The story of Norman Chaparro, the entrepreneur who started with a bicycle and created a million-dollar company

The story of Norman Chaparro, the entrepreneur who started with a bicycle and created a million-dollar company

In 1988, a young Colombian decided to quit his job and used his savings to buy a second-hand bicycle and thus found his own courier company. Today, this company processes more than 3 million shipments per month, generates employment for 1,800 people, has 3,250 offices, and has become the second company in the shipping sector in its country… How did it achieve it?

Very fast Inter Case: How did a young man with a bicycle create one of the most successful courier companies in Colombia?

The protagonist of this story is Norman Enrique Chaparro Gómez, a Colombian businessman who was born in 1966 in the city of VillavicencioMeta.

From a young age, Norman discovered that he had a talent for running errands. His mother always chose him from among his brothers to buy things at the neighborhood store, because, thanks to his agile and prodigious memory, he did not need to write things down and always remembered the entire order in detail.

One day, when the young man was barely 12 years old, his mother asked him to go to the market square and buy everything they needed for the fortnight. The enthusiastic boy made the order to the letter, and his mother, proud, congratulated him, saying: “Chino, you know how to run an errand!”. At that time, Norman discovered that his calling was to be a messenger; So, in his free time, he began to do favors and errands for his neighbors.

Little by little, he gained a reputation in the neighborhood because everyone trusted his great ability to run errands.

Before turning 18, as his first job, Norman began working for a local courier company while studying management remotely. There he learned how the medium worked; However, the salary he received was very low, it was not enough for him and he felt that the opportunities for growth in his job were very few, so he decided to resign and become independent.

His girlfriend and his friends told him that starting a business was impossible and that only people with money could afford it. Faced with the negativity of his social circle, Norman chose to ignore them completely and, at the age of 21, on January 4, 1988, after receiving his settlement of approximately 96 dollars at the time and asking his sister for a loan of 65 dollars, he decided to start his own courier company.

How did Inter start very quickly?

Of the money available, he used $90 to purchase an old second-hand bicycle. With the remaining capital, he went to a printing shop and ordered some business cards and some flyers to advertise his new company, which he baptized with the name “ Inter Rapidísimo . ”

Day after day, Norman got up to pedal his bicycle throughout the city and hand out his flyers and cards to the largest companies he saw to offer his services as a courier. In his mind there were no limits, he fully trusted his abilities and the quality of his service.

After several days of advertising his company, he was finally able to get his first client. It was Diario del Meta, a news outlet that was looking for a messenger to deliver newspapers daily to about 400 subscribers locally. When Norman asked how much his fee would be for the work, the editor of the newspaper told him that there was no cash payment for the job, but that they offered him an advertisement on the front page of the newspapers for him to publicize the news. business of him.

Although Norman needed money to make his venture profitable, he ultimately chose to accept the deal. The ad he published said: “Your shipments the way you need them: Very Fast with Inter Rapidísimo . ” Furthermore, as part of the deal, the young entrepreneur asked the director of Diario del Meta to give him 30 newspapers a day. This request seemed a little strange to the director, but he accepted it without problem.

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Every day, Norman got up at 3:00 in the morning to start his work day and distribute newspapers throughout the city of Villavicencio. When he finished, he took the 30 newspapers that corresponded to him. His objective was to use them to persuade potential clients, so he took it upon himself to study the market to identify which large companies in the city did not have a subscription to Diario del Meta. Subsequently, he sent the newspapers to these companies with a stamp indicating that they were courtesy of “Inter Rapidísimo”. In this way, he managed to attract the attention of important financial entities such as La Caja Agraria and El Banco del Estado, in addition to several companies dedicated to offering medical insurance.

A few weeks later, the young man went to each of the companies where he had been giving away the newspapers, to sell them his services.

“I left and told them: ‘I am the manager of Inter Rapidísimo, a shipping company… and I have been leaving them the newspaper, because we have some left over. We are the ones who distribute them, and we think it is important that you are updated on news topics. Today I come to offer you the service of delivery of statements and shipments within the urban perimeter of Villavicencio.’” -Norman said in an interview.

Fortunately for him, all the clients he visited that day decided to hire his services, which was the boost he needed for his company to take off and begin to be recognized in the city.

A slow but sure growth strategy

For more than a year, Norman was working on his bicycle, delivering his clients’ shipments and saving all the money he could to invest in another, more efficient means of transportation. Thanks to his patience, discipline, and determination, he managed to save enough to purchase a second-hand Yamaha Furia 80 motorcycle, with which he was able to optimize his delivery times and increase his customer base. He then hired five people to help him make the shipments.

But his ambition did not stop there. Norman continued working with the same effort and dedication as at the beginning, but now pursuing much bigger goals. Eventually, he was able to acquire a Renault 4 car and began offering parcel service to nearby municipalities. Years later, he bought his first pickup truck and then a 2-ton truck.

Given the increase in clients from other municipalities, Norman found it necessary to open small branches of his company in places such as YopalGranada, and Puerto Carreño, among others. To establish these branches, the young man visited popular stores such as stationery stores or miscellaneous stores and negotiated with the owners to provide the service of receiving and delivering packages in exchange for a small commission. Also, he made strategic alliances with national airlines to be able to deliver shipments to his new branches much faster.

After covering 66 municipalities in the Colombian Orinoquia region, in 1991Norman opened its first branch in the country’s capital, Bogotá. Due to the large size of the city and the complicated political situation in the country in the 90s, Inter Rapidísimo did not have much capital to open several offices in Bogotá, so Norman, again using his ingenuity, contacted a man who had a Land Rover Santana and proposed that it be the mobile office of Inter Rapidísimo in the city.

