spotify and iTunes so they can earn some income — minimal as it may be — and increase their brand. It is also the hope that with the exposure, their local branding will increase their chances of more paid gigs when the lockdown and pandemic is over.
It’s great because it is so difficult for those in the travel and events industry right now. Can you mention briefly what your plans are for the future? When are your courses starting?
Victor: I hope to have it launched in 2–3 months. This year, I want to get free courses up and running. I also plan to invite other experts in social media or branding to join me, as they will also be struggling with the same issues as I am, with the lockdown. This allows them to develop their own courses and earn meaningful income. In return, of course, I will be able to offer a larger number of courses through my platform.
About the Guest
Victor Camara has a bachelor in Marketing and International Business and also has a Master in Government and Public Policies. Victor is a Liaison Director at the Polytechnic University of Yucatan. He has been an entrepreneur and business developer since early 2000 and had the opportunity to have positions related to science, innovation and technology for development, also in the Higher Education field.