Honuguava | Entrepreneurship as a catalyst for personal and professional development

Valentina S. Velandia · 11 min · 28.08.2016

Age of entrepreneurship – Redefining work as we know it!

During a recent conversation with a close friend, I was kindly praised for my self-discipline and ability to inspire others through my work. While I was honoured to receive such a compliment, I felt the need to explain that my journey had not been so rosé, and had been filled with complexities and uncertainties.  Right before graduating from my Master Program in Geneva, my professor, Dr. Hancock – senior policy advisor to the Director-General at the World Trade Organisation, and representative to the IMF & World Bank as head of investment issues – stated a phrase that I could not forget:

We are experiencing the redefinition of work as we know it. We are at the age of entrepreneurship. Therefore, this is the time for you to explore the start-up route, to learn and fail as much as you can.

If you have a business idea and would like to explore the sometimes uncertain but sure to be incredibly rewarding odyssey of being an entrepreneur, I would say – GO FOR IT! Try it. Get mentors, welcome partners and forge alliances. Continue to persevere and most importantly, have fun while doing so.

Lessons learned through my entrepreneurial and professional journey

I agree with the idea that the more failures you have, the more you understand  how to find success in progress and not in the outcome as an absolute (Phrase adapted from the writings of a former UN Women colleague, Sylvia Koh). Although the term ‘success’ can be arbitrary and symbolic based on the language that is used, here is one of the most relatable quotes I’ve heard in the context of the start-up world is the following:

In a time of political correctness, ‘success can be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations one is willing to have’ – Tim Ferris 

In my own experience, having difficult but enriching conversations with a mindful attitude will take us further as both individuals and holistically as a society. My experiences while working for traditional institutions made me realise that I am uneasy with top-down power structures. Evaluating my belief system and work ethic within rigid institutions was the first step into finding my strengths and weaknesses as a young professional. As a creative, I realised (The hard way) that it was easier for me to thrive in dynamic environments and more readily embrace trial and error mindsets, thus better catering to the needs of clients, partners, investors, employees and volunteers. In the face of organisational inconsistencies, I knew that I was ready to fly solo and to create the optimal work conditions and structures.

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Half a year before quitting my last job as an employee, I decided to start a blog website called HonuGuava, a resourceful guide on how to optimise your profile to find a job abroad, and therefore, take your career to the international level.

How did we think of HonuGuava as a concept?

The truth is that I had been thinking about this project for a while. On multiple occasions, I went to bed thinking about ways to materialise the idea of how best to share my international work experiences with others. I was dreaming about the idea, but I was not taking action. Valentina, how do you manage to find jobs on your field everywhere you go? I remember responding with the same answers over and over again.

3 Brainstorming HonuGuava

An interesting future trend analysed by Kevin Kelly helped me shape my idea of HonuGuava as a service based on my first-hand experience: 

‘Most jobs dealing with logic and productivity are going to be computerised and robotised within the next 5 years. On the other hand, everything that creates experiences for people, which is what humans are good at; asking questions and establishing real human connections, will gain more traction in the near future. The few things that are increasing in cost are experienced based, personal coaching being one of the fastest growing fields.’

While driving to Bern to volunteer and assist a group of refugee children who were participating in the #GPBern2015 Marathon, I had a profound brainstorming session with my co-founder. She shared the same interests and concerns. As we both cracked the rigorous regulations to work internationally first hand, we decided that we wanted to equip individuals with the right tools to break through the stages of legal requirements, conditions, planning, contracts, and language pre-requisites for finding a job in their desired geography.

Potential business idea: Make use of your immediate network to test your market

Before launching our blog, we employed an important trial exercise to evaluate the response of our potential audience and the interest of our immediate network on the topic. We did a Facebook/LinkedIn poll:

We are starting an interactive newsletter on -how to find a job anywhere in the world- and we would love to get input from you. What is the greatest challenge that you encounter when trying to find a job abroad? If you would like to make your wildest dreams come true and move to work in a different country right now, what are some of the questions you would like to have answered? Reply or email us with “an oooh yes, guava please” if you are interested in getting the latest tips and resources on international career and lifestyle development.

This poll allowed us to tally the most frequently asked questions and made us realise that there was an audience and a demand for an advisory service. We use this sample data to line-up the content that we would share on our website/blog on the form of video essays.

HonuGuava – What does it mean?

The name, HonuGuava, emerged from our blend of our places of origin: Hawaii and Colombia. We see ourselves as two resourceful women whose professional experiences range from France, Colombia, Japan, Korea, Singapore, and the USA –> to our home-base, Switzerland. Together we found that it is most important to be resourceful, aware and proactive in our professional development. We are interviewing people from different parts of the world, who are currently working internationally, and deconstruct their professional journey. The idea is that we provide as many interactive and free resources as we can.

5 Founders

The power of community connectivity

After quitting my job in February, I started to offer independent advisory sessions on global career development. With the help of key collaborators such as Angela Wineberger from Global People Transitions, Diana Pantoja from Action from Switzerland, and our star translator Melanie Wolske, I am now providing a line of services to an interesting set of clients. I have learned more in the past 6 months as an entrepreneur than for the past 6 years as a professional. In addition, I cannot emphasise enough the massive role that Impact Hub Zurich has played in the development of HonuGuava.

I am an avid advocate of the Impact Hub’s collaborative manifesto. It’s community-based membership model, including a wide array of events and gatherings (Weekly events) has served as an invaluable support system. The Impact Hub’s community makes you realise that you are not alone. I personally abide by the premise that the power of connectivity through knowledge networks allows you to interact and exchange products/services with your peers and jointly support a shared economy.

The Impact Hub and its services prepare you for a reciprocal and meaningful relationship with others. In moments of doubt and despair, you realise that there are a number of diverse people who are also in the same boat. We are all figuring out our own paths, sharing our experiences and wishing each other the best in our entrepreneurial  endeavours. We are all lost in one way or another, but we know that we have each other to understand the challenges and opportunities individuals and businesses are likely to face today and tomorrow. If you follow the entrepreneurial route, your pockets may not always be full on monetary terms, but your heart and values will always be where they belong, resting with your core passions and aspirations.

Valentina S. Velandia is an international communications consultant with expertise in diversity and gender inclusion. Valentina occupies herself with social justice issues and strives to democratize education systems. Valentina is the community manager at Capacity Zurich and serves as a mentor to persons with refugee and migrant experience living in Switzerland.
Valentina S. Velandia, Intercultural Communication, Social Inclusion & Gender Diversity

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