Meet Claudia de Heredia
A conversation with Claudia de Heredia
Company: Kichink (www.kichink.com)
Year founded: 2012
Role in the Company: Co-founder
What did you do professionally before deciding to become an entrepreneur?
After studying marketing in college (ITESM Santa Fe), I got a job in marketing at Procter & Gamble, where I managed several brands. After nearly six years at the company, I decided to leave to join my husband in his business, a digital production company involved in everything from designing web pages to applications and development for social networking.
When and how did you know that you wanted to start your own company?
I decided to leave Procter & Gamble because I really wanted to start something of my own. I wanted to make a difference through my work, to be able to create jobs. When I started working with my husband in his company, I began to understand the problems in the Internet world, especially in e-commerce. We realized that e-commerce was very underdeveloped in Mexico, and that someone had to do something to make it take off. We were sure that it could create a future of many economies in the country. So we decided to take the problem in hand: in 2012, my husband, one of my best high school friends, and I decided to found Kichink, an e-commerce platform that seeks to meet the needs of the Mexican market and that has the potential to transform the country’s economy. We started with the dream of transforming one economy, one country. Although we didn’t arrive at the decision to create the business from one day to the next, the three of us were clear that we should start doing something right away.
I have to admit that leaving Procter & Gamble in 2009 was one of the hardest decisions I ever made, especially because I had a career path there, I had a lot of security, not only economic security. And when I decided to leave there to work with my husband, everyone told me I was nuts!
Describe the process of starting your own business.
When we decided to found Kichink, our friends and family told us that we were completely crazy. They didn’t understand why we wanted to create a new company, leaving one that was doing well, that was well on its way, had market recognition, and had important clients.
With respect to the process of creating Kichink, we were lucky because we already had the entire roster of personnel from the previous business, including programmers and designers. So, we pretty much had the technology part resolved. Thus, the business, which was called Cloud 9, changed its name to Kichink. Obviously, it wasn’t all easy: we effectively gave up an established business, with clients, and to start the business we not only invested all our savings, but also we took a leap into the uncertainty of whether this was going to work out or not, whether we’d gain traction, or get clients.
When we were just about to join the Endeavor companies, several mentors and investors went so far as to tell us that our business model made no sense. Others said to me, “you’re a woman, you’re going to have children. How are you going to devote yourself to a business? You’re too old to be an entrepreneur!” Everyone told us we were crazy. But in the end, it has turned out to be one of our greatest sources of satisfaction to prove that our crazy idea wasn’t so crazy after all.
What was the biggest “failure” that you have had to face as an entrepreneur? What are the main lessons you learned from that experience?
Every day I fail in some way. Not a day goes by when I go to sleep completely satisfied. But in the end, failing is part of business, it’s part of growing and living.I don’t know a single entrepreneur who says that his company is perfect.
If I had to name one “failure” –which actually I view as an important learning experience—it was in the area of human resources. When we started Kichink, we were convinced that the team had to be a certain way, but we were wrong. As the business grew, we had to change and create a new team, evaluating each position according to the real needs of the company. The process was dificult, because when you form a team, its members become part of your family. Based on the analysis, we ended up forming a team with the proper functions that the business required. But the analysis and implementation of it were difficult.
Apart from that, we have also had a lot of ideas that we have wanted to pursue at the same time. For example, a Kichink devoted only to fashion, and it hasn’t worked out too well. This is only one example of many things that we have had to let go of. But definitely, I’m convinced that the biggest failure of all is not trying, not daring.
Where is your business today, and what are your plans for the next five years?
Today we have more than 45,000 stores in the platform, and we are already the biggest e-commerce platform in Mexico. We started out with a 12-person team, and now there are 100 of us. We created Kichink using all the capital that we had invested in the other business, and receiving loans from friends and family. Now we are seeking another round of more institutional financing to keep expanding.
In five years, we see ourselves as the largest e-commerce platform in the region, forming several strategic alliances. We also want to inspire the new generation of entrepreneurs in Mexico and in the region: we would like to be entrepreneur mentors, helping them to be successful with their startups.
What advice would you give to a woman who is thinking about starting her own business?
I would give her only one piece of advice: take a risk and don’t be afraid to fail. In Mexican society, we have a lot of fear of ailure: when a plan doesn’t come out well, it usually is a source of shame, we don’t want anyone to find out that it didn’t go well, and we try not to put it on our c.v. By contrast, I see that in countries like the United States or England, they value risk taking a lot, and they say: “well, I started a business, it didn’t go well, I went bankrupt, but I learned a lot and now the next thing I do will turn out better.” We are not good at this. So, here’s my advice: you have to take risks, you have to let go of the fear of failing. We’ve got to jump in the water and then we’ll see how we swim to the edge.