February 24, 2022
Glenda Boza

Cuban Entrepreneurs: All for One and One for All

Since Cuba’s private sector began to emerge in 2010, entrepreneurs have had to face obstacles related to legal guarantees, distortions in the national market, purchasing resources, importing and exporting products, and accessing financing through legal avenues. More recently, they have had to overcome the inflationary consequences of the “Tarea Ordenamiento,” the Cuban government’s currency “reordering” project.

Although little by little (and more rapidly in recent months) some of these issues have found partial solutions in decisions made by the government, private Cuban workers still encounter many challenges in their daily work. This leads them to seek out international reference points from which they can learn necessary lessons for managing their businesses successfully.  

Unfortunately, experiences of success in other nations do not always fit within Cuban reality. In most cases, in fact, they are not even applicable due to the peculiarities of the island’s economy and the absence of legal frameworks that allow for expanding creativity.

Within this context, some Cuban entrepreneurs have understood that they would be more useful putting their knowledge to work accompanying and advising other Cuban entrepreneurs by offering realistic and applicable “homegrown solutions” that help these new economic actors overcome obstacles like financing, inexperience, and a lack of training or information.


AUGE is a consulting firm focused on the integrated development of businesses in Cuba. It was created in 2014 with the aim of guiding, supporting, and advising businesses that “were making reprehensible decisions from a business point of view, misusing their money with poorly conceived or poorly designed businesses,” as Oniel Díaz Castellanos, one of its founders, stated in an interview.

AUGE is a team of professionals with business experience inside and outside the country that applies the tools of commercial management, business development, communication, and design in creative ways that generate competitive advantages to increase the chances of success for its clients.

Their business strategy emphasizes understanding the specific needs of their clients. “During each intervention we always work closely with the client to implement a plan that is guaranteed to generate value and bring a return on investment.”

With nearly fifty clients, they offer advice both to those starting in the private sector and to those who have more experience but need to correct errors and/or minimize losses.

Auge offers the “full package:” tools for marketing, communication, design, commercial management, and business development. In other words, they offer a complete formula for success.

The founders who are still part of the team —Oniel and Lyly Díaz— describe their work as a kind of “doctor-patient relationship.”

“One of the things they ask us a lot is to study the market and any competition in order to separate themselves from what already exists,” explained Lyly, to which Oniel added, “We have moved to a business model in which customers call us because they have a specific problem, and they want us to find the causes and recommend solutions.”

Seven years after its creation, Auge has grown as a consulting business. Not only has it achieved important alliances with the state sector, such as the Havana Entrepreneurship Network, but it has also formed a space called La Junta, where fifty representatives from various sectors of the Cuban economy meet to identify private sector limitations and reflect on alternatives and solutions.

“La Junta is a space of optimistic pragmatism. It’s pragmatic because entrepreneurship in Cuba is full of considerable challenges and obstacles, and we will not run away from the obligation to look those problems in the eye. But together with that spirit of seeing things as they are, we carry an optimism that is expressed in the will to scrutinize these challenges, not to collectively complain, but rather to find solutions and new ways of doing things so that our businesses survive and advance,” Oniel explained.

El Pitch

El Pitch is a Cuban podcast for entrepreneurs created during the COVID-19 pandemic. At a time when many businesses stopped their operations and, consequently, their public communications, this project helped many deal with the crisis and even inspired others who wanted to start working in the private sector.

“El Pitch was the solution we found to share success stories, examples of good practices, in addition to a lot of inspiration and optimism. We were able to show that it was possible to continue working by either reinventing or pivoting, but without giving up,” says Katia Sánchez, the podcast’s co-founder.

Under the umbrella of La Penúltima Casa —the one of the first blogs to focus on digital marketing and communications, founded by Katia—, the podcast also includes the participation of business advisor Adriana Sigüenza.

However, the focus of each episode is not these Cuban entrepreneurs, but rather on their interviewees and the success stories they share as an exchange of experiences and inspiration.

Katia says that they decided on the name El Pitch, because an “elevator pitch” is a “resource for presenting a business and a well-known practice in the world of entrepreneurship. It is about convincing investors, clients, or potential collaborators about the value of your project in the shortest possible time.”

