When he was at school, he sold sweets, soccer cards, and tea to his classmates, but the teachers would chase him and take the products away. After finishing school, he started selling empanadas on the streets of his city and gradually grew with patience and determination. Today, he is a successful businessman, he has 5 establishments, generates employment for more than 80 people, and invoices around $700,000 dollars annually … How did he do it?
The story of Alejandro Rodriguez, founder of “La Garosa“
The protagonist of this story is Alejandro Rodríguez, a young Colombian who was born on November 6, 1996, in the city of Bogotá.
When Alejandro was 7 years old, his father was transferred for work to the city of Barranquilla, so the whole family moved there. Because he was a very shy boy, it was difficult for him to adjust to his new life, especially at school, since he did not feel very comfortable making conversations with new people.
Financially, his family lived with just enough. The income they generated was barely enough for them on a day-to-day basis, but they could not afford luxuries such as dining in restaurants, going to the movies, or traveling on vacation. However, his father had a good relationship with his boss and he often invited them to family plans, so Alejandro became friends with Andrés, the son of his father’s boss.
Every time Alejandro visited Andrés, he was inspired to see the lifestyle he enjoyed. Also, he remembers that it marked him a lot to see that Andrés ‘ family was very generous; Every Sunday they visited a foundation that they supported and gave away sports shoes, balls, uniforms, and breakfast. All of this made Alejandro dream of one day enjoying a better quality of life and being able to help other people.
In 2008, his father convinced him to take accordion lessons. Although he didn’t like vallenato very much at the time, he took his classes with great enthusiasm and learned quickly.
In 2009, he formed a vallenato group and began to earn money by playing clubbing and parties. Thanks to music, he managed to face his shyness and developed important public speaking skills. In addition, this art helped him win over Pamela, a young woman who would become his wife, partner, and inspiration.
At school, he was not exactly a good student. Every time they handed in grades, his mother was greeted with the news that the young man had failed several classes. Alejandro was more focused on doing business than paying attention to classes. Every day he sold sweets, and soccer cards and he even got a thermos to bring tea and offer to his teammates.
“I remember telling my mom to send me a letter so they would let me sell officially and with the approval of the rector, but this was never possible. The teachers even chased me to take the products away from me.” – Said the entrepreneur in an interview.
Starting your own empanada business
In 2013, after graduating from school at the age of 17, he told his grandmother that he wanted to start his own business, so she gave him what Alejandro considers one of the best pieces of advice he has received in his life:
“Mijo, do what sells the most, which are empanadas.” -It was her words.
Initially, he wasn’t sure about doing it because he thought about what his friends might say when they saw him selling empanadas, but he convinced himself that “sorry doesn’t make money” and asked his grandmother to please explain how to make empanadas. . She agreed to teach him and shared her recipe with him.
Little by little, the young man began to practice the recipe until he managed to perfect it. Then, with a capital of $50,000 Colombian pesos, equivalent to about $12 dollars, he bought a Styrofoam refrigerator and ingredients to prepare his first batch of empanadas. Full of determination, he took to the streets of his neighborhood to offer them to his neighbors and friends.
Although the empanadas were delicious, selling them was a huge challenge because he used a recipe the way they were prepared in Bogotá, therefore, his empanadas were different from the ones they used to eat in Barranquilla. Despite his difficulties de él, he did not give up and continued to insist, convinced that it would only be a matter of time before his product de él conquered the palates of Barranquilla.
Every Friday night, along with his mother and her girlfriend, Alejandro would prepare the empanadas and leave them ready in the freezer. The next day, he would get up early to fry them and go out with his Styrofoam fridge to start selling them.
His mother helped him from the beginning with all the operational parts. His father was also an unconditional support for him, giving him valuable sales advice and always reminding him that, in order to be successful and reach people’s hearts, above all else he had to be a great person with values and principles.
As sales increased, Alejandro was expanding his distribution route, reaching more and more areas of the city. His father even invited him to his workplace to offer empanadas to his colleagues, which was a great impulse for him.
Learning to think like an entrepreneur
One day, the young man received a gift that would change his mentality and his life forever:
“An uncle found out what I was doing and gave me the book ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad.’ That book marked my life and made me see that the sale of empanadas could be the basis of a very large company in the future. At that moment I understood that the business was an extension of me as a person, and if I wanted the business to grow, I had to grow first.” -Alejandro counts .
