Sofía Benedicto is on a mission to make the world a better place. As the co-founder of nodalab, a podcast production company, she’s providing a platform for independent creators in the Latin American (LATAM) market. She’s also our guide during our visit to Mexico as the next stop on our 12-country audio tour this season.
No topic is off the table! In this episode, Sofía shares what makes Mexico, particularly Mexico City, such an attractive hub for entrepreneurs, technologists, and expats. We also have a candid discussion about political corruption, drug cartels, and how important it is to speak Spanish if you are serious about doing business in Mexico.
Her professional niche lies at the intersection of politics and business. This enables Sofía to give an interesting, historical perspective not just on the small business climate in Mexico, but throughout LATAM.
Discover all that Mexico has to offer to aspiring entrepreneurs and founders of emerging small businesses alike who are serious about building a business infrastructure that supports international operations.
nodalab: the company Sofía co-founded that offers podcasting as a service and accelerates podcasting workflows by integrating communications, editing feedback, and approvals required in complex productions.
More About Guest, Sofía Benedicto:
Sofía Benedicto is the Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer at nodalab. She believes there is a unique way in which we can tell stories and make a positive impact on others. By dedicating herself to the craft of writing, she has found more than one way to share stories. This is the foundation for her work with nodalab, a unique podcast production company that offers independent creators, particularly in the Latin American market, the ability to ideate, produce, distribute and monetize their podcasts in one place.
More About Host, Alicia Butler Pierre:
Alicia Butler Pierre is the Founder & CEO of Equilibria, Inc. Her career in operations began over 20 years ago while working as an engineer in various chemical plants and oil refineries. She invented the Kasennu™ framework for business infrastructure and authored, Behind the Façade: How to Structure Company Operations for Sustainable Success. It is the world’s first published book on business infrastructure for small businesses. Alicia hosts the weekly Business Infrastructure podcast with a global audience across 68 countries.
More About Sponsor, Equilibria, Inc.:
Equilibria, Inc. is an operations management firm specializing in business infrastructure for fast-growing organizations. Our mission is to provide access to tips, resources, and proven frameworks that revolutionize the way small businesses operate. We do that through original podcast episodes, blog posts, videos, presentations, workshops, and coaching sessions.
Ooh, we’re starting to feel the effects of these long flights. We’re halfway through a 17-hour flight from Krakow, Poland, to Mexico City, Mexico. I’m especially excited about this trip because it marks my fourth time to this beautiful country – a country that I hope to one day call home.
I’m Alicia Butler Pierre and this is Season 18 of the Business Infrastructure podcast – the show where we share operational tips, tactics, and tools for curing back-office blues. And today you’re about to discover things about Mexico that you probably didn’t know. Things that may entice you to want to do business there. This is a country steeped in culture, food, arts, entertainment, architecture, technology, agriculture, and so much more. It’s no wonder its citizens proudly proclaim, Viva la Mexico!
This episode is underwritten by Equilibria, Inc. the company behind this podcast where we design scale-ready business infrastructure for fast-growing small businesses.
As we make our final descent into Mexico City, the sheer size of this metropolis is breathtaking. This is currently the 5th most populated city in the world. Think about that. And with that kind of population, opportunities abound. And here to teach us how we can tap into those opportunities is Sofia Benedicto. She’s waiting for us in the baggage claim area at the airport and from there we have about a one-hour drive to her grandmother’s (or abuela) house. This is where we’ll meet to enjoy some good food and good conversation in the process.
This is Episode 229 – Doing Business in Mexico with Sofia Benedicto
My name is Sofia Benedicto. I am actually at my grandma’s house in Cuernavaca. This is my hometown. Cuernavaca is kind of small, but not so small city, an hour away from Mexico City, and this is where I was born and raised. And then I moved to Mexico City, which, is where I’m currently living.
Ciudad de Mexico or Mexico City has a special place in my heart. It was the first country I ever visited and the first time I ever flew. Hard to believe that was 30 years ago! That was back in 1993 and at the time, Ciudad de Mexico was the third largest city in the world. Today, it ranks at #5 with a population of 21 million people!
And, it’s also now been given itself a new air of like, one of the biggest, tech hubs, worldwide. a lot of people have been moving, from other countries to Mexico City.
What’s it like being in such a large city that’s also one of the world’s tech hubs?
