How falling in love with a Mexican girl led to a jewelry business in Puerto Vallarta

articles Business Living, Working, Retiring

Nicolas Tranchant

Setting up a business in Mexico is not that hard. Making it work and become profitable is another story, but that depends on you!

Back in 2012, when I arrived in Puerto Vallarta with my Mexican wife, Reyna, I had no idea how difficult it might be to set up my own business in Mexico. This was not because Mexican laws are restrictive for those who want to try, but because I lacked the necessary knowledge to be successful.

Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta vista

I am French and graduated as a mechanical engineer. I had been living with my Mexican wife in France and working in the aerospace industry in Toulouse since 2008. In 2012, we faced a crisis. Because of French laws, my wife, as a doctor who graduated in Mexico, did not have the right to work as a doctor in France; this was a huge concern for her, because being a doctor was her purpose in life. In 2012, she became so tired of not being able to fulfill her ambitions in France that she decided to go back to Mexico, with or without me! The choice would be mine. Of course, I decided to accompany her. I quit my job and decided to focus 100% on setting up my own business and to no longer be anyone’s employee.

VivaLatina rings
VivaLatina rings

The online Mexican jewelry business I had started in France in 2009 had met with only limited success as I was still working full-time and lacked sufficient time and focus to make it work. My big idea was to follow this track, and to sell silver jewelry online from Mexico to France. However, I had no idea how to set up an effective online business: I knew nothing about marketing and even less about online marketing. I learned the hard way, failing more often than I can remember, but always taking another step forwards. The first three years of my business journey were tough. I took in only 3000 dollars in revenue in 2013 for less than 1000 dollars in profit. Fortunately, my wife was very patient with me, and I did not give up.

Was it worth the effort?

While I was failing to make any decent profit, I had learned to set up an effective website, to make keyword analysis and study my market, and to generate traffic to specific pages of my websites. Now that I had a better idea of my market and the expectations of my online French clients, I pivoted to offer custom-made jewelry and gold jewelry—high-end jewelry at much more competitive prices than my competitors. 

I began by partnering with a jewelry workshop in Puerto Vallarta. While I focused on my marketing and my clients’ needs, those jewelers crafted my projects. While this sometimes led to problems with details of the designs, and in meeting deadlines, this worked fine for 80% of the projects.

VivaLatina rings
VivaLatina rings

Then, in April 2016, I faced a more serious quality issue with one of my projects and my Puerto Vallarta partner did not want to bother about it. When I complained, he made me understand that he did not depend on my business and that he might also let me down in the future.

This left me feeling helpless but acted as the catalyst for me to set up my own jewelry workshop. I rented a property and opened my very own shop in August 2016 with my first Mexican employee. Within about a month, I was able to produce 100% of my jewelry production in my own workshop. The funny part is that this transformation also gave me much more freedom, a better quality production and much better deadlines to make my jewelry. From this moment on, my business started to grow much faster, now that I had everything under my control.

But in Mexico, nothing in ever smooth for very long. Only a few months after opening, a group of police officers, lawyers and movers (14 people or so in total) visited my shop and explained to me that the “owner” of the property had “stolen the house” (how is that even possible?) and that they had come to evict anyone (me in this case as I was renting the property) that was occupying the place. Two hours later, I was standing in the street, surrounded by all my furniture and equipment. I later learned that all this was the result of a family litigation about the ownership of the property.

I spent the next two weeks living with all my business stuff in our house, while I looked for another place to rent for my jewelry workshop. I was subsequently able to find a suitable place to buy. Owning the property used for my workshop removed the risk that I could ever again be evicted from it.

VivaLatina pendant
VivaLatina pendant

This was in 2017. Since then, the business (VivaLatina) has grown, proving to be a good solution for clients in France looking for affordable high-end jewelry and for businessmen looking for a jeweler able to manage their jewelry projects without having to be present in person. As soon as my online French boutique became a success, I expanded to offer the same products and services to our US customers via our English-language boutique.

Now, I manage a team of three Mexican employees, all working full-time. I can afford to pay good wages, which allows me to have a very motivated staff who work hard and very efficiently. (See here for a discussion of “Am I paying my staff too much?“) This allows me to select employees who are willing to make whatever extra effort is needed to ensure quality and to respect deadlines. Efraín, my first employee back in August 2016, still works for me today and is now in charge of the production.

My goal is to train Efraín so that he will be able to manage a team of three or four jewelers in the coming years. 2020 has been an especially challenging year, but we were able to continue working to serve our online clients, and my team is very grateful to have a secure job and future—this is the kind of gratification I am really proud of.

I plan to continue growing my business during 2021 as we increase our marketing efforts focused on the US and before the end of the year, I should be able to take on a fourth employee.

Published or Updated on: February 23, 2021 by Nicolas Tranchant © 2021

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