The fact that the two founders of the podcast are women has brought both challenges and advantages.

“It makes us recognize ourselves in an ecosystem where we share mutual concerns and values, some of which are intertwined with personal and professional debates. We have talked about imposter syndrome, about not feeling prepared to do something, about the difficulties in estimating the economic value of our work, about our families and partners, about leadership, and more,” say its founders.

Thanks to its podcast format, El Pitch has built a space where people can socialize, in addition to allowing listeners from all over Cuba to learn about the success stories of their colleagues.

Despite the scope of the project — 400 people signed up for the El Pitch Festival, an online conference organized by the podcast — it has not been easy for Katia and Adriana.

“Actually, most of the things that we want to do with El Pitch as an economic activity are prohibited,” says Katia. “El Pitch cannot charge for advertising; it cannot become a media outlet; we cannot create or link ourselves to a board of directors; and we cannot do a series of other activities that are prohibited within the new regulations.”

Katia Sánchez is not optimistic about the possibilities for activities related to communication and media in the private sector. She believes that Cuba is “light years” away from legally recognizing new trends in income generation through content creation on platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or Twitch.

“To provide an example, at El Pitch this year we sold a personal brand guide for entrepreneurs in an ebook format. In Cuba, editing and publishing books (digital and printed) privately is also prohibited,” laments Katia.

Let’s Talk Business

Darién García Linsuaín has taken advantage of his bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance, as well as his experience as a professor at the University of Havana and as a business manager, to support entrepreneurs.

He started with the Incuba Empresa program, for which he served as coordinator for several years, until he saw the opportunity to create an exchange-based initiative with users through the Telegram app.

Cuba, let’s talk about business, was created in January 2020,” says Darién. “We launched the channel —and group—and a web page. We hold debates, have talks, and produce publications for more than a thousand subscribers. We focus only on issues related to entrepreneurship.”

Through this initiative, they have published more than 15 articles and have given more than 40 presentations. They regularly take advantage of Telegram’s audio chat and its popularity among Cubans to exchange with the channel’s subscribers.

“We have created a business and entrepreneurial culture,” he says. “Even when I can’t keep up with the discussion group, it has continued to function as a support network. The members clarify doubts among themselves related to the sector and offer experiences and other useful information.”

Recently, Darién has also supported the application and approval process of nearly a dozen new MiPyMES —small and medium-sized enterprises—, through a new dream: Gestoría Confias.

Although his dream is to be able to retire by working on this initiative, he also recognizes that some of the businesses have not succeeded at the level that he would like, either because the legal framework does not allow them to complete their initial objectives, or because entrepreneurs do not always have a clear idea of ​​their business.

Nevertheless, he highlights as a good omen that there are several projects similar to his that are taking advantage of social networks and the growing private sector to advise, guide, and support other entrepreneurs, whether on financial matters, through trainings, or on legal and communication issues.

What Could the Future Look Like?

Although these initiatives show entrepreneurs how to apply or adapt success formulas to the particularities of their own businesses, there are obstacles that go beyond the intention to help.

The lack of legal guarantees for the private sector and, specifically, a regulatory framework that allows the expansion of these projects, even to state companies, is still an obstacle that affects not only these entrepreneurs, but Cuban economic activity in general.

Though it might not seem like it to some, Cuba does have a business culture, and many business owners know how to provide quality and professional services while being profitable. However, these are still not the majority.

These spaces for socializing and exchanging opinions and experiences—for learning, consulting, and training—have allowed many businesses to weather the challenges of the pandemic and survive. But they are not enough.

Thanks to El Pitch, Auge, Cuba, let’s talk about business, and other initiatives that support the private sector, many projects have found ways to transform themselves and find alternatives that have and will lead them to success. Such networks and supportive ventures bode well for the growth of the private sector, but they deserve rapid expansion and growth.

Glenda Boza is a journalist for elTOQUE.

Illustration byWimar Verdecia Fuentes. Find him on twitter @FuentesWimar