Expats Abroad Life Abroad

Expat Monica on Starting a Business in Argentina

This week’s article comes from Monica, an expat running her own business in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Who is Monica?

Greetings! My name is Monica Ganley. I am a consultant, business owner, horse lover, and polo player currently residing in Buenos Aires.

My abroad story began just over four years ago, when I moved to Argentina after finishing my MBA. I was inspired to go abroad by my many international classmates that I met while completing my masters. I witnessed them having the incredible experience of moving to the US, learning to live in a new environment, existing in a culture that wasn’t their own – and I wanted to have the same experience!

Why did you choose Argentina?

I was drawn to Argentina because of its prominence as a major global agricultural player. My thought was that if I could gain experience working in Latin America, this would serve me well for a future career in agriculture. If we’re being honest, there was a personal component at play as well. I am passionate about polo and Argentina is the world capital of this sport. The idea was that if I could gain valuable professional experience at the same time that I was enjoying the sport that I love, I would have hit the jackpot!

How did you find a job in Argentina?

I spent much of the second year of my MBA doing research and aggressively networking in order to find professional opportunities. Eventually I was fortunate to find a role in finance with PepsiCo Foods. I interviewed via video conference and was offered a job in corporate governance covering the Southern Cone of South America, based out of their Buenos Aires office. In August of 2012 I relocated to Argentina, excited to set off on my new adventure.

Pepsi facilitated my transition to Argentina including my immigration paperwork, but that doesn’t mean it was an easy road. Bureaucratic delays left me living in a hotel for the first four months after my move during which I didn’t receive a salary and had very limited mobility. The transition was much more difficult than I expected, however, slowly but surely the pieces fell into place and began to feel more and more settled in my new life. The language posed an issue at first. While I spoke some Spanish, I was nowhere close to fluent, and the effort I spent speaking during work hours left me exhausted by the end of the day. I’d say it was a full year before I felt fully comfortable going about my life in Spanish.

While I will ever be grateful for Pepsi taking a chance on me, after about 2 ½ years I decided to leave the company. The reasons for my decision were numerous and varied, but essentially I was looking for a way to continue living in Argentina while refocusing my career more toward agriculture. I was also looking for more control while embracing a bigger challenge. In April of 2015 I launched my consultancy, Quarterra.

Tell us about launching your own business abroad.

Quarterra is a boutique strategy consultancy focused exclusively on the food and agriculture industries in Latin America. We help our clients unlock business opportunities in the region by providing support and guidance in the form of market intelligence and strategic support. As Quarterra’s principal I leverage my experience of living as a foreigner in Latin America almost daily to help supply my clients with information that is easy for them to understand and use.

Running my own company has come with its fair share of difficulties, but I am enjoying the challenge. There is no normal day but my typical routine includes a combination of client and marketing work as I am busily trying to develop a robust sales pipeline. But it isn’t all work and no play. I also try to make it out to ride my horses a few days a week. In addition to being great exercise, this is also a great mental and emotional break for me.

What has living in Argentina taught you?

More than anything, I think that living abroad has taught me that ‘I don’t know what I don’t know’. I have certainly learned to keep an open mind. I have learned that there are different ways of achieving the same objective and being open enough to consider alternatives other than the one I am used to can sometimes yield great results. I have also learned to approach life’s challenges with a greater sense of humor. Living abroad can sometimes be so frustrating – but the best way to deal with those moments is with a smile, a pep talk to yourself, and a reminder that tomorrow is another day to try again.

Any other words of wisdom for someone looking to move abroad?

Moving abroad has been an incredible and life changing experience for me. For someone that yearns to bust out of their routine and have profoundly new experiences, it can be incredible. But it certainly isn’t easy and I would encourage anyone thinking about doing so to be prepared to weather a few storms along the way. But if you are able to make it through to the other side, you will find yourself with a life that has been enriched in ways you never thought possible.

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