Laurie & Pujalt is dedicated to the commercialization of exquisite Peruvian natural and gourmet products with intense flavors and great presentation. Maria Luisa Pujalt, founder and general manager shares her experience as a “Eurolatina startup” that has its focus of expansion in the European gourmet market.

Why betting on Europe and not on other regions?

There is a worldwide trend in favor of natural foods and so-called “super foods”. In Peru, because of our rich gastronomy, we are fortunate to have very special and sophisticated natural products, such as, for example, the famous “maras salt” that we commercialize. If you ask me what our startup is about, I like to say that, with passion we turn natural inputs into “premium foods” giving our customers a gourmet experience. We are in full growth with a very strong commitment to the European market.

We have recently won an important award (PAI Internationalization Award granted by Mincetur, Swiss Contact and Adex for US$ 20,000) in which we competed with more than 170 companies. We were finalists among more than 50 startups and only 5 of us won and thanks to that award, we are improving our website and creating the new online shop to market our products worldwide.

About 97% of Peruvian food products are exported in bulk and we realized that there was a niche and a business opportunity marketing products with gourmet presentations. To this end, we visited the main gourmet houses in Europe and the United States to find out about market trends. This was our focus on developing products with beautiful and unique glass presentations and eco-friendly packaging. Thanks to a proposal of high quality, improvement of the packaging, and a bet on exclusivity.

Europe is a personal commitment because I love Europe, its culture and its gastronomy, which, in my opinion, is the best. The product is looked after very carefully and the consumer values quality and is willing to pay for it. We have travelled extensively in the main European markets to analyze trends, get to the European customer tastes, to get to know the markets in detail and the idiosyncrasies of each country. In France, for example, it is essential to establish a relationship of trust with distributors, to create links and networks with them and to base those relationships on face-to-face. In an increasingly virtual world, I have found that establishing personal relationships is key.

What are the main challenges that startups face when growing internationally?

– One of the keys to entrepreneurship is perseverance. If you ask me if I am the same person now that I was 8 years ago, I would say surely not. Thanks to the adventure of entrepreneurship, I have developed an essential quality that is temper. Passion and drive often make a difficulty turn into an advantage or bring us a better idea.

– Another of the challenges is always financing. In our case, it started with our credit cards and continued with the typical and well-known FFF. Thanks to achieving good results and starting to earn money, we have been able to get financing from banks.

– Choosing a good team is another key challenge. Partners are critical to creating a successful business. A good partner is a synonym of success and a bad partner is a synonym of failure…partners and teams must contribute generously and disproportionately, trust is fundamental to conclude the adventure of entrepreneurship. I am fortunate to have found a great partner, Gaston Laurie!

– In Latam, there is a lot of informality in the companies and about 70% do not pay taxes, which generates unfair competition to formal companies like ours, but they are not all disadvantages because those companies cannot access official prizes like the one we have won or other types of aid.

Main recommendations or learnings that could be useful for other startups that want to expand into Europe:

– Europe provides a great advantage for an entrepreneur thanks to is its single market and common EU regulation. Once you have made the investment to be able to market according to its rules and procedures you can do the same in all the countries that make up the European Union.

– Find local distributors: many markets are very difficult if you do not go hand in hand with a local partner. Having reliable partners, although not easy, is often key to selling any product.

– Being in contact with the local representatives of the commercial office of Peru in France for us has been an asset. They helped us reach out to the local business community, introduced us to their commercial network and gave us support. Therefore, my recommendation would be to contact the Trade offices that the country of origin of the LATAM entrepreneur has in the European country in which business is to be done.

– Differentiate yourself! We are especially proud to have created in Peru, replicating the European and American model, a showroom called Salt House. We have created a space that serves as a meeting point and forum to connect young chefs with the public interested in their creations and attend their cooking demonstrations. In this way, we create a special connection between these groups and our products that creates a community of “influencers” around our products and brand.

As a woman and a businessperson, what advice can you give to future female entrepreneurs?

Being an entrepreneur demands all your energy, your committed soul, a lot of effort and sacrifice, and work with love and passion in search of your dreams. To do this you must have a very clear objective, follow your intuition and be recursive, think without the limitations of money. Over time, you will learn that in the most difficult situations is where all your creativity is boosted and increases your mettle.

It does not matter how many times you make a mistake. It means knowing how to seek help when you need it. It is easier not to go for it, but the satisfaction of giving everything and achieving your dreams is priceless.


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