From then on, he made it a habit to read books on personal development, leadership, marketing, business, and other topics that would help him achieve his personal and business goals. Also, while preparing the empanadas or buying supplies, he took the opportunity to listen to biographies of successful people, audiobooks, and online workshops. All of this allowed her to strengthen his mindset and learn powerful lessons about success.
Guided by his ambition, he thought of acquiring an industrial fryer to expand his production capacity, but he did not have enough capital. He went to several banks looking for a loan, but they all turned him down because of his young age. With no other choice, he had to put off his purchase and began saving a percentage of his profits weekly to eventually make the investment. A year later, he purchased the fryer, financing it with the saved capital. Thanks to this investment, he went from frying 7 empanadas per cycle in a frying pan to 20 in the deep fryer, that is, he almost tripled his productivity.
With a lot of patience, Alejandro managed to carve out a space in the market. His business became the favorite option for several clients who found him every Saturday to enjoy their empanadas for breakfast. In addition, he was launching new products, such as corn water, which he offered unlimited in combo with empanadas.
At the same time, the young man enrolled in an administration career at the Universidad del Norte. There he managed to study for three semesters but had to withdraw because his home finances were complicated. It was a difficult decision to make, but he and his parents agreed to do so in the hope of continuing their studies once they were out of debt.
Looking for new business opportunities
After dropping out of college, he focused entirely on his business. He knew that it was the perfect opportunity to make it grow, so he began to think of ways to reach more customers and it occurred to him that he could offer the empanadas in the schools of the city. He started knocking on doors, sent dozens of emails, and tried to contact key people with whom he could negotiate; however, the days passed without getting any response. Of all the schools he contacted, only one responded, but they told him they were interested in baked empanadas, not fried ones.
It was a complicated situation for Alejandro. If he wanted to close the deal with the college, he would have to sell the fryer that he had painstakingly bought, in order to acquire ovens. Also, up to that point, he had no experience preparing baked goods.
Finally, she decided to take advantage of the opportunity that the school presented to her and began to learn, through tutorials on YouTube, how to prepare baked empanadas. The first attempts were unsuccessful, but with a lot of persistence she managed to prepare them.
Thanks to this deal with the school, his business achieved some stability. The next thing that Alejandro did was to continue insisting with other schools until he secured contracts with eleven more, which allowed him to exceed the figure of 1,000 empanadas sold per day.
“I taught my friends from the community where I lived how to prepare the products, and together with my mother, without ever having been a baker before in our lives, we used to make all this production. My dad was in charge of taking the orders from school to school on a motorcycle that we had bought, and then he would leave for his work. ” – The young man counts.
Consolidating and expanding your company
Due to the contracts with the schools, he found himself in the need to formalize his company, since they requested documents such as the tax registry, chamber of commerce, bank certificate, and others. Also, he thought it was time to baptize her with an attractive and easy-to-remember name. After evaluating various options, he chose the name “La Garosa”, which rose from combining the initials of his name from her: Gabriel Alejandro Rodriguez S. Andoval, but which is also a word used to refer to a person who eats a lot.
The home factory that he had set up at his parents’ house was too small, so he looked for a much larger location. At this new location, I have experimented with creating pizzas, cookies, brownies, cakes, cheese fingers, and other baked goods. In the mornings he was in charge of delivering the orders for the schools, and in the afternoons he went out to sell the other products shouting through the streets of the city.
One day, a client asked him on social networks if they could prepare some hamburger buns that he needed for a contest, called “Burger Master”, in which he had registered. Alejandro accepted with a bit of curiosity but was surprised when they confirmed that the order was for more than 3 thousand loaves. Seeing the success of the contest, he prepared himself for the next edition of it and contacted several of the participating restaurants, ensuring that half of them would buy the bread from him. In that second event, they sold a total of 70,000 loaves in one week, a figure that caught the attention of Tulio Recomienda, organizer of the event and renowned influencer on gastronomy issues, who told the story of Alejandro and his company on social networks, giving them wide dissemination.
With these promising results, the young man convinced his father to quit his job to join his company:
“I told him: Dad, what is the point of you working on your side and us on the other, if in the end the most important thing in life is to build, but hand in hand with yours, so that we can enjoy the process and every moment shared with family? That is worth much more than anything.” -It was his words.
In association with his father, they opened a new store focused on selling bread and coffee. His father was in charge of managing it. Unfortunately, that place did not give the results they expected and they had to close three months later.