Well, it’s funny because I actually live, two blocks away from the of Independence. Which is like in the main street nearby the financial district, of Mexico City. So I don’t live that much of a traffic life because I work a lot, around that area. But if you live in the south side of the city and then you have to go working through the centric zone or the north, it’s kind of a mess. You live, practically half of your life in your car, but, if you walk and you manage to, ride a bike or, ride other source of, transportation, it’s very enjoyable. It’s a city with such rich culture, there’s always something to do, kind of like, like New York, but Mexican there is always a concert, a movie, theater that you can go visit. There’s a lot of, also party, a lot of music and a lot of nature.
With such a rich culture right at her fingertips, I was curious about Sofia’s educational background. I noticed she has a degree in social communication which I find intriguing.
So, I studied at a public university in Mexico City. This university opened its doors in 73. So it was, like a crucial moment in Mexico and worldwide actually. And a lot of the careers they have are centered on solving social issues, so it has a sociological focus. This university actually is one of the top 10 universities, in Mexico, and it’s public. So, I literally paid like $50, I think, for all my career, to the university.
And it’s a really good, college, and you have, really good, professors, and I really enjoyed it. And then, I licensed with a thesis on collective networks and social movements. Back in 2018, when was the presidential elections There was, an indigenous woman that, ran for independent candidate for presidency. She’s called María de Jesús Patricio Martínez, “Marichuy.” And so, I made my thesis about how collective networks and social movements can make an impact in other people’s lives, and make like, not only small changes, but like huge differences in terms of how we connect with people and to make the world a better place in like large terms.
Sofia’s thesis on Maria de Jesus’ campaign served as a foundation for a future career at the intersection of politics and business.
So, it was a very, special moment for me We made analysis on how, traditional media and emerging media reported, the mandatory campaign, in, and how did they report like the other candidates. And it was actually quite interesting because, obviously, being, a woman of color, an indigenous woman, and an independent candidate without any party, backing her up. But the people like the SaaS, the indigenous movement of the country, was with her. And all the social movements also were with her. So, she moved a lot of people. And actually, what, what I liked the most about this campaign in my thesis was that she only was a spokeperson of the movement, and she knew she wasn’t, going to win the election, but she made like a national tour.
That national tour was cut short unfortunately when Maria was in a suspicious car accident.
Yeah. It gave me, a better perspective on how politics and also business work in Mexico, because a lot of business topics and relationships and, like deals happen also in times of election. And I’m sure this isn’t the only country that happens. But there were things that I didn’t know. And as I moved forward, like doing my investigation for my thesis, I discovered pretty much how the country works in terms of politics and also business.
These important lessons that Sofia learned would help her later when she landed her first job after finishing university.
So, then I met, this journalist, which was at the same time that I was doing, the final steps for my thesis. I met Salvador, which was my mentor, my first, like, out of schoolteacher, and I was his assistant investigator for like almost a year. He was doing, freelance jobs, but it was election time. So, he had a lot of work to do.
And, when I started working with Salvador, it gave me a much larger perspective on, okay, what are the strongest, like verticals of business in Mexico? What do big, enterprise people do to make money and to grow their business? And how they grow their business, and how is that being linked to politics? So, I am still into politics a lot.
And Sofia’s passion for politics along with answering those key business questions has led to some new ventures…
I’ve been, doing some research to, launch like a daily in Spanish.
And so, I’ve been listening to a lot of, news podcasts in Spanish, and especially in Mexico, and also because there’s again, starting to be happening, the new campaign for presidential elections, which are in two years. But people are starting to be making their campaigns like indirectly. So, these past few days, it reminded me on how interested I was back in the day into all of this and my times when I started my career as an assistant investigator.
And with Sofia’s background as an assistant investigator, she’s in a prime position to speak about Mexico and the opportunities her country offers.
I think, Mexico is a land of opportunities. Today more than ever. we’re seeing, people from the U.S. moving here, people from other countries moving here, We’re seeing like big tech companies, having headquarters also here. And it’s a really big country. It’s not as big as the U.S. but it’s a really big country in terms of territory, in comparison with other, countries, for example, in LATAM or in Europe. There’s a lot, that we could do to, strengthen our relationship, for example, with the U.S. I actually don’t think that, we have a bad relationship, with the U.S., but I think there is a misconception of how Mexico works and how, you can take, quote unquote advantage of being here and of the resources that are here.
