Armstrong State University (ASU) professor, Grant Gearheart works hard to prepare his Spanish students for the “real world” that awaits them after they earn their degrees and embark on careers. This fall he invited several Hispanic business owners to his Spanish 4130 (Business Spanish) course to share insights gleaned from their professional careers.
“The goal was to help my students hone their entrepreneurial skills through the context of international business in Latin America,” Gearheart said. “The presentations and discussions are all in Spanish so it's a great way for students to improve their conversational skills at the same time.”
Guest speakers included Yair Muñoz, a business entrepreneur who graduated from ASU last year; a couple of business owners from Barcelona, Spain who were visiting Savannah; and Javier Carro, a Puerto Rican businessman who opened Blends– A Coffee Boutique on Broughton Street in downtown Savannah last year.
Growing up in Orocovis, Puerto Rico, Javier Carro was the youngest of three children. His father was a successful businessman who owned and operated a food processing plant there before selling it to Goya Foods, the biggest Hispanic-owned food company in the U.S.
“As a child, I was always in my father's shadow as he worked,” Carro said. “So when my older brother became an engineer and my sister became a doctor, it was natural for me to become the businessman of that generation.”
Carro started his business career in 1993 as an assistant brand manager for Cadbury/7 Up and became a Marketing Vice President for Bacardi nine years later. He told the students the most important lessons he learned during that time revolved around the concept of “experiential marketing” which is the process of creating an emotional connection between a brand and the consumer.
Using a powerpoint presentation interspersed with YouTube videos, Carro shared several marketing campaigns to illustrate the importance of this concept as well as the importance of branding.
When Carro opened his coffee shop, he knew he had to come up with a business plan that would allow Blends to compete against all the other local coffee shops, including business giant, Starbucks.
“I decided to concentrate on three unique selling propositions,” Carro said. “The name 'boutique' implies specialized intimacy so I wanted to give my shop an ambiance to match that. Second– I wanted to educate consumers on what they were drinking so I set out to provide detailed information about each of the six different countries where our coffee beans are grown. And third– I wanted to allow my customers to share in the roasting experience so I placed my custom roaster right there in the middle of our shop.”
Due to the success of his Savannah location, Carro plans to open additional stores in Miami, Orlando, and Winter Park, Florida. Carro said his love for coffee has been a life-long affair.
“Coffee is something Latinos grow up with in our daily lives,” he said. “The smell, the taste. I've always had a passion for coffee. Little sips from grandmother when we are very young… it’s part of our culture.”