Ramiro Saborio Robelo risked it all for his business—and it paid off.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be diving into Ramiro’s journey, from trials and tribulations to inspirational success. Today, Ramiro shares how it all began. Check out part one of our three-part series in the video below!
In 2004, Ramiro graduated college. When he wasn’t busy with industrial engineering, he loved sport fishing in his home country of Nicaragua—in fact, he loved it enough to make a career out of it.
He began looking for opportunities to pack bait for the sportfishing industry in the United States. Before long, he found an opening in the Miskito Clay, and he invested his modest savings in starting a new bait packing business. Before long, he was successfully packing, freezing and exporting bait.
Then, the recession hit. Oil and gas prices skyrocketed, and the bait market plummeted. Ramiro had to pivot his operation—which, at the time, consisted of just a few boats—to fish commercially on the Caribbean coast.
“That was a good move,” he says. “That morphed into more boats and more boats, to the point where we [had] about 12 boats fishing in the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua for snapper.” As his business grew, so did his operation; his team had their own processing plant and invested more time and energy in Pacific fishing.
Strategy, setbacks and shrimp
But it wasn’t smooth sailing for long. Ramiro and his partner weren’t able to work full-time in their business until 2011-2013, and when they finally made the switch, it was clear that something needed to change.
“To make the company bigger, we needed to do something different than what we were [already] doing,” Ramiro says. He and his partner began to explore financing with local and private investors, and eventually, they raised close to one million dollars. From there, they used their newfound capital to begin farming shrimp.
Unfortunately, their strategy didn’t go as planned. “We did that for a year and a half, and it was incredibly unsuccessful. … We almost lost the company,” Ramiro says. “We thought we knew more than we knew. … We hired the wrong people and were just way over our heads.”
Overcoming the unthinkable
After the failure in shrimp farming, Ramiro’s business was on a slippery slope. Uncertainty and anxiety loomed over his organization, leading Ramiro to seek help from a therapist. But he was far from alone.
“My family was a [huge] support; my wife was tremendous,” he lovingly says. Alongside his family, he also found solace in his local Entrepreneurs’ Organization chapter, which he quotes as “instrumental in getting through it.”
In the end, Ramiro and his partner sold ⅓ of the company to a new partner. From there, things started looking up. The partners worked together to close the unsuccessful farms, closing a financial hole while opening the door to new possibilities.
Success wasn’t a dream anymore—it was real-life.
After a while, the anxiety bated. The uncertainty quelled. And before long, they returned $5 million in 2015 alone. In 2017, they had about $8 million in revenue. In 2018, it was $14 million. In 2019, $16 million. The company wasn’t just saved; it was thriving.
“Just seeing what we did with [$5 million] with no prospects, to [$14 million], being profitable and just getting a handle on our business. Looking back, that transition makes me proud,” Ramiro says. “We transitioned from being a company that was in disarray to [a company that’s] organized. We have a clear structure. We have a clear rhythm for how we manage the company. … My partner’s done a great job in having the controls, policies, procedures in place, so things like what happened to us in 2015 don’t happen again.”
At this, Ramiro smiles. “I’m also proud of the fact that we have one hundred employees,” he says. “That means that the company is the source of main income for 100 families in Nicaragua.”
What’s up next?
In 2018, Ramiro and his partners began working on a new project: launching De La Isla, a new brand for local seafood distribution. In 2019, it took off. De La Isla can now be found in local Nicaraguan supermarkets, alongside a home delivery service.
Now, he’s focused on regionalizing De La Isla beyond Nicaragua and throughout Central America. Ramiro and his partners aspire to place De La Isla in all the Walmarts in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama and beyond.
“We want to take that brand all over Central America,” Ramiro says. “There’s not one Central American brand in the seafood space that’s regionalized.”
Alongside his work with De La Isla, Ramiro is also dedicating his time to honing his team. He cites his leadership team as akin to a fine-tuned machine, with weekly meetings, reliable follow-up and a strong foundation. “We’ve grown now to the point where we have different levels to the organization,” he says. “And [I’d like that] permeated to all levels of the organization.”
Ramiro’s words of wisdom for new entrepreneurs
If Ramiro could go back to where it all began, he would tell himself, “Ramiro, think once you succeed. … Know what you don’t know. Be clear about what you don’t know. That’s very important.”
Ramiro also emphasizes the importance of organizational discipline and having the right people in the right roles.
“Once you have the best people, make sure you leave space in your [day] to think about where you want to go, and how you want to get there,” he says. “Do this [periodically]: every month, every three weeks, whatever it is, give time to disciplined thought, in addition to action. … To me, that is key.”
Up next: Ramiro & Entrepreneurs’ Organization
Join us next week to learn more about Ramiro’s journey through the lens of his local Entrepreneurs’ Organization Chapter. Learn more about…
- How Ramiro got started with EO
- Ramiro’s cross-function involvement with his Chapter
- How his EO Chapter found scalable success