And so, I think there’s a lot of opportunities for everyone here in Mexico. Some of them are, taking them and in a good way. And some of them are also, taking like a little bit more advantage of the situation here because, well, it’s easier. And that’s, a reason why Mexico City is like positioning itself as a tech hub worldwide, because it’s easier to grow, it’s easier to have, an income. It’s easier to have profit and assets. And, I think a lot of people, from LATAM, are moving up to Mexico City because it’s also closer to the U.S. And, for example, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, a lot of those countries that are not in the best terms, like economically are coming here to Mexico to make business, to have a small size company, growing into a medium size company.
And there are also a lot of startups and, a lot of like FinTech companies that are perhaps, born in Colombia or in Chile, or in Argentina, in Peru. but then for them to grow, they have to take a step up and, because it’s much more difficult to live and stay in the US for us as Latinos. I think Mexico is unlike an open space where you can come and do whatever you need to do to grow, and you’ll be welcome here.
And it’s that welcoming and accepting spirit that has me so in love with Mexico. Yet, there are some people who don’t share that sentiment. They don’t feel safe. Coming up after the break, we’ll talk about the drug cartels and other myths and misconceptions that prevent some people from wanting to do business in Mexico.
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We’re in Mexico with Sofia Benedicto, a brilliant businesswoman on a mission to make the world a better place. So far she’s told us why Mexico is such an attractive country to conduct business in. But what about the myths and misconceptions people have about Mexico. Well, I can tell you this. Sofia isn’t one to shy away from addressing topics like this head on. Check out what she has to say.
Oh, where should I start?
Just recently the military force, it’s called Sedena, had a group of hackers, break into their email database. And, they leaked about, I think it was 400 million emails from the military forces. All the people inside the politics that are involved with the cartels, like nationally. And the list is very long. I mean, I don’t know all of them, but it includes mayors, governors of states, it includes the closest persons to the president. It’s like a huge deal. You should look it up. It’s, called Guacamaya Leaks. It’s actually what’s been going on like for all of these, week and past week.
Soa Leton Philippa started a thing called the Guerra Naco, a War against Narcos. And, it’s been said that he’s also colluded, with them, but it started a work between them. So, in 2010, it, it became a very, very dangerous thing to live in Mexico because, the cartels, would not stop if you were like any other person. If you were in the incorrect place at the incorrect time, you might, get hurt because there was going to be like a confrontation between some cartels at a restaurant, and then, like, a lot of people died in back in 2010.
Sofia described this as a tipping point in Mexico’s war on Narcos.
For cartels to move things from Acapulco to Mexico City, for example, you have to pass through Corona. So Corona became, a city where, cartel families used to hide, and it became like a really violent, city. But then there’s also Mexico City, which, every, where in Mexico City, what I’ve been experiencing for the past eight years is that everything happens, and also nothing happens at all because it’s so big that, and especially like the most touristy part and the places where most people go, if they’re tourists, they will always be safe because, we need to keep them safe because what will happen if you, Alicia come to Mexico and you go missing, then we will have not only, a problem because we need to find you because you’re a tourist, but we might get into political conflict with the US because okay, you are now putting in danger also my people.
And this at the heart of the fear that many people particularly in my home country, the U.S., have about Mexico, our Southern neighbor. So I’m glad to hear Sofia put this issue into proper context.
So, this, Guerra has been going on for almost 12 years. And, right now with the Guacamaya Leaks, everyone is part of the cartel game from, past presidents to the current president, to all the governors like around of the Mexico to, the military forces that are putting the green light for all of this to happen. And it’s, it’s a mess, actually.
Despite this level of corruption coupled with Sofia’s disappointment in the current president’s inability to keep his promise to crack down on crime, she’s still hopeful that the safety found in the tourist areas of Mexico will permeate throughout the entire country.
It’s been four years, and he hasn’t done like even half of what he promised to do. he had like the biggest, election and history of Mexico’s democracy. all of the millennials were, voted for him. A lot of old people were voted for him. And it’s actually, quite a disappointment for me.
But in terms of safety, I think, Mexico City, the safest place to live in, from my perspective right now, I just hope that things can actually decrease, like the heat of cartels. in a few years thanks to these types of things like the Guacamaya Leaks.
