Career Spotlight: Gabriel Gutierrez, MMK 2015
Building a Startup – Creative Communication is Key
The entrepreneurial Gabriel Gutierrez tells us about how the lessons he learnt from the MSc in Marketing and Creativity are helping him take his pasta sauce startup in Colombia to the next level.
What is your current position?
General Manager of N3 / Entrepreneur / Project Developer
Tell me a bit about where you were prior to starting the MSc in Marketing and Creativity at ESCP Business School?
Before starting in January 2014 at ESCP Business School, I had just come back to Barranquilla, my home town, after living nine years in Bogota. I arrived in the month of June in order to start developing my idea for a food company. I was developing all the brand strategies, packaging, and processes and rolling out our MVP (Minimum Valuable Product). Also, I was preparing an operations manual for my brothers who were going to manage the company while I was overseas.
A lot of MSc in Marketing and Creativity alumni have been starting their own companies. It seems that the master really attracts a lot of entrepreneurs. Do you think the master has equipped you with the tools to successfully take your company to the next level?
I think a lot of the people I’ve met through the course are entrepreneurs at heart, as you say. What attracted me to this particular master’s degree was the fact that it was completely different from any other I had seen with its focus on creativity. I took this course because my undergraduate studies were based on Business Administration so I wanted to diversify my skillset, which was key to starting my own business. From the Master in Marketing and Creativity, I acquired the tools I needed in branding, marketing and creativity, as well as in management. These tools led me to redevelop my brand in a more strategic and logical way. I’ll also add that I think that this degree really enables you to be prepared to work in branding and advertising agencies, as well as in consulting firms.
When coming up with the idea to sell sauces did you feel there was a gap in the market in Colombia or did you feel your product would become a need once you pushed it into your market?
The sauce market is one of the most saturated markets in every country. I know, I spent a great deal of time studying the market. But as I learned at ESCP Business School, where there is saturation, there are actually always big opportunities. The positive aspect of pasta sauces is that they are products, which are consumed, in large quantities in every corner of the world, so our focus lies primarily in having product differentiation and distinctiveness through branding strategies. At this moment, with Tomattino, we have only two products, which are the Bolognese and Napolitana Sauces. But when we launch our new brand, Nº3, we will have Green and Red Pesto, as well as Green Olives and Sun dried Tomato Tapenade and pickled onions. After studying the market, I learned that there is increasing demand for sauces and pickled products, while there is stagnant demand for tapenades. In my opinion, the reason for this is that these types of products are not common in Colombia.
So, specifically in the tapenades line of products, I saw a gap in the market, and felt that, once launched, my product would start to create a need. My line of products is mainly for a niche market, which is based on primarily high-income consumers who search for different, healthy, and gourmet food products.
Do you think through the web, we’ve been able to be more creative with how we communicate with consumers? What do you think is the future of communicating with consumers?
Definitely in this era where the web and digital platforms play more important roles than ever between brands and consumers, companies have developed more and more different strategies to communicate with them but brands seem not to care about the amount of information, pictures, blogs, messages or videos consumers have to digest every day. In my opinion, it’s not about how many times you post a day or week, but more the creativity and distinctiveness of your strategies. The future of communicating with consumers is placing them at the center of your strategy. It’s really trying to give them exactly what they want and also what they still don’t know they want. The real problem here is when are brands going to stop to just throw information at us and start to make us laugh, think or make us curious?
Starting a new company comes with its challenges. Can you talk to me about those and how you tackled them? What would be your biggest piece of advice to fellow budding entrepreneurs?
Work has to be constant, every milestone comes with new challenges, and work never stops. Each new person you meet that helps you solve one problem always leads you to a new one. This is not a negative thing. In fact it’s positive, since what that person is telling you now is something you did not know before, and if you had not known, it would have come anyway with experience.
How are you going to go about re-branding yourselves?
Rebranding the company was a lot more difficult than I imagined at first. It took my brothers and I around four months to find a new brand name. Since we were neither in the same countries nor time zones, working together was very difficult, but we did a couple of brainstorming meetings through Skype. Additionally, each of us came up with a whole host of brand names. In some instances, they were already taken or they were just too close to other brand names.
Finally, we came up with a distinctive and unique name, Nº3, which did not present any problems for us. After the name was decided, we started to work with a branding agency on our design and look and feel of the brand. At this point, the MSc in Marketing and Creativity program really paid off since I applied various models and processes to develop the brand identity and strategies.
Can you tell us a bit about your plans for the future of your brand? What’s your dream?
Overall we want Nº3 to become the brand of choice when consumers are searching for gourmet, specialised products. When people think of having a meeting, gathering, dinner/lunch or party at their home, we want them to think about our products since they make lives easier by having delicious, craft, gourmet and healthy products prepared specially for them. Our brand has five pillars that will help us reach how we want to be seen by people.
- The 3 brothers: Here, we will tell our story in a fun and engaging way.
- Support of Street Art: Our brand name and design is unique compared to what exists in Colombia. For this reason, we want to support activities that represent our values and we found that street art is a perfect match for the positioning of our brand.
- Local Focus: As proud members of Slow Food, we highlight that our product is 100% Colombian, with raw materials only from our country. This reflects the current trend of people beginning to relate more to local products rather than international ones. We all want to support our country’s produce, industry and people.
- Healthy & Gourmet Life: Our products are natural, free of any kind of artificial flavors or preservatives. Additionally, our levels of fat or sugar are well maintained in order to give consumers the chance to eat delicious food while staying healthy.
- Functionality: We’ve taken into account that our target consumers is increasingly busy. Our products have all the essential ingredients needed. You don’t need to add salt, sugar, extra tomatoes or meat; everything is there, making the experience as quick and easy as possible.
In the short term (1-3 years) we would like to strengthen our brand and distribution nationally and afterwards (in 4-5 years) we would like to export our products to countries in need of our solutions.
Do you feel 2016 is a great time to start your own business?
I think the fact that the internet is in constant evolution and is nowadays at a stage where millions of people have access to it, people have more tools accessible to them. It’s easier than ever before to create a business, particularly if it has an e-commerce component.
Who are your influencers?
My main influencer is Richard Branson. His projects, messages and optimism has driven me and helped me stay focused.
I also regularly read Entrepreneur magazine because it reminds me that it doesn’t matter how crazy your idea is, if you work hard for it, you will succeed.
Finally, I have a role model in Colombia. He’s someone who has been an entrepreneur his whole life and made a life of his own. His vision and attitude toward new business enables me to leave all my fears behind and just go for it. Ultimately, this is what all entrepreneurs need.
Salivating over some of Gabriel’s brilliant pasta sauces or want to follow his growing business? Follow him on Instagram @productostomattino and on Facebook at Tomattino.
Did Gabriel’s story make you intrigued to learn more about ESCP Business School and its Marketing and Creativity programmes? Find out more at: