Entrepreneur in Cuba

In reflecting on our time in Cuba, we had the opportunity to meet with a wide range of companies, officials and organizations. One of our most intriguing conversations was with Enrique Núñez del Valle, the owner of La Guarida. La Guarida is one of the most famous paladars, privately owned restaurants located in Cubans’ homes.

Originally launched in the 90’s as a paladar in Núñez‘s apartment, La Guarida has expanded to incorporate multiple floors of the apartment building, a former palace estate in Havana. The owner was born and raised in the building, his family sharing one floor of the impressive mansion with some 10 other families. While Paladars sprung up in the 1990’s La Guarida was one of only ~20 that remained in the early 2000’s. However, after years of struggling with uneconomical state mandated restrictions, Le Guarida closed its doors.

When regulations evolved to allow for viable businesses in 2010, Enrique Núñez del Valle reopened the restaurant. Over the past few years, the Cuban government has been taking actions to shift employment away from state-owned enterprises with a stated goal of non-state enterprises representing 45% of employment in 2017. Today there are 200+ categories of non-state owned enterprises that are permitted by the Cuban government.

Through our conversation with Enrique Núñez del Valle, we were able to get a pulse on Cuban entrepreneurship. The packed dining rooms and buzzing bar scene at La Guarida are a testament to Núñez‘s success. Interestingly, when asked if he planned to open further establishments, following in the footsteps of La Guarida, Núñez explained that Cuban individuals are limited to one license per type of establishment (in this case, one restaurant and one bar).

Cuban entrepreneurs are hopeful of normalized relations between the United States and Cuba. Paladars (and other non-state owned businesses) in Cuba rely heavily on tourism given that the cost of one meal can exceed an average Cuban’s monthly salary.

Michael Echemendia – 2016

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