Eduardo Andrade, ’15BUS, had a problem that many entrepreneurs could only wish for: after founding companies in water purification and energy, he struck upon a new venture that quickly turned into a runaway success. Retail Experts, his retail branch expansion firm, had expanded from 10 employees to 150 in less than a year, and as such, he began to experience some major growing pains.
“At that time, we were digging a new hole just to get the dirt to fill in an old hole. It was not sustainable,” said Andrade of his crisis moment. He decided to take a step back from it all and lock down his business skills with an MBA from Columbia Business School.
Since then, Andrade has transformed Retail Experts into an international, full-service expansion company. He helps retailers open new branches, providing everything from the initial site selection, to permitting, to construction. Retail Experts aims to level the playing field between single stores and major chain businesses by providing a level of speed and service usually seen only at internal expansion departments — or, as Andrade puts it, “We want to give David a better chance in the fight against Goliath.”
The process begins with an initial evaluation of what has made the client’s first location successful. Is it the local demographics? Plenty of foot traffic? The client’s unique brand? Using powerful analytics to evaluate these considerations ensures that the new store won’t fizzle out from low sales numbers in the initial months and beyond.
Retail Experts then scouts locations that seem like good matches, and secures all the necessary permits so construction can begin as quickly as possible. The American permit system was something of an adjustment for Andrade — in Mexico, the shorter permitting process allowed Retail Experts to build a 4,500-square-foot restaurant in just 15 days. Despite the complexities of New York City real estate, Retail Experts is able to turn around spaces at record speeds, thanks to Andrade’s deep knowledge of retail construction.
Most recently, Retail Experts has been working with new partners and clients in Guatemala, Spain and Brazil, and is focused on building out its network in New York City. Andrade is especially excited about his newest relationship, helping WeWork with some of its needs in developing new coworking spaces in his hometown of Mexico City.
In large part, the company’s success can be attributed to the struggles Andrade went through in the early days of his venture — by taking a step back to reassess, and equipping himself with the knowledge and skills necessary for overcoming these hurdles, he’s actually been able to come out even stronger than he ever could’ve imagined. “Entrepreneurs should never be afraid of failure,” he explains. “Rather, they should view it as a stepping stone to sustainable, long-term success.”
Andrade has certainly heeded his own advice, moving away from his old “shoot-by-the-hip” project management style and turning Retail Experts into an incredibly sophisticated operation that runs with clockwork-like efficiency. In effect, he’s expanding his company’s own inner workings with the same level of care and foresight he provides for his clients, even as business continues to grow at a steady clip.