Catalina Hernández Infante, Luksic Scholar from Chile, who participated in both Conducting Business in China (CMIX) in 2009, and then in the Babson Chilean Symposium for Entrepreneurship Educators (SEE) in 2017, received her Bachelor Degree in Design, followed by an MBA from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.
She’s also an entrepreneur, known for being the founder of Kaikai, a design souvenir brand in Chile, which she has sold earlier this year.
“During my MBA, I realized that this idea I had when I was 15 years old, to make beautiful souvenirs and designs, was not only just an idea but a business opportunity.”
Catalina teaches an Entrepreneurship course at the Business School of Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile in Santiago.
– You’re a designer and an entrepreneur; can you tell us about your journey? What inspired you to take this path?
“When I graduated from Pontificia Universidad Católica with my Bachelor’s in Design, I had wanted to start working in museums and in cultural projects, as my interests were in these fields: art and culture, cinema, and exhibitions. So, I started working for museums at a little design studio, and I really loved my job. It was great for a designer to be able to see my projects become a reality because, as a design student, you make lots of renders and projects, but the semester ends and your project is like if it said ‘bye-bye.’ Luckily, I’ve been able to see my projects come to life.
One day, out of the blue, my boss said, “Catalina, I’m tired and I want to close the studio” and I responded, “let’s be partners.” Mind you, at that time, I had never imagined being an entrepreneur, a consultant, or a freelancer. He said “no, no, no”, until one day he came to me and said “yes”, so we started a studio.
I was the one doing invoices, writing out checks, and learning how to look for new customers and new projects… I remember making these big spreadsheets, and it was in that moment, that I realized I was truly an entrepreneur.
A few years later, I entered the MBA program at Pontificia Universidad Católica, because I had realized how little I knew about business and, in my 2nd year of the master, I had the opportunity to go to China [through the Conducting Business in China (CMIX) program through the Luksic Scholars Foundation]. During my MBA, I realized that this idea I had when I was 15 years old, to make beautiful souvenirs and designs, was not only just an idea -but a business opportunity.”
(…) it was great to be selected as part of that group and to go abroad, because I felt valued. I was a young woman, a designer, and still was able to be in a completely different environment.”
Throughout my MBA program, I also had a full-time job; it was a very busy time. Then I started working on Kaikai with my same partner. I quit my job at the little studio, Al Tres, and started working full-time at Kaikai to get funding and development and, ultimately, to look for sales points.
In Kaikai, I did most everything but I’m not an illustrator, even though I developed all of the prototypes. I was the main creator and, in the beginning, I was working alone. We were then 6 people. When we started 10 years ago (in 2011), there wasn’t much of a market for what we were looking to do, and also in terms of competitors. Now there’s a lot more.”
-What was the best part of your Conducting Business in China (CMIX) program experience?
“This program was an amazing opportunity to cross the world. At that time, MBA programs were mostly intended for male engineering students who were employees at big companies. That was the average profile, so it was great to be selected as part of that group and to go abroad, because I felt valued. I was a young woman, a designer, and still was able to be in a completely different environment (to go to a place so physically far from Chile and culturally different as well). To this day, more than 10 years later, we still have a WhatsApp group – we are all friends. It’s a community.”
– And, what was the best part of your Babson SEE program experience?
“I’m a part-time entrepreneurship teacher and I teach from the perspective of an entrepreneur, not necessarily as an academic as I don’t write papers or such – I’m hands-on. This has been a great compliment. I still teach today in the undergrad program. I went to Viña del Mar for the Babson experience and it was a very useful experience for me because they have a different way of thinking about entrepreneurship – it was very personal. They ask you to think about yourself, it wasn’t just about methodology or case studies, but more about who you are.”
– What advice would you give to fellow Luksic Scholars, especially those who are entrepreneurs?
“It’s very important to let things flow because, ultimately, I think things will happen regardless – and sometimes, as an entrepreneur, you’re very stressed, pushing to get everything done, but sometimes you have to let things flow. It doesn’t mean that you’re not working hard, you have to work hard, but you must trust your gut and intuition. It’s a mix and balance between hard work and trying to be more zen and trusting your intuition.”
– What’s coming next?
“Well, I’m a mother of a 2-year-old, I sold my company, and I still have my part-time job as a teacher. Since my son isn’t going into school, I’ve been able to spend a lot of quality time with him. I’m enjoying this time right now. I’ve been in the working world since I graduated university – as a designer and an entrepreneur owning a business – and you always have to ‘push, push, push…‘, so this is the first time in my life where I can say ‘I know where my job ends‘, and that’s great.
Now, my two cousins and I are starting to make the first MVPs for a new fresh milk business from free and happy cows linked to our family’s dairy farm.”