Innovating to reach more customers
At the end of 2019, when the December season was approaching, Alejandro and his team began to prepare to take advantage of the season by offering products such as fritters and bread with ham, which sell very well on those dates; However, December would be different… A friend asked them: “Why don’t you make a buñuelo stuffed with lots of cheese?”. They loved the idea, so they immediately got to work and launched the product under the name of “Buqueso”. They published it on social networks and the next day the business was filled with people looking for that succulent cheese-filled fritter. The following days were the same: long lines of people waiting for their orders from him.
At that time, they only had two stoves. Given the growing demand, they had to buy six more stoves, because they could no longer keep up.
“The moment that we dreamed so much for years had arrived. I remember being on one side of the premises together with my dad, my mom and my girlfriend, hugging each other crying from feeling that satisfaction of having accomplished a duty; knowing that, after so much effort and sacrifice, we had achieved what we wanted.” -Commented the entrepreneur.
Eventually, they created buñuelos stuffed with arequipe, nutella, a bocadillo, and even a ranchero. Also, they launched arepas de huevo, Hawaiian empanadas, juices, and many other products that gained great popularity among customers.
The business was growing rapidly. Everything “was running smoothly”; However, an unexpected event would be about to happen…
Difficulties and challenges of a growing company
In March 2020, with the start of the pandemic, many companies had to close indefinitely, including La Garosa.
Not being able to serve customers in person, they focused on deliveries, created frozen products, and designed a drive-in sales model, that is, allowing customers to get their orders without having to get out of their cars. Thanks to these strategies, they managed not only to survive the hardest of the crisis but also considerably increased their sales levels, which motivated them to open two more stores in other areas of the city. By then, the company already had a team of 40 people and continued to expand at a steady pace.
Unfortunately, the positive results of the business were contrasted with the death of “Papá Garoso”, as Alejandro affectionately called his father, who fell ill with Covid-19 and could not recover.
“I have to point out that having made the decision to build this company together was the best decision of our lives, since the most valuable things in all our time were those little details, like having breakfast together, going to play soccer, spending time with friends and have dinner every night as a family.” – Alejandro affirms with nostalgia .
It was a very difficult time for the entire company, especially for Alejandro. He was his mentor and his guide, who had taught him the importance of leading a life full of values and principles. Although she was no longer physically by his side, the lessons she taught him lived on in his heart, and they allowed him to carry on his commitment to carry his legacy to millions of people.
During the following months, the company continued with its growth plans. Alejandro was in charge of investing in consulting with experts who would help him give structure and a clear strategy to the business, factors that he considers very important for business success. Also, he leveraged the media so that more people knew his story about him and his company about him, thus attracting new clients and increasing his brand positioning about him.
Alejandro Rodríguez is a determined and passionate businessman who dreams big
Currently, La Garosa has 5 establishments, generates employment for more than 80 people, and invoices around $700,000 dollars annually. Throughout his career, he has received various recognitions and awards for his impact on the city of Barranquilla, including Caribe Exponential and Quilla Innova. For the next few years, it plans to continue expanding to other cities in Colombia and open space in the international market, taking its delicious products to countries like the United States, Panama, and Mexico.
Alejandro, for his part, is 25 years old and continues to serve as executive director of his company. In his free time, he gives conferences and entrepreneurship workshops under his motto: “Pity does not give money”, seeking to inspire other entrepreneurs. For him, the most satisfying thing about starting a business is: being able to help many families with a decent job, knowing that what you do contributes to the growth of your city and your country, being able to impact the lives of other people and having a quality of life over time. and resources for you and your future generations.
Thus we conclude the inspiring story of Alejandro Rodríguez, a determined and passionate entrepreneur who did not stop at the obstacles he found on his way, but faced them as challenges to grow and develop the skills he needed to achieve his goal of being an entrepreneur, becoming an example and inspiration for those who today dream of starting their own business. In his own words:
“I tell other entrepreneurs to start with what you have and improve along the way. Entrepreneurship is an endurance race, not a speed one. Don’t jump steps you shouldn’t jump; you can do it, but you may end up with a broken tooth or damaging a friendship or family relationship. Better live and enjoy each stage; you will also arrive, and I assure you that with much greater satisfaction and with all yours. When a company grows without culture or organization, the only thing that grows are the problems.”