Now that we’ve addressed the drug cartel issues, I thought I’d ask Sofia about another misconception. Time. Latin America is known to have a different relationship with time in comparison to say other Western cultures.
One of the things that I have learned over the years is time. So, if we say something will start at 10:00 AM , you already know what I’m gonna say, Sofia.
Don’t laugh, don’t laugh. But seriously talk about that because this can be shocking to people who are not accustomed to the Latin American, cultural, relationship with time, I should say.
Yeah. So, I think, I’ve been part of that problem for so long, but as I grow up, I realized, how important it is, and, and how respectful it is to be on time. time moves a lot slower than it moves in Mexico City. Like it’s a different time zone here in Cuernavaca. Okay. We take like a lot of time to do a lot of things. And so, when I moved to Mexico City, I started to realize that people can leave from meetings if you don’t show up on time,
And there will be people that that will say like, “Oh, no worries, I’ll wait for you.” And there will be people that shows not only on time, but like 10 minutes before the meeting. And that for me, has become, a gesture of respect. I have a lot of friends from the States that moved into Mexico City, and it’s a huge problem for them. Because you guys are like super, super on time for everything.
It’s a different relationship with time. That’s, that’s how I’ve always described it.
There’re historic differences where you, up in the north have gone faster for centuries than us, and then there’s also a lot of excuses from us. To become sort of like eternal victims of, our circumstances. So, I think, patience to get there on time. That would be my resolution.
So we’ve covered the different cultural relationship with time. What about another barrier that we’ve noticed with some of the other countries we’ve visited this season? Language.
It’s funny because, if you go to a Spanish speaking, country, doesn’t matter if it’s Mexico City and it’s like a huge, Metropolis and blah, blah, blah, you need to learn the language that people, speak. Doesn’t matter if, you’re from the States, or if you’re from Canada, or if you’re from England and you don’t know how to speak certain language, I think, Latinos have made the effort already to speak the most, spoken language worldwide, which is English, but now the tables are turning, and a lot of people is speaking Spanish. A lot of businesses are going on here in Mexico and in Colombia, in Brazil, in Argentina and Chile, Peru. in the United States, I think the third part of the population speaks Spanish or something like that. So, I think you need to make an effort to connect with people. And there’s actually a really interested book, that I haven’t, read completely, but I really like the essence of it. It’s called Give to Take.
It’s a book about, the approach you need to make to actually make business and to have leadership, abilities and to make networking and do collaboration, and for you to take, you need to give first.
Speaking of networking and giving before taking or asking, this seems like a great time to talk about the company Sofia co-founded. It’s called Nodalab and it provides the perfect blending of her work experiences, personal passions, and philosophies.
So, when I, finished college and I started doing this, journalist, kind of gigs, small gigs, I started realizing that one for you to be a journalist in Mexico, it becomes like more dangerous as days pass by. there’s a lot of, missing and killed journalists because of all the context that I just shared with you. So, I started thinking, well, how, how can I make a difference? How can I tell stories and share other perspectives? And I know I’m gonna sound like really corny, but I did study to help the world become a better place. And I love writing. It’s actually my craft. And so, it’s not that I present myself as a journalist.
I present myself as a writer because writers, have to improve their craft and so, back in 2018, I was dating Jorge already, which is my partner and my co-founder. And he’s a sound engineer, and he had just finished his master’s in musical production. So, he started making freelance jobs, related to podcast. and then it became like bigger and bigger, and he had like five different clients, and they started to ask him for show notes and for blog posts, about their podcasts.
During the time Jorge’s career in the podcasting industry was taking off, Sofia was working at an abortion fund non-profit – the only one of its kind in Latin America. So, she started chipping in here and there to help Jorge out.
And I started doing like the written part of the podcast clients that he had. And then, we actually discovered that we worked really well together, and that this thing about podcast was going to be like a huge deal, which wasn’t back in the day, but, but we, we were convinced that podcasting was the perfect medium to tell stories. And to cultivate empathy, and to connect with each other. So, you know, better than anyone, that podcast is all about collaboration.
That collaboration led Sofia and Jorge to implement a business infrastructure that gave way to expanding their team from 2 to 15 people. It also gave way to an exciting new product.
