Rum, Cigars and Small Business: UNLV Group Tackles Cuba

Cuba was once the most thriving island in the Caribbean. As it fights with the legacy of years of communist rule, a group of 11 UNLV trainees set out for 10 days in Might to find out if small company was the essential to reclaiming that past.

UNLV’s Global Entrepreneurship Experience program, a four-year curriculum that studies and encourages management and service development, intends to offer trainees from any discipline the tools to end up being entrepreneurs in their own lives.

Cuba’s recent economic reforms turned out to be an exceptional knowing laboratory. Fidel Castro resigned the presidency in 2008, unlocking to economic reforms by President Raul Castro. Under the old regime, where all jobs were federal government jobs, the average Cuban earned a monthly income worth around $25. Ever since, the rise of certain small companies like restaurants and casas particulares– think Airbnb with more pastel colors and ropa vieja– allow businesspeople to make that $25, if not more, in a day.

As an emerging market captured up in political reforms and an Obama-era warming of relations that seemed poised to cause a boost in tourism and investment from American business (up until more current developments from the Trump administration suggested a potential go back to more stuffed relations), Cuba produced a compelling GEE case study.

“When President Obama opened relations again, I was starting to see entrepreneurship which outdoors groups were working to assist small company owners discover methods to be their own manager,” stated Janet Runge, the GEE’s director who led the charge to Cuba. “I wanted to get our trainees there while that’s still taking place but prior to whatever modifications.”

Starting in Havana, the group visited a rum distillery, and the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, where Meyer Lansky ran betting and the walls are still bullet-riddled from gangland battles. They visited the United States embassy and met the consul basic to the island country for an hour.

After leaving Havana, the GEE went to more backwoods like Vinales, where they checked out a tobacco farm; Cienfuegos for the Bay of Pigs Museum; the Che Guevara memorial at Santa Clara; and a study of the hospitality industry at Varadero.

Markets aren’t totally large open yet. Those tobacco farmers, for example, need to turn over 90 percent of their production to the federal government, while they’re permitted to sell the remaining 10 percent as they choose.

“As big as those disincentives are, the rewards to become an entrepreneur are huge,” Runge stated. “If I were a doctor, possibly I’m making $40 a month. They can make more with me staying one night in a casa particular than they can in a month. The federal government is more than taking a cut, however they’re still making more than they might potentially make working a government job.”

The incentives might be there, but infrastructures aren’t necessarily up to speed. Marketing, for instance, is still conducted largely by word-of-mouth in a nation with minimal web services. That pointed the way for students to analyze Cuban services with some outsider perspective.

” We’re attempting to see chances,” senior Ariel Decker said, “resolving a problem or discovering a place where you could earn a profit. I see a lot of capacity in the casas particulares. They’re able to keep the most (from the government), and they’re not particularly arranged. If someone were to go in and organize them, gather them together, they could in fact raise their rates.”

At the tobacco farm, students analyzed problems of sustainability, particularly on an island with minimal land, resources, and capability to import the tools of modern-day farming. They studied policy through government quotas; the business methods around sales and marketing; income inequality as it associates with brand-new tourist markets opening up on the island creating more financially rewarding work that attracts younger generations who would have taken over the family farm; and international free trade surrounding the U.S. embargo.

There’s a lot rolled up in one cigar.

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