We last heard from New Orleans native Peter Ostroske after he moved to Brazil, raised $3 million for his online fashion brand, and was heading for major success in the vertical and market he was in.
Ostroske then switched gears completely and has started an e-commerce company in Colombia that is already becoming a notable force online. Ofi.com.co, which sells business supplies from computers to coffee filters, has raised $250,000 in addition to the $150,000 Ostroske won from the government to launch the company.
But why the switch? Ostroske said it wasn’t so much of a switch as it was the logical next step. The fashion brand, olook, is already one of the largest fashion e-commerce companies in Latin America. “More than a fashion e-commerce company, we are a fashion brand with over 70% of our revenues coming from our private label line of women’s clothing, shoes and accessories. As a result, the company has entered the offline, multi-brand channel is doing quite well. My professional interest is in technology and more specifically, e-commerce. For that reason, I made the decision to kick start Ofi.com.co.”
Ofi.com.co targets SMBs, large businesses and B2C consumers through cross-channel sales including e-commerce, call center and offline sales. Ostroske said the decision to move markets and verticals was relatively easy because Colombia is ranked #43 by the World Bank in terms of ease of doing business, while Brazil ranked #116. The country also has a free trade agreement with the United States, which makes the supply end relatively uncomplicated, explained Ostroske.
If Ofi.com.co does well enough in Colombia, the plan is to take the company into adjacent markets such as Peru and Ecuador.
When asked what his favorite part of the new company is, Ostroske said it’s the interaction with their customer. “It’s difficult to find personal touch points with consumers buying on your e-commerce site. However, in B2B e-commerce, we’re able to be proactive in making sales calls and pushing retention. Right now, we have five sales representatives and will have 10 by the end of August. Our guys are making between 50-60 cold calls per day which means we don’t have to rely so heavily on paid channels like Google Adwords and Facebook Ads.”
And if you’re wondering whether there was a major language barrier from Ostroske, there was, temporarily. He said it took him a year and a half after moving to Brazil before he was able to communicate at a high level with his team (in Portuguese). It took him about six months in Colombia with Spanish, and he’s happy he able to communicate with her “not perfect, but working,” system.
Learn more about olook and Ostroske here.