The story of Catalina Oñate, the entrepreneur who created a million-dollar company selling avocados in Arab countries

The story of Catalina Oñate, the entrepreneur who created a million-dollar company selling avocados in Arab countries

In 2004, a young business administrator with a passion for food and business arrived in the United Arab Emirates and began working at a renowned hotel chain. Thanks to this work experience, she identified a business opportunity that would lead her to create a successful company importing Latin American products that today has a turnover of more than 3.5 million dollars annually and is a leader in the sale of avocados in the Arab country. that it generates hundreds of direct and indirect jobs… How did you achieve it?

How does a young entrepreneur make more than 3.5 million dollars annually selling Latin products in Arab countries?

The protagonist of this story is Catalina Oñate, founder of Best of Latin Foodstuff.

Catalina was born and raised in a family of vendors and spent most of her youth in the family food distribution office in Bogotá. This led her to develop a great passion for business, sales, and entrepreneurship.

After completing her high school studies and being the best in the class, she thought about studying to be a chef, but her father convinced her to enroll in a Business Administration degree.

“My passion was always food and when I was 19 I wanted to study to be a Chef, but that never happened, my dad advised me to study business.” -Catherine said .

In 2004, after graduating as a business administrator with an emphasis on services at the University of La Sabana and motivated by the desire to travel, she got an exchange job at the Hilton Ras Al Khaimah Beach Resort hotel, located in the United Arab Emirates. There she was able to combine her passion for business, customer service, and food.

Amid her work, Catalina realized that most of the fresh products available in the United Arab Emirates were imported. However, at that time Colombia and other Latin American countries were not on the list of countries that supplied that market. Based on this discovery, the idea that would allow her to start her successful company would begin to develop in her mind.

“I studied the market and visited some restaurants that were trying to prepare Mexican dishes, for example, but without the right ingredients, which made the experience not the best. That’s how Best of Latin started appearing in my dreams.” -The entrepreneur stated in an interview for Forbes .

Months later, Catalina returned to Colombia with a much broader vision of business and an ambitious project in mind that kept her awake.

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Full of determination, she decided to create her own company to bring Latin American products to the United Arab Emirates. This is how the company Best of Latin Foodstuff Trading LLC (BLF) was born.

The challenges of entrepreneurship in an Arab country

At first, it was difficult for him to process import permits, manage licenses, legally establish the company, find suppliers, and get clients, but little by little he solved the problems to make his company open space in the market and become profitable.

According to the entrepreneur, the mission of her company is to make the lives of Chefs easier and happier, meeting the demands of their kitchen based on the best food products from Latin America.

One of the foreign gastronomic products with the greatest demand in the United Arab Emirates is Colombian and Mexican avocados. Catalina assures that this is her star product. Every month, it imports about 32 tons of this fruit from Colombia and Mexico.

“The work is from the farm to the table, because we have a very close relationship with our suppliers in each country, who are basically farmers. With avocado we have had very important growth and the long-term idea is to take it to more Arab countries ” -Explains Catalina .

The Best Of Latin Foodstuff pantry is very large. In its product portfolio, you can find exotic fruits from Ecuador, chili peppers from Peru, vegetables from Mexico, and fruits that only grow on Colombian soil.

Since 2010, Best Of Latin Foodstuff has been the number one company importing fresh products from crops certified according to international standards. The founder has been in charge of working with suppliers that meet these goals of excellence, thus guaranteeing that their products are always the best.

“Working only with the best suppliers allows us to guarantee the best products for our customers. This is one of the reasons for our name Best of Latin Foodstuff.” -Catalina states .

According to the entrepreneur, a key element for the development of her company has been the support of her brother. Although starting a business as a family is not easy, the two of them know how to complement each other to carry out the project.

“My right-hand man and partner is my brother Gabriel. He watches over the running of the company and together we do a great job.” -These are his words on the matter.

One of the secrets of Best of Latin Foodstuff is to understand its customers, providing them with efficient and top-quality product shipping. Catalina is firmly committed to strictly fulfilling this value proposition and her clients appreciate it.

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Currently, Catalina Oñate ‘s company is based in the Business Tower in Dubai and has a turnover of around 3.5 million dollars a year, with more than 150 clients in the gastronomic sector in the United Arab Emirates and generating hundreds of indirect jobs in the rural areas of ColombiaMexicoEcuador, and Peru. In the future, it plans to expand in Asia and open its first office in Saudi Arabia, in addition to exploring other markets such as QatarEgypt, and the United Kingdom, among others.

“A huge advantage we have is that in the region there are no other companies that are doing what we do. And this in general is a message for those who see the United Arab Emirates as an option, there is a lot of opportunity for growth, innovation and creation.” -Catherine assures .

With this successful venture, Catalina affirms that she managed to fulfill her dream of combining business with her passion for cooking.

Today, the founder invites all entrepreneurs to dream big, and, above all, to read and control their emotions.

“The outside is just a mirror of what is inside. Reading, meditation, and even audiobooks, this is the way I use to feed my spirit, to inspire me. This state of mind, as I call it, allows me convey the same to my team. I don’t expect my team to follow me out of fear, but out of love for the company, for the customers and love for the products.” -Says the entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurship lessons we can learn from Catalina Oñate and Best of Latin Foodstuff

What lessons can we learn from this success story? Below, we share some of them:

  1. Identify a market opportunity and offer an effective solution: When Catalina realized the great opportunity that Latin American products had in the United Arab Emirates, she immediately started thinking about how she could build an effective and profitable business model to reach that market. Where others saw limitations and problems, she saw an opportunity and did not hesitate to take advantage of it.
  2. Offers high-quality products and services: For Catalina, quality is not optional, which is why it has partnered with trusted suppliers that meet international quality standards. This has allowed your company to gain the trust of important customers who buy from you regularly.
  3. Know your customers: For Best of Latin Foodstuff it is essential to listen to and understand the needs of its customers to adapt its value proposition to them. Thanks to this, they have been able to build solid, long-lasting, and profitable business relationships, in addition to allowing them to accurately predict demand to determine the volumes of products to import and identify new product opportunities to bring to Arab lands.
  4. Work with a committed team: Although it is a huge challenge to build a family business in which personal aspects do not affect the performance of the business, Catalina and her brother have been able to consolidate a great team to move Best of Latin Foodstuff forward. To achieve this, it has been key to make the administrative aspects of the company very clear, establish roles that complement each other, and define immovable values ​​and principles that guarantee harmonious work between the two.
  5. Dream big and work hard to achieve your goals: Catalina Oñate was not afraid to dream big. Her ambitious project, despite being full of legal, administrative, and commercial challenges to overcome to become a reality, became her inspiration to face any obstacle along the way. When you find a great purpose to fight for, the path gradually becomes clearer before your eyes. A big dream requires great motivation and commitment.
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Thus we conclude the inspiring story of Catalina Oñate, an entrepreneur who, from a very young age, dreamed of impacting the world through her passion for food and business, and achieved it thanks to her enormous determination, her incessant ambition, and her great business vision, thus becoming a reference for all those who today dream of building a company that adds value, generates employment and positively impacts the lives of many people. In her own words:

“I advise other entrepreneurs to align their dreams with their essence and act from love for what they do. Visualize your long-term goal and don’t stop dreaming… I dreamed of a company like this, and today I am in a country that does not speak my language, being a leader in what I do.”

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