For businesses of all shapes and sizes, the idea of expanding into a new territory and offering products and services to a new audience is exciting. Indeed, overseas expansion is often one of the most talked-about options when looking to grow a brand, as it allows you to reach a whole new audience and penetrate a new market. But doing so isn’t always as easy as you’d think.
Today, we chat with Craig Dempsey, founder of Biz Latin Hub. He offers a range of services for businesses wanting to expand into Latin America, including formation, visa processing, accounting, taxation, legal services, and much more. In this exclusive interview, Craig lifts the lid on Latin America and explains why the territory is so exciting for Western entrepreneurs.
Tell us a little bit about your business…
I started Biz Latin Hub in 2014 with my British co-founder David Wright. After starting my career in the Australian military, where I focused on Maintenance Engineering, Project Construction and Project Management roles, I then transitioned into the natural resources sector, where I filled a variety of Senior Mine Operations and Project Manager Positions. Soon after spending time in Latin America, I realised just how huge the opportunity was for businesses in the United Kingdom, United States and Australia – and decided to launch a service that offered assistance.
Throughout my time at Biz Latin Hub, I’ve worked with some incredible businesses, including the likes of HubSpot, CargoJet, IFU and Macromill Group, offering services such as company formation, due diligence, legal services and recruitment – and I think we’ve created a team of real experts who can help businesses of all shapes and sizes who want to expand into Latin America. We like to think of ourselves as being able to offer a ‘back office’ service to all brands, whether they’re looking to expand across Latin America, or focus in on one country, like Brazil.
In just four short years, we’ve helped hundreds of local and international businesses, and we’re now looking to expand across the globe, with plans to open an office in Sydney, Australia and an office in London, England, which will really help us to take the business to the next level.
Why did you choose Latin America?
Over the past couple of years, investors around the world have begun to recognize the huge potential of Latin America. With an economy worth almost $5 trillion US dollars, and around 600 million citizens across Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and more, Latin America is a huge market – and one that, with the right marketing strategy, can change the fortunes of a business and help them to make money, increase their market share, and grow.
Another reason why Latin America is such a popular choice is that the economy is rapidly growing, and it has a burgeoning middle class. Mexico, for example, has seen growth of more than 6% per year, whilst Chile is on the brink of gaining ‘developed nation’ status. Panama has doubled its GDP in the past ten years, whilst Brazil has seen strong growth in 2017/18.
Latin America is also a great place for companies to make investments. Most governments have eased restrictions which prevented investments from overseas countries, and now the territory makes it easy to start up a business and generate a return. Of course, that doesn’t mean starting your own business in Latin America is simple, especially if you don’t speak the language nor have an understanding of the culture or way of life, but with the right help, it’s possible.
What are the biggest differences between Latin America and the United States?
Aside from economic differences and language barriers, perhaps the biggest challenge some entrepreneurs face when attempting to expand into Latin America is the culture. Indeed, it would be impossible to attempt to ‘copy and paste’ your business from the United States to a country in Latin America, as different attitudes to spending and consuming goods mean that it just would not work. The key is to work with a company that understands the local culture inside out and can help you to craft a marketing campaign that speaks to your new target audience. Think of an expansion as if you were launching a new product line entirely; a product or service that you think might go down well in Brazil, for example, might fail because of a competitor or an attitude.
Having said that, however, TV shows and movies from the United States dominate schedules, making it easy to advertise on a wide scale. What’s more, thanks to globalization, brands such as Apple and Starbucks are changing attitudes and making it easy for Western brands to thrive in countries such as Brazil and Argentina. The English Proficiency Index, however, shows that English proficiency levels are still below the global average, and so localising your marketing and services is key if you want to penetrate the market and reach as many people as you can.
What does the future hold for Latin America?
Whether you’re still thinking about expanding into Latin America or you’ve already made up your mind, the truth is that the territory is an attractive option. Countries such as Brazil, which emerged from its worst recession on record, are beginning to show signs of growth, with the Dominican Republic and Panama showing the greatest signs of GDP growth this year. But it’s not just the financial growth we’re seeing – it’s the growth in technology, and changing consumer attitudes, that make an investment so exciting. Indeed, Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing, rather than expanding their service into the territory, bought a majority control over Brazilian 99, creating a ‘formidable rival to Uber’ and showing that overseas brands can dominate the market.
For smaller businesses, whether with ten employees or ten thousand, that makes for an exciting development; as more giants enter the marketplace and create a more advanced and confident consumer base, even more opportunities will unfold, allowing entrepreneurs to grow overnight.