My dual nationality has shaped my life and inspired my business
Growing up as a dual citizen traveling back and forth between two very contrasting countries, the Dominican Republic and the United States, shaped my outlook on the world and allowed me to see life from two completely different angles.
In a goal, I see a land of opportunity, one where even though there are difficulties, there is also a chance for people who are willing to work hard and learn. In the other perspective, I see a land of poverty where opportunities are offered only to those lucky enough to be born into the 5% wealthy families.
This is the typical story of a developed country versus a developing country. Experiencing and meeting people in both worlds inspired me to work to bridge this gap. Since graduating from college, I have been reflecting with my best friend, and now co-founder, Cristian, on ways to create more opportunities for Dominicans while creating something of value that we can bring. to people in the United States.
Find the right idea
After juggling over 10 different ideas, Cristian and I chose the most unexpected: making fruit juices. The idea arose when one of my classmates from the Darden School of Business came with me to the Dominican Republic to visit me during winter vacation. While he was there, he tried a delicious homemade passion fruit juice my mom made for us one morning, and he thought it was the best juice he had ever tried.
Her reaction brought back memories of the first time I left the Dominican Republic to go to college in Miami. During my freshman year in college, I remember looking for fresh passion fruit juice in every grocery store and restaurant in the area, and couldn’t find anything that looked like the taste I had become used to. my house. I remember that every time my mother came to visit me from the Dominican Republic, she brought me gallons of frozen passion fruit juice in her luggage; it was the best gift I could get.
Research to launch
After seizing the opportunity, we decided to do more research on what it would take to bring fresh Dominican juice to the United States. We looked at both the demand and the supply of the business. On the demand side, we’ve found that there are plenty of immigrants and multicultural families in the United States who grew up on fresh passion fruit and guava juice and just like me didn’t. found nothing like it.
On the supply side, we learned that there is a huge supply of these fruits in the Dominican Republic, but not a large enough market for them. We met several small Dominican farmers who told us that they are in fact forced to throw away a lot of these fruits or sell them at a very low price for lack of an external market. Through this research, we determined that this was a great opportunity for us to create this bridge that we have always wanted to create. We felt compelled to do this once we saw how we could help the struggling Dominican Republic farmers we encountered.
We launched Caribe Exotic in August 2014, a range of cold pressed and HPP juices made from fruit sourced only from the Dominican Republic. We started the business very efficiently; we have relied on a lot of trial and error to bring the brand, the team and the product to where they are today. We have spent the past two and a half years learning, adapting and growing.
Exotic caribe today
Today, we offer two ranges of cold pressed juices that are all natural, very tasty, and nutritious, one low in calories and the other based on cold pressed cane juice. We buy the entire production yield from eight small farmers in the Dominican Republic, and the partial yield from the production of five others.
We are also working on a series of investments to help us grow in the coming years. In addition, we are in discussions with the government of the Dominican Republic to potentially build a factory there where we could make even fresher juices and potentially start selling locally.
On the sales side, we are present in about 100 stores in the DC metropolitan area, our favorite area. Our products are available at all Whole Foods, Harris Teeter and Mom’s Organic stores in the area. In March, we will be launching in the New York City market at Fairway Markets and Morton Williams, and by the end of the year, we expect to be in over 500 stores in DC and New York markets, with a nationwide expansion plan in the United States in 2018.
For me, it has been an incredibly enriching experience, not only because of the opportunities I create for poor farmers in the Dominican Republic, but also because Caribe Exotic has been a platform for my personal and professional development.
I hope that through Caribe and other opportunities, I can continue to build bridges of value between developed and developing countries.
About the Author: Luis Solis is the co-founder of the fruit juice brand Exotic Caribbean.
Edited for length and clarity by Shannon Gausepohl. Do you have a great entrepreneurial story to tell? Send your pitch by email to [email protected]