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  /  Startups   /  The company focused on connecting 60 million members of the diaspora

The company focused on connecting 60 million members of the diaspora

The son of Dominican and Puerto Rican parents, Alan Taveras Sepúlveda calls himself a “domirriqueño” and has been a social entrepreneur since early high school. As co-founder and owner of Brands Of, a startup devoted to exporting goods from Latin American countries and providing a drop-shipping and fulfillment service from Puerto Rico, Alan’s passion for entrepreneurship drives one of the few distribution centers in the Caribbean. 

Di·as·po·ra: “the dispersion of any people from their original homeland.”

Rise and grind to the tune of reggaeton 

Alan discovered his talent for social entrepreneurship as a high school student. He attended a private school where the music genre reggaeton had a bad reputation. Today, a Bad Bunny tune drops at midnight, and within 24 hours, everyone is listening to “Yo Perreo Sola” on repeat. In the early 2000s, reggaeton wasn’t as ubiquitous, and Alan discovered the opportunity to organize reggaeton parties and events to popularize the genre within the Puerto Rican market. 

Alan’s top 5 songs from 2004 – 2006

Alan in one of his party’s. Provided by Alan.

Once Alan’s talent for creating innovative cultural experiences was ignited, he began to hone his professional skills and pave a career path. In 2010, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in advertising from Universidad del Sagrado Corazón and went on to complete an MBA at La Universidad de Palermo in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He then returned to Puerto Rico in 2012 to learn more about startups with his brother, Nestor Taveras. Alan and Nestor noticed a demand for Puerto Rican products in the diaspora. Through their network of connections, they used the opportunity to harness the purchasing power of 6 million Puerto Ricans in the diaspora by creating an online marketplace for local Puerto Rican products, and that’s how Brands of Puerto Rico was born.

Screenshot of http://www.BrandsOfPuertoRico.com February 08, 2015 via Way Back Machine

The first marketplace

From Mallorcas to “Pan Sobao” (sweet bread); from Rovira crackers to artisanal creations, cherished homegrown products were historically difficult to find in the United States for Puerto Ricans living away from home. A decade ago, as a Puerto Rican looking for a taste of the island, you could try searching in local mom and pop shops or asking your family to send you a box filled with island-made products for Christmas. The reality was that a centralized, digital marketplace for brands from Puerto Rico didn’t exist yet. With an entrepreneurial vision honed by their experience running a creative shop founded in the year before Brands of Puerto Rico, brothers Alan and Nestor embarked on a journey that ultimately led to their first online store.

In the early years, they experimented with different products and services to sell on the marketplace. Initial ideas included surprise subscription boxes, guided cheese-making tours, and an all-around service marketplace. Today, none of these verticals exist. Instead, the founding team has decided to list only the products and categories that sell the most. They’ve narrowed the scope of the brands they carry to five sections: gourmet, beauty, lifestyle, apparel and artisan products. The decision proved strategic and has also created a blueprint to scale their venture beyond Puerto Rico and into new markets.

In this sense, Alan and Nestor have found a product-market fit that meets the needs of a widespread diaspora. In the process, they’ve become a catalyst for local producers yearning to export. Alan pointed to a crucial insight gained from the journey to scaling Brands Of: 

“…our business goes well with the Puerto Rican story. It resonates with what’s happening in Puerto Rico. The human aspect of what we do, and how we’re helping other people, attracts a lot of other minds to the table to help us grow.” – Alan Taveras

El Diario

Un salto de fé (a leap of faith)

After two years in operation, Alan, Néstor, and their team renamed Brands of Puerto Rico. The new company would be titled Brands of America,making room for their ambition to reach global markets. At the time, the team’s trajectory was on course to connect products from Latin America to 60 million members of the diaspora. 

2014

First Market Launched

Second Market Launched

Operations paused at the start of the 2018 country-wide protests.

2016
2017

Third Market Launched

Fourth Market Launched

2018
2019

E-Fulfillment Launched

Fifth Market Launched

2020

After building the business in Puerto Rico, Brands Of expanded to the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Nicaragua, and continued to grow their reach across Latin America. As their team and sales grew, the fulfillment aspect of the e-commerce business required more attention. The team rose to the opportunity to expand their market share by tackling the growing pains of distribution and fulfillment. In the process, they created E-Fulfillment Center, a center to facilitate inexpensive and effective logistics solutions. The center enables small businesses to store their products and leverage the Brands Of operation to ship the product once it has been purchased.

This approach bridged a significant gap for entrepreneurs starting e-commerce stores from Puerto Rico. For just $135, e-commerce entrepreneurs can get started and delegate their fulfillment needs to Brands Of and e-Fulfillment.

2019 Fee & Price Schedule:

Initial Set UpStorage Per Month
(each level shelving)
Receiving
(per pallet)
Pick & Pack
(per order)
Free$100.00$35.00$2.00
2019 Prices To Set Up With E-Fulfillment

Alan and Nestor didn’t make this leap of faith alone, and the brothers point to help they received from supporting organizations across Puerto Rico and the diaspora to achieve their entrepreneurial vision. Along the way, Brands Of received support from Compañía de Comercio y Exportación, Parallel18, GFR Investments, Miguel Rios, and their friend and partner,Beto Pallares, among others. These partners invested upwards of $1 million in Brands Of through Parallel18’s matching program to support the creation of e-Fulfillment.

Where they have landed

Brands Of has doubled its sales every year since the company was founded and to date has raised $1.2 million in capital. They have grown from a trio to a remote team of 15 members located across Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, México, and Argentina. 

In 2021, the company continues to adapt to the needs of a burgeoning online market. Through a partnership with Abexus, a market-intelligence startup based in San Juan, Brands Of is gathering data that will provide insight into the online consumption behaviours of the Latin American diaspora in the U.S. Linking U.S. and Latin American markets through learning about user behavior is a new frontier for Brands Of. Brands of Puerto Rico’s success is evidence of Alan and Nestor’s perseverance, market awareness, and their in-depth knowledge of Latino consumer needs. 

Brands Of continues to grow its existing distribution centers, and while the brothers anticipated a 60% increase in distribution for 2020 compared with 2019, during the COVID-19 pandemic, distribution actually surpassed 300%. They also raised $2M in 2020, bringing their total funding to $3.5M, including support from the following partners: e Hunt Holdings, DC Ventures, M3 Emprendimientos, 5S (Grupo Ferré Rangel), Miguel Ríos, el Fideicomiso de Ciencia, Tecnología e Investigación de Puerto Rico y Semillero Ventures. This positions Brands Of as one of the top five funded startups in Puerto Rico, a significant milestone for our community.

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About The Author

I am a multidisciplinary artist with more than ten years of experience working for news & media companies like CNN, CNN en Español, Turner Sports, and multiple nonprofits. I blend my passion for creative writing with my expertise in design & audio-visuals to capture well-rounded, multicultural experiences for today's diverse audiences.

sabrinallenza@gmail.com