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When someone tells me I can’t do something, I say, ‘Thank you, now I’m definitely going to do it.’

Tobias van Schneider
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Business Creativity Interviews

Tips for starting a business overseas from entrepreneur Vinay Raval

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Vinay Raval is an entrepreneur and world traveler currently based out of Cusco, Peru. He’s also a close friend, my former basketball coach, and simply one of the happiest and honest people I know.

Let’s flip it over to Vinay…

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Vinay Raval. I lead authentic cultural experiences for travelers in Cusco, Peru.

What are you currently working on?

I run a company called Faces of Cusco that specializes in offering a local experience to tourists. Our primary focus is on reinventing the experience of visiting the San Pedro Market. This market specializes in Andean products and features diverse produce, art, and services from Peru. The goal is to educate travelers and to foster genuine interaction with local vendors. I’m also setting up a small store to sell hot chocolate from locally grown cacao in Cusco’s main plaza. Localism begins with good food and good people.

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Where do you like to work?

I do my best work in coffee shops where I can connect with my team to establish the day’s top three priorities as well as brainstorm new business ideas. No one is allowed to use technology during our meetings. This allows us to more easily focus on the vision. Coffee houses are the original social networks, anyway, so we’re doing all the communicating we need to do face to face.

I also like to work on the go. I enjoy walking meetings where we search the town for inspiration. On a recent retreat to Lima, we often walked along the Pacific Ocean to kick the brain into gear, to relieve stress, and to encourage spontaneity. We’ll often stumble upon locals on our walk and bring them into the conversation.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself in Peru thus far?

I’ve learned to embrace uniqueness. They call me “El Indu” here as I’m one of a handful of Indians in the town. Everybody here remembers my face and I’ll attract attention whether I invite it or not. For a business, this is incredible.

“Embrace whatever makes you unique.”

What motivates you?

Waking up and having no idea what I’m about to get in to. Most folks back in the USA place huge pressure on themselves to plan out their day because things are already established. In Peru, there’s opportunity wherever you look because there’s huge demand for everything but no supply for it. It’s my job to fill that void for both the locals and the tourists coming in. Also, our new concept of genuine and local experiences opens minds and helps local vendors better connect with travelers.

What was your earliest ambition?

A basketball player but I wasn’t committed enough. I’ve always enjoyed creating new ideas and finding original solutions. I took the Myers-Briggs test once and it outlined my future: ENTP or inventor. This was spot-on and really helped me pursue my passion.

What’s one work hack you use that others may find helpful?

Involve people from outside your team. Crowdsource from the locals. You get your best info from people on the ground, the street vendors for instance, because they’re the ones in the loop. They catch patterns that the rest of us don’t see, are the first to know about new competition, and really understand how to sell.

“No one is more informed than someone working in the streets all day; they know the ins and outs.”

Best word of advice for other entrepreneurs?

Create and keep moving, so you don’t get bored of people and places. Stagnancy is the worst enemy for all inventors.


You can learn more about Vinay and his team on the company blog. Keep in touch with Faces of Cusco on Twitter and Instagram.

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Blair Small : BSP Training

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Blair Small is an entrepreneur, musician, and photographer based out of New York City. He’s also one of my best friends so I’m happy to feature him as the first guest on this blog.

Who are you and what do you do?

I am Blair Small. I’m a personal trainer, a wedding photographer and a musician, in no particular order. I like to take the “Rennaissance man” approach to my life, and pursue multiple crafts at the same time. I don’t consider any of these things jobs, and for that I’m grateful.

What are you currently working on?

Having my own personal training business has given me the freedom and time to pursue 2 other passions – music and photography. The inherent need I feel to create is fulfilled here. I write music on the the name Georgica, and just released a 7-song EP.

Making music that I’m proud of is what I live for. Wedding photography is a relatively new part of my life. My good friend is an amazing and really successful wedding photographer, and has been training me for the last year to be his associate shooter. Having the opportunity to be under such great and constant tutelage has been unbelievable.

How would you rate your photography skills so far?

Shooting weddings is not easy. It’s probably the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. I was sort of thrown into the fire and given a lot of responsibility from the beginning. At first everything was moving 1000 miles per hour, but as I get more comfortable, things seem to slow down and fall into place. I see improvement every wedding.


“Composing a great photograph is a skill that everyone should have.”


Where do you like to work?

I produce all my music in my apartment, which isn’t ideal, but with today’s software and equipment is very doable. Believe it or not, I often write using my iPads virtual instruments on the train. As far as photography goes. The lesson I’ve learned is shoot everything everywhere. There is never a bad place or opportunity to take a good photograph.

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What motivates you?

Improving my craft is what motivates me. Creating something great is what I live my life for.

What was your earliest ambition?

My earliest ambition was being good at basketball. I remember 6th grade tryouts, all I wanted to do was shoot a 3 pointer, because prior to that, we didn’t play on courts with three-point lines.

What’s one work hack you use that others may find helpful?

With music, there will be times when you don’t have inspiration, or can’t seem to write anything. Don’t force it. Even if it takes a year, that will pass, and you will get into an amazing zone at some point. With photography, you must fail to succeed. Learn from your mistakes. Work to perfect your craft.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about working or life so far?

I know I’ve been lucky, but…


“if you ever have the chance or opportunity to work for yourself, take the risk and do it. You will NEVER EVER regret it.”


You can find more about Blair Small here:

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I learned each time that there’s no magic in “making it”, you’ve just got to keep throwing darts at a board and hoping one lands in the middle (and subsequently, doesn’t fall out). Formulas work on spreadsheets and chalkboards, but rarely do they work in real life.

Paul Jarvis
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When Seeing is Believing

  • Seeing validates existence
  • Seeing absolves doubt
  • Seeing eradicates ignorance

But seeing inhibits the imagination.

Innovation emerges from the fiction of the mind, a dream, to testing the hypothesis through real work. We should strive to create things we want to see and lead people into accepting the potential reality.

Seeing is believing in yourself, your own mind and intuition. Think like a kid; use experience to execute like an adult.

Ingenuity reveals the unseen and shocks the masses, until innovation becomes the standard.

What’s next? The possibilities are infinite.

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When you don’t know the rules, you break them all. It’s hard to take big risks when you know the history of an industry and what has worked and what didn’t.

Blake Mycoskie, Founder of Toms