“There was a man who had a Land Rover, and we made him a proposal. We told him: ‘Hey, why aren’t you our mobile office?’, and he said: ‘What should we do?’. I told him: ‘Look, we send you all the packages we collect from clients through a passenger company and you come, claim them and distribute them throughout Bogotá.’” -Norman   explained .

The strategy was a complete success. In just a few months, Inter very fast already had 4 couriers in the capital. And, within a couple of years, he was able to open his first physical office in that city.

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Later, in 1998Norman moved with his family to Bogotá to begin planning the expansion of his brand throughout Colombia.

At the beginning of the 2000s, the entrepreneur began to travel municipality by municipality in the South American country to close alliances and open new Inter Rapidísimo points.

By 2009, thanks to Norman‘s hard work, the company already had a presence throughout Colombia. And, by the 2010s, Inter Rapidísimo managed to position itself among the 3 most important courier companies in the country.

In 2020, due to pandemic restrictions, many people began to use messaging services more frequently. This also caused e-commerce to grow exponentially; So, for several months, Norman had to put on his courier shirt again and help with the high flow of packages in his warehouse. That year, amid the crisis and difficult times, Inter Rapidísimo ‘s sales increased by 78%.

Currently, Inter Rapidísimo manages more than 3 million shipments per month, generates employment for 1,800 people, has 3,250 offices, and has become the second company in the shipping sector in the country. Norman, for his part, is 57 years old and continues to serve as president of his company, although he assures that his children are ready to take over his position. Recently, he has been focusing his efforts on a 100% Colombian Marketplace called “Alcarrito.com”, a project that aims to promote electronic commerce in the country.

Entrepreneurship lessons we can learn from Norman Chaparro and Inter very quickly

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

  1. Identify your talents and turn them into a business: Norman discovered from a very young age that he had a natural talent for running errands and deliveries efficiently, which motivated him to start a business putting his talent at the service of others. Identifying what you enjoy and what you are good at can be the starting point to building a successful business. Dare to explore your talents and passions!
  2. Creatively use the resources you have at hand: Even though his resources were very limited, Norman was not intimidated. He started as best he could and, little by little, he saved and reinvested to improve and expand his service. Many entrepreneurs do just the opposite, they create extensive business plans and then get stuck because they don’t have all the resources they think they need. It is good to take the time to organize our ideas and analyze the business model we are going to start, but too much analysis produces paralysis. No matter how much we plan, there comes a point where we must take the resources we have available and take the risk to get started, and then we can improve as we go. Stop thinking about what you need and focus your creativity and ingenuity on using your resources to build a prototype or a scale version of your business and start interacting with customers as soon as possible.
  3. Trust yourself: When you decide to start a business, you will hear many voices that will tell you not to do it because it is very difficult and you will only waste time and money, just like what happened to Norman  It is in those moments that you must ask yourself if you fully trust yourself, your ideas, and your abilities. Believing in yourself when everyone agrees with you is easy, but… Are you ready to believe in yourself, even if no one else does? That is difficult. Undertaking is a path full of uncertainty in which nothing is inevitable, but everything is possible. Sometimes you will have to follow your instinct, even if everything else is against you. The vast majority of people trust the opinions of others more than their abilities, which is why they prefer to give up on their dreams rather than risk failure by trying. When you stop caring about “What will they say?”, you’ll be set for success.
  4. Take advantage of opportunities: Although the deal with Diario del Meta might sound unfair because Norman would not receive financial compensation in exchange for his work, he knew how to see the opportunities behind that deal and did not hesitate to take advantage of them. As he was starting, he knew that he needed allies and exposure to potential clients, so he decided to sacrifice profits in the short term to get his company’s name to start resonating in the market. Entrepreneurs can see the tree even when they only have the seed in their hands.
  5. Think big: From the beginning, Norman was clear that he wanted to offer his services to large companies, which is why he managed to get in touch with them even though his business was small and only had one bicycle. For him, there were no limits. If you want to be a great businessman tomorrow, start acting today as if you already are. Regardless of whether you start in a small room or the living room of your house, always keep in mind that the size of a company is the size of the vision of its founder. There are no small companies, only entrepreneurs without vision.
  6. Grow at your own pace: Although Norman dreamed of expanding his company and reaching every corner of his country, he never let himself get carried away and grew sustainably at his own pace. First, he conquered his city, then nearby municipalities and finally it spread throughout Colombia. This expansion process, slow but sure, allowed him to get to know the characteristics and needs of clients in each region, in addition to helping him identify specific problems that he was able to correct in time to maintain the quality of service. Each company must find its own pace of growth and prioritize as long as the quality of service is maintained, otherwise, its customers will end up frustrated and disappointed.
  7. Work with discipline, patience, and determination: The story of Norman and Inter Rapidísimo is not an overnight success story, quite the opposite, it is a story that describes all the sacrifice, effort, patience, discipline, and determination What an entrepreneur needs to make his business grow and consolidate in the market. The world is full of people who want to collect fruit from trees they have never planted. The reality is that great achievements require great sacrifices. The road to your dreams is full of stones, ups and downs, and obstacles that are there to test your determination and help you grow as a person. The price of success is paid in advance.
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Thus we conclude the exciting story of Norman Chaparro, an entrepreneur who, thanks to his talent, vision, patience, and determination, managed to start one of the most important courier companies in his country from a bicycle, thus becoming a great reference and inspiration for all those entrepreneurs who work every day full of enthusiasm to expand to impact the lives of many people with their businesses. In his own words:

“Sometimes you don’t need to have a lot of money to be able to start a company. One needs, above all, to have the desire. I am the example that things can be done. That, truly, one, whether by doing errands, by being someone’s errand boy, one has a way to progress in life and be prosperous. “Dreams come true if they pedal with their soul.”

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