I stand in the mountains of Santiago, the capital island of Cape Verde. Below me I see a lush valley. This week Katia and me have recuperated from an intense year. We started working together for Life Anew limited in Cape Verde in June 2012 and shortly after became lovers. But we kept our relation to ourselves.
I worked as skipper and marketing executive and set up and shaped the marketing strategy together with Victoria, my colleague in Switzerland. Katia worked as my personal assistant. Vic and I developed the SailCapeVerde and Cabo-V brands and products. I contributed and learned a great deal about international business. To make a medium sized business work in a foreign country, you need to understand the people, the culture and how things work. Spending time with them, working with them, speaking their language and hanging out in local places are all part of this process. But most important is respect.
Cape Verdeans are not waiting for a white man savior. The country became independent in the 70’s and memories of colonialism are fresh. The Portuguese did terrible things over the centuries like slave trade sexual abuse and torture. Cape Verdeans smile and are happy with the money investors bring, but not necessarily with them. Understanding this nuance can prevent being led into bad deals. One should refrain from haughtiness and acting pedantic as this leads to colonial primed feelings of resentment, whereas speaking Kreolo language creates common ground.
Doing business in Cape Verde is not easy; successful western entrepreneurs are scarce whereas failed projects are abundant. A good successful example is the entrepreneurs behind Marina Mindelo. I admire their courage, skill and resilience to have built the one and only Marina on the African west coast.
As for Life Anew: our marketing strategy for Life Anew has paid off and the first year has shown month over month revenue growth. I did a good part in jumpstarting the company, but nonetheless there are plenty challenges ahead when doing business in Cape Verde: high costs, fierce competition and the need for daily hands on management. I wish Life Anew “godspeed” in overcoming these challenges.
I count my blessings: it has been a productive year, I have a beautiful sweet hearted girlfriend joining me travelling, we have saved for adventures and have a bag full of experiences to take. Today we fly to Brazil. Let’s see how Hope and Katia will get along. During our voyage I write every other week or so for The Telegraaf and this website and occasionally for Zilt magazine and One World Magazine.
It feels good to be back with you, speak soon! Pura Vida!