Hi everybody! 👋 Thanks for stopping by to read the Generation Si! newsletter. It's your guide to startup tips and insights from Latino leaders in Florida through their entrepreneurial journey.
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In today's issue, Alexandra "Alex" Esteve shares how patience and listening were critical in her startup's development process. In the Tip Jar, she explains why research and savings are so important for aspiring entrepreneurs. Here's Part One.
THE CAR BUYING EXPERIENCE
There’s something that’s been troubling Alex Esteve for a really long time. It has to do with car-buying. She compares it to buying a new mobile phone.
“When you go to get an iPhone, or a new phone, or a new computer, you know, it’s so expensive. But it’s such a fun experience. You do your research… You can take it out of the box. It’s this new, shiny thing. You know, it’s fun. It’s exciting. It makes your day.”
But why isn’t that the case when you go car buying?
“Somehow, buying a car... There’s so much going on. And people dread the experience of buying what is, in my opinion, the coolest toy that you can possibly own.”
She’s been on a mission to change that for almost ten years with her brainchild, CarBuckets.
INDUSTRY: Automotive and Tech
Alex – Born in Puerto Rico
Mother – Born in Puerto Rico
Father – Born in Cuba
IE Business School (Instituto de Empresa) – Madrid, Spain - Master’s degree in Business Administration
Babson College – Bachelor’s degree in Business Admin. (Concentration: Entrepreneurship & Marketing)
DREAM JOB AS A KID: “Really early on, I wanted to be the first female President of the United States. And, then, I think we were on a school trip and one of my teachers broke it to me that I couldn’t be the first female president because I was born in Puerto Rico… And that bummed me out for a long time. But then I got over it.”
Note: The geek in me had to research this. Apparently, it's not settled law. The debate hinges on how you define “natural-born citizen”. But, according to Tom Murse in ThoughtCo, it appears that most modern legal scholars have concluded that someone born in Puerto Rico would qualify as a “natural-born citizen”. Keep in mind, the Supreme Court has not ruled on this specific question. But, it seems like Alex was misled!
BIGGEST GOAL YET: “Professionally, I would say my biggest goal is to make car-buying fun and anxiety free.”
HOW IT STARTED
Esteve’s original idea started out as a group-buying concept.
“We would group buyers together to get them the lowest prices in the market so they could buy a car. But once we locked in that price, we then sent them to a dealership to buy the car the traditional way with their price locked in.”
But she says the market told her, that just wasn’t enough.
HOW IT CHANGED
“They [consumers] wanted to be able to buy a car from home without talking to dealers, without going into a dealer, physically. So we created, after a few pivots… the first true automotive national marketplace.”
Esteve was so focused on her goal, even her honeymoon didn’t keep her from doing what she felt she had to do.
“CAN YOU GET OFF YOUR PHONE?
“I remember my husband on my honeymoon. He said, can you get off your phone? And I was just, you know, no. We’re signing up dealers. We’re selling cars… This is so exciting.”
“It just kind of – not that it takes over your whole life – but it’s just always present. It’s not like a regular job where you clock in and clock out, and then you have your free time.”
FROM PASSION PROJECT TO PROFESSION
Esteve’s obsession to fix the car-buying experience is coming from her perspective as a self-described tomboy. As a kid, she wanted to do everything her brother did.
“He would race remote-controlled cars…. And then I got into remote-controlled cars and racing. A big, big car racing fan. A Formula One fan. I don’t miss a race on TV.”
But after starting out after college working in fashion where it’s long hours, low pay and a set salary, she welcomed what working at a car dealership offered – commissioned sales - and what it could offer – a new challenge.
RECOGNIZING A TREND: E-COMMERCE
She says, “The internet was just starting to become relevant in automotive sales. So we’re talking 2008… I knew that because I was really into e-commerce, and I was really enjoying that trend - that I had a unique opportunity and a unique value that I could offer.”
She knew she could help start the e-commerce department for a Miami car dealership and helped grow e-commerce sales.
Plus, her brother was working in a car dealership.
Esteve spent ten years working at a car dealership before she decided to launch CarBuckets. The concept took many turns.
WHAT IT TAKES
She’s spent the last two years refining the idea and the technology components so that she could guarantee the car-buying experience where the customer would not have to step into the dealership.
It took a lot of patience, a lot of money and a lot of investment in technology. Most of all, “It’s a lot of picking yourself up over and over and over again. And failing. And sort of accepting that failure and not allowing yourself to get overwhelmed by it.”
CarBuckets has now relaunched, almost ten years after Esteve first went on her mission to change the car-buying experience. This time, it’s on a national scale and with a more streamlined approach.
