From the Middle of the World to Vancouver! (1/2)

What does an Ecuadorian in Canada need to succeed?

By Guido Varela

This will be my personal story of how I plan to start over with my family in Vancouver in the fall of 2021. Moving to Canada was an idea that formed a long time ago because of the downward trend in the political and the economic situation of my country Ecuador; but my plan kept getting postponed until I made my best effort to succeed in a new technological project. Still, unfortunately, this pandemic hit us in Ecuador and forced us to hasten our plans. We chose the West Coast after doing some research on living expenditure and acceptable weather; we live in a hot city (Guayaquil averages 30 degrees Celsius on a normal day).

I have been an entrepreneur all my life, a second-generation (son of a marketing research pioneer in Ecuador) entrepreneur and a professional in marketing research, loving and living this profession since I was 18 years old. Perhaps, because of my strong foundations, lessons from my father and mother and evolving expertise through practical work, I was able to see better the facts, the trends in my industry while analyzing the political and economic situation at home, quickly separating the reality of our dangerous situation from my feelings of attachment towards my homeland. I was able to objectively see a glimmer of opportunity abroad far north in Canada, while we were slumped in a never-ending recession (our GDP fell by nearly 10 points alone since the pandemic) of unending social and economic problems. Perhaps everything would be back on track once we migrated to the melting pot.

A falling PIB (GDP) since the pandemic

From the 000 Lattitude – “middle of the world”
LATAM Meeting of Small Grocery Stores

In my 43 years of life, I have tried many strategies to keep my marketing research agency running, trying to diversify the risk by becoming the first Ecuadorian ESOMAR Representative (for 23 years now!) and getting more sources of income, becoming a University-level marketing research professor, speaker and creating the first trade show between consumer packaged goods industries (CPG) and small grocery retail stores. View some highlights from my trade show below:

I have also founded the national association of grocery stores in Ecuador with more than 10,000 members at this time, and I even developed the first B2B app to connect CPG companies with small independent grocery stores. In Ecuador, small independent grocers account for 80 percent of the sales from the CPG category. But the pandemic changed it all, emptying all our successes into a pit of despair, and it was time for a new beginning.

Receiving an Award for my app from the richest woman in Ecuador Isabel Noboa (left) and the President of the Chamber of industry of Guayaquil (right)

Once the decision was taken, and my plan to migrate to Canada had started, I decided to apply my MR knowledge to better understanding the upcoming challenge of finding employment and getting settled in Canada. I began the settlement journey through deep interviews with well-referred professionals in Canada’s MR Industry: Arundati Dandapani, John Tabone, Jean-Marc Leger, and Doug Anderson. Then I compared my research with a profound study of the Canadian culture, and finally did some research of the immigration process itself.

What I have learned is that for a good time, newcomers and migrant professionals have to start from the bottom (no problem at all) to earn the appreciated Canadian experience. It is important to start constructing your network soon and start from there to look for job opportunities. I embrace the challenge already; as a Latin American entrepreneur, I’m a very resilient guy, and with the support of my loving wife, we will succeed for our children’s future.

Guido, in Spanish, means “connoisseur of roads” and as a consultant in marketing research, the search for insights has been my passion. I have always considered myself a learning addict in trying to track trends, constantly using my predictive powers to be one step ahead of the circumstances. Dreaming big, thinking fast and acting quickly, I am a very technologically advanced mobile-first guy with a strong knowledge of consumer perceptions, preferences, neuro-marketing, qualitative and quantitative models applied to many different industries in the very survivalist South American economies where 70 percent of the population does not have a daily job, and those with jobs don’t have social security.

As a hobby, I host my own radio program of three years (see the post above), called “Today’s Entrepreneurs”, which enjoys a very high national reach. Even though the Ecuadorian immigrant community in Canada is very small (< 16,000), we want to live among Canadian society because Canada seems to embrace diversity and value the professional skills of its immigrants. At least when I read about the successes of immigrant professionals like Senator Rosa Gálvez, Marcelo Aliendre, Fernando Mata, Alvaro Pombo I feel so hopeful of the future of Hispanics in Canada. For sure, I will miss my greater family, friends and food a lot, but when you have a clear goal for your next twenty years and are filled with love and concern for your kids’ futures, any sacrifice looks small in comparison.

Finally, in the fall of 2021, my wife who has twelve years of experience as a graphic designer will start her MBA to upgrade her business skills, and our two children Camila (11) & Nicolas (4) will start school as soon as we arrive in Vancouver and take our first vaccine shot—because vaccines are out of supply in Ecuador.

The second part of this story will be written then, as we settle and integrate into BC and in Canada socially, economically and professionally. If you have advice you want to share with a hard worker, talented, humorous, humble, marketing and insights professional like me with a passion for learning, teaching, CPG, grocery and retail, please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn, and if we become friends, later on WhatsApp.   

Guido Varela Delgado is currently the CEO of SM Research, founder of the National Association of Small Convenience Stores of Ecuador and also the first Ecuadorian ESOMAR Country Representative.

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