We saw the industry growing here in Mexico and in LATAM, for the past four years. We started, wondering, what if there was a way to, making, podcasting more accessible and more profitable to everyone? Not only like the big stars because, here in Mexico also the media industry is growing and it’s putting like a lot of attention in podcasting. And so, the industry’s growing a lot, but there needs to be room for independent podcasters to grow.
Because if not, it will happen. the same thing that happened with, media, which is monopoly, and we don’t want that. So, we started doing, first original content, and we started, making like a podcasting network, designed especially to empower podcasters and deliver content, like of really high quality, so that was, last year, and as the industry grew, we realized, there is, an urgent need, to grow the podcast industry in the Spanish speaking ecosystem. And there aren’t any tools. there are Spanish focused, for Latin content creators, and also for the Latinx community in the U.S. to not only, being able to streamline their processes and their workflows, but also to monetize and to make cross promotion strategies in an easier way, than it is right now.
And let me tell you, this is a huge gap in the Spanish-speaking podcasting market. Filling this gap means giving a sizeable portion of the Western hemisphere access to information and resources they have currently been cut off all because of language.
So that’s where we created a collaborative podcast as a service platform to make all this happen through digital audio. So, we’re making, the first marketplace for broadcasters in Latin America where you can enter, our platform and, I like to say it’s like a bumble of podcasts and brands, but it’s focused on Mexico and in LA because there’s a lot of tools in the US that already do that, but they are focused on the US market. So, for the industry to grow in Spanish, there needs to be an open space for podcasters to grow, and also for brands and agencies to be able to make campaigns, with like tailor-made campaigns, with small, medium, and big size. So that’s what we’re doing now.
Fantastico! Congratulations! That is very exciting. and please let me know whatever I can do to help support and promote, this new product.
But before we go, do you have any other resources that you can share with us where people can learn more about, conducting business, or how they can potentially trade with existing Mexican businesses?
Mercado Libre, it’s, one of my favorites, platforms for trading and for e-commerce. It’s, like Amazon’s biggest competitor in Latin America and it’s actually really interested because you can set up your own online shop.
Also, another research that I like to consult, related to business and finance in Latin America, it’s Latino metrics. It’s on LinkedIn, and I think it has, a website.
I really, really recommend that website. And then, I also recommend, if you want to come from other countries to make business here in Mexico, I would say, started online. It’s like the cheapest and most easiest way to do that. And there are a lot of, mechanisms and a lot of processes that you can do also online. To register your brand, to register the intellectual property of your business and stuff like that. I think it’s called IMPI Institute Mexican, the Laia industry. That’s where you should go to register your business in Mexico. and if you want to learn more about, Latin America’s roadmap to innovation and, what is happening here, like in Mexico City, I recommend Beba, it’s the bank. They have a lot of programs on economics, on sustainability, on diversity and inclusion as well, and its innovation and data and they’re really supportive of, businesses here in Mexico.
Don’t worry about writing all of this down or committing it to memory. We’ll have links to all of these amazing resources Sofia’s shared. But for now, time is running out and we must get going. Muchas gracias, Sofia.
Thank you so much for having me.
Don’t you just love Sofia’s energy?! I appreciate her candor, honesty, and willingness to share all of those resources. And not only that, the historical context she provided when addressing myths vs. facts was a tremendous help. As a reminder, you can find links to all the resources she shared at BusinessInfrastructure.TV.
Before we leave Sofia’s abuela’s house, we’re loaded down with authentic Mexican desserts that we can’t resist! We’ll need this sugar rush to get through the traffic as we head back to the airport in Mexico City. Thankfully, our next flight won’t be a long one. Where are going next? I’m not going to tell you because you’ll have to come back for the next episode to find out!
Thank you for tuning in! If you enjoyed this episode, then please subscribe and leave a five-star rating and review.
Don’t let learning a new language deter you from leveraging the Mexican market. Spanish is one of the easier languages to learn and with apps like Duo Lingo you might be surprised at how quickly you can pick it up. And of course, you can count on Sofia to help you out too. Keep in mind, we’re all here for you so stay focused and be encouraged. This entrepreneurial journey is a marathon and not a sprint.
This podcast was written, produced, and narrated by me, Alicia Butler Pierre. Audio editing by Olanrewaju Adeyemo. Original score and sound design by Sabor! Music Enterprises.
This is the Business Infrastructure – Curing Back-Office Blues podcast.