Besides serving as the company’s founder and CEO, Esteve now has a new layer of responsibility, too.
She has a newborn baby.
In a “Generation Sí! bonus, next Tuesday, we’ll take a deeper dive into what Esteve faced as she tried to take her idea to market. From the challenges of raising money for her venture and what she now suggests others do in their pitches (based on her experience) - to the realities of pivoting based on what the market data revealed.
We’ll also discuss what this modern car salesperson reveals about dreams and the reality of entrepreneurship.
For now, here’s part one of Alex Esteve’s Tip Jar. Next week, I’ll bring you part two of her Tip Jar.
THE TIP JAR (tips passed out courtesy of Alex Esteve)
STARTING OUT: “Google. Do some research. See if there’s anyone out there doing something similar to you. See if there’s anyone that’s tried to do something like you and failed at it. Because you could learn a lot from other companies’ failures. It doesn’t mean you need to give up on your idea, but maybe you need to pivot. Maybe you need to change it up a bit.”
STEEPED IN SKILLS (mid career): “Make sure you have money saved up.”
“I think it’s best, or you’re sort of setting yourself up for success, if your solution or your idea is in the industry that you’ve been working in – because you have experience in that.”
STARTING OVER: “Funding is not an easy thing. And it’s, you know, probably going to be a while before you can pay yourself. The other thing is, you can see if you can work on the weekends or after work on your idea to get some sort of traction.”
BEST ADVICE FROM “LA CASA”/BEST “HOUSE” ADVICE: “Lo que está pa ti, nadie te lo quita."
TRANSLATION: What’s for you, no one can take away.
“A lot of times, you think that that’s just, you know, in relationships, or your love, or your partner. But I think it just applies to life, in general…Don’t give up. Keep working hard. Keep trying – because nobody can take your vision from you. Nobody can take your dream from you.”
NO NEED TO GO IT ALONE
HELP ON THE OUTSIDE...because we can all use a helping hand:
PERSONAL ACTION PLAN HELP
Regardless of whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur with an idea or an existing entrepreneur, you can get FREE help with your personal action plan. It’s being offered through BizLinkOrange (for those in the Orlando area). But it’s a partnership with the NEC (National Entrepreneurship Center), so I’m sure those of you in other areas can ask for the appropriate referral. The form is easy to fill out. The initiative will help connect or guide you with resources to help you get your action plan going to advance your entrepreneurial idea or business. Here’s the link:
WORKING ON THE INSIDE...because we know our culture has a hard time asking for help:
BACK TO THE OFFICE BASICS
For those of you who are having your employees go back to the office, the National Safety Council has a list of recommendations for helping employers address and ease workers’ mental health concerns as some companies transition employment from remote work to on-site work. Even if you’re an employee, this link shares the actions you may want to request as you go back to the office.
INSPIRATION FOR THIS ISSUE:
I can’t say I’m a big car fan. I’m not great at identifying one car brand or model vs. another. I once even made the mistake of thinking an ex-boyfriend was picking me up in an old car. It turns out it was some fancy, classic car I clearly didn’t appreciate. Oops!
But I definitely appreciate someone who goes against the grain and shows determination, especially if that person can inspire others.
That’s Alex Esteve.
Alex reminds me of my sister, Geraldine. My sister was always fascinated by cars, just like Alex. As a kid, Geraldine even wrote to the late Lee Iacocca, Chrysler’s former CEO. She sent him a letter with her drawing of our family’s beloved Dodge Caravan. She had pointed to about a dozen fixes or improvements she thought Iacocca should make to the minivan. This obsession with cars continued into adulthood. Every year, when we lived in New York, she dragged me to the big auto show at the convention center. She eagerly would walk the convention halls, admiring all the cars. I would eventually take a seat after getting bored. She always bought a program and has kept all the booklets, even after all these years.
That’s why it was endearing to hear that Alex Esteve loved cars as much as my sister does. Plus, I thought it was cool that Esteve sold cars for a decade. She spent the time to really understand the industry from a dealership’s perspective.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never encountered a car saleswoman at a dealership. We definitely need more of them.
The fact that Alex has not only stuck to her dream, embraced technology and never backed down from adapting to what the market dictated shows she understands what it takes to make it in the cold reality of the business world.
As for my sister, she's really convinced herself that Chrysler implemented her suggestions into the minivan. Who knows if the company really did? Either way, we'll let her continue thinking that. ;)
🌴 Staying In Touch:
🌴 Be sure to share this article with friends (share button is at the top).
🌴 Don't forget to check out Part Two of this issue next Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. In the meantime, I'm sending you my best wishes!