Entrepreneurs Aim to Bring Guatemala and Houston Closer Together
When Mike SallÃ©s came to visit Houston from Guatemala in 2019, he and his wife, Erika, were preparing to launch their small business. Grupo SallÃ©s would connect products and services from Guatemalan entrepreneurs to businesses throughout the entire U.S. But Mike's time in Houston prompted the entrepreneurs to rethink their strategy.Â
âI have family that lives in Houston,â said Mike. âWe have seen their lifeâs work, their companyâs growth, all that they have accomplished through the years and we admire them very much. So I bought an airplane ticket, flew over to stay with them for a week on November 2019 and during that week I met some contacts, but most importantly, I visited by the Greater Houston Partnership. It was a very eye-opening experience! We soon realized that Houston was the place to start our company and promote business between our countries.â
The couple decided to narrow their focus to the Houston region instead.Â Mike and Erika officially launched Grupo SallÃ©s, a Partnership member company, nearly a year ago. Their clients include information technology outsourcing companies that offer services from websites to mobile apps, medical manufacturers who make uniforms and accessories, and a low-cost high-quality domestic water filter manufacturer whoâs seeking to open shop in Houston. Erika said connecting their clients to Houston made a lot of sense.
âThe size of the market, the various industries that demand B2B services, and most of all the nearly 40% Hispanic population that Houston has,â said Erika. âWe are convinced that Â Guatemalans [can] offer their products and services in Houston, so they can find new and better business opportunities. Our clients can offer Houstonians high quality products and services at lower costs, and other competitive advantages that Guatemala offers Houston, such as geographic proximity, travel connectivity (we have daily direct flights), minimum time zone difference, and more fluent English and Spanish communication than most providers in other regions of the world can offer.â
As part of their work with these entrepreneurs, Grupo SallÃ©s also helps clientsÂ navigate the cultural differencesÂ betweenÂ Guatemala and the United States.
"We believe that mostly it comes down to a matter of understanding and communication, building trust," said Erika. "The language is the most common one, but in a sense, the nearly 40% Hispanic population makes it not that difficult for us to help our customers with. The other difference is how you network. In our country, being a smaller country, itâs much easier to reach someone through contacts and referrals. So you have to develop much more efficient networking and communication skills."
With about 1,500 miles between Houston and Guatemala, the Bayou City has strong cultural and trade ties with the Central American country. Nearly one in four Houstonians was born outside of the U.S.Â and Guatemala is the third-largest group from Central America accounting for these residents. Houstonâs trade with the country in 2019 was valued at $2.1 billion, a 10% increase from 2018, making the country Houstonâs No. 30 global trading partner.Â
âWe are convinced that itâs very important to focus on Houston. This will make us experts in promoting Houston and its businesses, learning more about their needs, and it very much facilitates the creation of our business network that we can later introduce our clients to,â said Erika.
Explore what makes Houston the right global partner for your business here. Learn more about Houston's global trade partners from the 2020 Global Houston report. To learn more about membership with the Greater Houston PartnershipÂ click here, or contactÂ firstname.lastname@example.org.