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
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 Universidad de Palermo in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He then returned to Puerto Rico in 2012 to learn more about startups with his brother, Néstor Taveras. Alan and Néstor 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.
The first marketplace
From mallorcas to pan sobao (sweet bread); from Rovira crackers to artisanal creations, cherished homegrown products have been 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 Néstor 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 Néstor 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, explaining that the business model pairs well with Puerto Rico’s story as a Caribbean island with a dispersed population.
…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
Un salto de fe // 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.
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 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.
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.
Initial Fee & Price Schedule
|Initial Set Up||Storage Per Month
(each level shelving)
|Pick & Pack
Alan and Néstor 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 Ríos 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 landed
Brands Of has doubled its sales every year since the company was founded and to date has raised $3.5 million in capital. They have grown from a trio to a remote team of 15 members located across Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and México. 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 behaviors 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 Néstor’s perseverance, market awareness and their in-depth knowledge of Latino consumer needs.