Kristina Antonorsi Quintero, of Caracas, Venezuela, is an entrepreneur and venture capitalist with twelve companies to her name. With a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Economics, she entered the workforce during college, when she took a position with a local electric water heater company.
During this time, she developed a product export plan that proved to be ahead of its time, as the company only enacted the plan years later after local sales began to dry up during the economic downturn.
She eventually moved on to pursue opportunities with a Canadian company – Yogen Früz. She opened fifteen new stores for the franchise and expanded its presence throughout Venezuela. Kristina also grew the in-house manufacturing capacity which ignited her passion for entrepreneurship. She soon started her first company, which specialized in the import of ice cream components for resale to other manufacturers.
Kristina found quick success in that endeavor, and she used that experience and industry knowledge to co-found her second company, Inversiones Jhose 21. As a food distribution company, they focus on the promotion of Venezuelan products to help them compete against imported brands. Kristina has worked tirelessly to expand her reach into various markets. She has established nearly a dozen companies that now comprise a holding and has helped develop in-house brands of liquor, coffee, and cleaning products.
Kristina’s efforts to enter the US market were met with mixed results until she helped to cover the seed capital for Videray Technologies Inc, a manufacturer of handheld x-ray scanners. She sold Videray on to Tek84 Inc in November of last year, and she is confident that the company is in good hands. Following the sale, she has renewed her focus on determining the next steps for the Holding and is keenly watching to see what lies ahead for Venezuela.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
My holding company, as necessitated by its nature, was one of the last companies that I formalized. This is because it is a consolidation of the various departments that are needed to manage and grow any company such as human resources, marketing, accounting, auditing, security, etc. It’s all of these common departments that every large company needs, but rather than having a dozen duplicate departments for each company, my business handles it all. It’s far more cost efficient that way, and it’s also a way for me to supervise these various businesses without having to be inside of them every day.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
When I’m in Caracas, my typical day starts with getting news in from the UAE, which is another market I’m involved with. After that, I try to get a workout in before heading to the office, where I meet with the different department heads of various companies throughout the morning. I try to keep my afternoons flexible, so that I can follow up, answer emails, and get a bit more hands on as needed. Less meetings, more doing. Finally, I close out my day by receiving updates from China, since their day is winding up right as my day is winding down.
To keep my days productive, I plan the day out ahead of time to make sure I always know exactly what I need to achieve in the day ahead. Through it all, I also tend to get a lot of feedback from my life partner, since she’s one of the sharpest, most professional, and most brilliant people I know.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Through my holding, I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by all of these professionals in their given fields. So, when an entrepreneur comes along and pitches an idea, we’re usually able to materialize it and make it a reality. We have all of the tools and departments that are needed to actually make it grow, to make it real, and we’re usually able to make it happen very quickly.
What’s one trend that excites you?
It has its ups and downs, but I’m amazed by a lot of the changes of the last few years. In particular, the widespread shift toward working remotely. Of course, as someone with multiple companies spread across multiple countries, it’s very important for me to be able to do things from afar, and I do enjoy the options that have opened up to allow me to do that more effectively. However, I am also the type of person who enjoys actually visiting the sites, seeing the workers, and being involved in person. And of course, there’s a lot less of that now, so there’s a bit of give and take there.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Always set goals. Daily goals, monthly goals, quarterly goals, and yearly goals. I take goals very seriously, and I track and follow up on each of them. Daily goals tend to be more personal – they’re typically things that I aim to get done personally. Monthly goals tend to be more on the departmental level, quarterly goals tend to be broader business goals, and yearly goals are for the company. That’s how we manage it, and I think it keeps us productive.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would remind myself not to get too distracted from the markets and the industries that I’m already successful in. I have lost focus at times, in particular when we started trying to expand into the US. I was distracted by that new endeavor that I didn’t pay as much attention to our existing companies, and they took a hit because of that. So, that’s what I would tell my younger self. I’d tell her not to lose focus, and to try not to do things too quickly.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
That sometimes, you might need to take steps to protect your business from your own flawed decision making, particularly if you’ve got something in your personal life or elsewhere that’s pulling you away from the job. It’s something that I’ve put a lot of thought and effort into, to make sure that the business doesn’t suffer due to any personal situations that might arise. It’s something that has unfortunately happened in the past, but now there’s a better framework in place for me to leave leadership in the hands of people that I trust in situations where I’ve got too much on my plate at once and might be at risk of making an overly quick decision.
Even if you don’t see potential for it to be an immediate problem, it really pays off to plan ahead so you can prevent interference between one part of your life and another.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Stay on top of the numbers.
A startup is actually very sensitive to these types of things, and I have some experience with that through Videray. You have a high burn rate before you have sales, so you need to be very much on top of that. And it’s very easy to get distracted from that because, of course, the product comes first. So, it’s important to have someone who will give you the other side of the coin. Someone who, while you’re focusing on the product, will remind you that rent and payroll are also things you can’t afford to compromise on. There needs to be a balance.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I’ve always tried to find ways for my businesses to complement each other, without being unfair or preferential. For example, we have an insurance company, and we give that insurance company an opportunity to insure our people, our workers. However, they don’t get the contract just because they’re one of ours. We have them compete against other providers, and if they win, they get the contract. We work to make each of our companies the best at what they do, so that it makes sense for them to work together and complement each other, but we keep it fair by not picking favorites.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
My biggest failure was in getting involved in too many unhealthy businesses, and letting them drag me down. To work through that, I had to analyze what was really going on, look at the numbers, and close down anything that wasn’t productive. It was challenging – it involved shutting offices down and letting people go, and that’s never an easy thing to do. But it had to be done, and it’s helped us to regrow stronger and healthier than before.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I think small business loans represent a pretty solid business opportunity. There are a lot of interesting FinTech options for entrepreneurs who need small business loans, and it’s something I’ve been pretty successful with, having invested in what used to be a very small startup company.
I’m talking about small to medium businesses, not large companies, since small businesses tend to be much better at paying back loans. I watched a bank here in Venezuela grow massively as a result of pursuing these opportunities, and with the internet and online paperwork lowering the barrier to entry, this seems like a good time to get in on it.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I’m currently in Madrid, and last Saturday night I went out to dinner with my wife and my cousin. We drank wine and had a wonderful time. This city really is amazing. So, that’s certainly the best $100 I’ve spent recently.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Xero Cloud Accounting Software. It has a lot of useful integrations with other cloud apps, and a lot of features that make it really useful for when you’ve got overseas businesses. We’ve been using it to keep our books up to date for two or three years now.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Nuclear Effect by Scott Oldford.
What is your favorite quote?
“If a man knows not to which port he sails, no wind is favorable…” – Seneca
We’ve discussed a lot already about setting goals and planning ahead, and I think that quote by Seneca really sums it up nicely.
- Always plan ahead, and keep your goals in mind as you progress forward.
- If you don’t achieve a goal on the expected timeline, take a moment to analyze why you fell short, so that you can learn from it.
- Feel free to pursue new ideas, but don’t let them distract from your existing successful projects.
- Stay on top of the numbers. The product may be your highest priority, but you’ll never get that product out if you can’t pay your employees or your rent.
- A business that can’t function well without you is a business with a single point of failure. Take care that your business can continue even if ever you need to step away for a bit.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.