The Cuban entrepreneur Katia Sanchez found herself at a crossroads. Since 2015 she had worked with state institutions, first for the Ministry of Justice and then for the CubaSí page, but she wanted to do something of her own. In 2019 she created the blog La Penúltima Casa, a space to share knowledge about digital communication, one of her great passions. Carrying out this project and keeping her job at a media outlet was not possible due to time constraints. So, Katia had to decide. She left behind a secure job and embarked on the always risky adventure of entrepreneurship.
A week after her decision, Cuba announced the first cases of coronavirus, and then the country went into a hiatus from which it has not yet recovered. Businesses closed and people were forced to stay home. “And now, what do I do with my life?”
It was a question that tormented her, Katia confessed during our talk with her. “At first, I thought I had made the biggest mistake of my life, but then things turned out well. My project has continued to grow, and I have already three people working with me, plus employees. “We have grown at a very fast pace”, she asserted.
“LA PENULTIMA CASA”, A SPACE FOR DIGITAL COMMUNICATION
Katia called her project “The Second to Last House”. It was a way of thinking of Cuba as a home. That home that arrives late to digital spaces, to the online universe, which also has many obstacles, limitations, blockages, but where things are done and there is a framework where people can come together, meet, learn”, she acknowledged. This was also the way she found to practice her profession. “I felt very underutilized in the places where I worked…it was all below my potential. Now I know what happens to a lot of people, “she added.
The project emerged as a response to a personal need. “We needed to have Cuban references on digital communication. Around the world, many people adopt strategies or working methods that work for other contexts, but not necessarily for Cuba, because this country has peculiarities that also affect the digital part. That was a problem that I decided to tackle. We are not going to tell you what everyone else is talking about, and we are not going to continue talking about how things are advertised in the world, but we will tell how it is done here ”, she explained.
“I was a bit scared at first. I spoke with a colleague who had graduated and majored with me in Social Communications at Havana University, and we started together. But that did not work out and I continued alone. That was back in June 2019 and in December, I had to rethink the entire concept of the blog, because it was no longer just a blog”, she clarified. “Many people were also asking me for help”.
Around the world, many people adopt strategies or working methods that work for other contexts, but not necessarily for Cuba, because this country has peculiarities that also affect the digital part.Katia Sánchez
At “La Penultima Casa” they offer a variety of services. You will see consultancy and advisory services announced for businesses, but also education and training; branding; they work with public figures and influencers, but also deal with crisis communication management.
Katia believes that content creation is one of the elements that sets her project apart from other online marketing and advertising agencies in Cuba. All the content they publish contributes to supporting people for free.
Katia acknowledges that Cuban entrepreneurs are increasingly understanding the need for digital communication. “During the pandemic, many businesses had to migrate from physical to digital, inevitably. Today you see many businesses working with catalogs on WhatsApp. Businesses moved to Instagram and that was something unheard of a year before”, she notes.
“Many businesses stopped, but others did not, and we have been in contact with restaurants and hostels, which right now are the most affected; however, they have not stopped because they say “I don’t have clients but I’m going to work on my positioning.”
THE PITCH, A PODCAST ABOUT AND FOR CUBAN ENTREPRENEURS
Private businesses were badly affected by the pandemic. In this context, Katia launched a podcast, exclusively for Cuban entrepreneurs. She called it “The Pitch.” This digital space tells of success stories in Cuba and addresses issues relating to digital communication and business. “We have an interview, a section for business tips conducted by a specialist, and another section for questions and answers”, she explained.
“This podcast is doing quite well. The main challenge of “El Pitch” is for more people to listen to podcasts in Cuba, because it is definitely not a format that people are very familiar with”, she explained. “We make every effort for it to come out with the highest audio quality when editing. Among the podcasts belonging to CubaPod it is one with the most audience”, she added. The first season of “El Pitch” will have a total of 13 episodes. Then, the Cuban entrepreneur and her team will evaluate its performance and decide the road ahead for that space.
A COURSE ON DIGITAL COMMUNICATION IN TIMES OF CORONAVIRUS
On several occasion during our pleasant talk, Katia reiterated the need that exists in Cuba for trained entrepreneurs and companies in the area of digital communications. At one point in the pandemic, this Cuban entrepreneur decided to share her knowledge in a course that she prepared and made available to anyone interested, free of charge.
“It was an eight-lesson digital communication course where we addressed everything from communication strategy to how to create creative content and how to work with digital marketing. I recorded the course in my room, with my phone. We made the videos available on Facebook once a week and then shared the PDF on a Telegram channel. People interacted with us and thanked us ”, she assured.
THE CHALLENGES OF A CUBAN ENTREPRENEUR
Katia had no experience as an entrepreneur. “I have experience in communications; but communicating and running a business are two different things. Now I manage the project processes and lead a team. What we want is for our growth to go in a direction where we can assume it. We have lines of work, a strategic vision of where we are going, but everything is done step by step, calmly but surely, and we also have a context that does not allow us to do too many things, “she said.
The pandemic has been bad for the economy and that has repercussions for businesses and for all of us. The confinement has ended, but the financial problems will continue”.Katia Sanchez
Another challenge for this Cuban entrepreneur is the situation created by the coronavirus. “The pandemic has been bad for the economy and that has repercussions for businesses and for all of us. It is a string of events. That obstacle is going to linger. The confinement has ended, but the financial problems will continue”, she assures.
DIGITAL COMMUNICATION TIPS FOR ENTREPRENEURS
“When we talk about digital communication with many entrepreneurs, they want two things. The first thing is to have many followers on their chosen social media. This is often counterproductive with the same objective of growing as an Internet business. The other thing they want is direct sales. So, the challenge is real when you tell Cuban entrepreneurs that digital communication is much more than that. It is not just about being present online and reaching people, but also building your personality on the Internet, transferring the entire essence of your busines and your identity to these digital spaces. That takes a lot of sturdy and consistent work, with lots of discipline and strategic thinking”, she concluded.