Forget studying abroad--Amanda Knauer wanted to take the overseas experience a step further. This adventurous American packed up and started a business in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Knauer, 25, had the entrepreneurial bug but felt that starting up in the U.S. was too expensive. She did some research and, with a recommendation from a friend familiar with Argentina, took the leap. She landed in Buenos Aires in late 2004, and by early 2005 she had started Qara Argentina, a luxury leather goods manufacturing company. "I came to Argentina looking for my opportunity," she recalls. "The beauty of the leather inspired me, and I saw it as an entryway into this world [of entrepreneurship]." It hasn't been easy, she notes-even though she speaks Spanish, she had to learn local language inflections as well as a new set of local laws.
H. David Hennessey, a professor of marketing at Babson College, says research is key to starting a company abroad. "Know the size of the market and the needs of the consumer," he says, adding, "With the internet, it's easier to get [that information]."
A cultural education is vital as well, notes Rachel Weingarten, a small-business expert and founder of GTK Marketing Group LLC in Brooklyn, New York. "Visit [the place] before you decide you're going to set up a business," she says. "Do you have a support base? A networking group? Try to find like-minded business owners." This local support can help you learn what you need to know about citizenship, local taxes, the marketplace, etc.
Knauer talked to everyone from cafe owners to taxi drivers in Buenos Aires to learn the lay of the land. She also hired many bilingual employees and experienced leather crafts-people who helped her network with other local talent. She's built her business to 2006 projected sales of more than $1 million, selling to the high-end fashion district in Buenos Aires and a few New York City stores.