Colombian Retail

When you think of Colombia, what’s the first word that comes to mind? Now, have you ever been to Colombia?

One of the advantages of travel is being able to see first-hand how the world really is as opposed to how you’re told it is.  Retail is one of those areas that can help “paint the picture” as it were of an overall general progress of a nation.  It is a broad reflection of a country’s economy and infrastructure – and sometimes you’ll find yourself to be even surprised that what you thought was one way turns out to not only be different that your expectations, but even beyond what’s in your own backyard.  (Airports are like that too.  If you look at say LaGuardia then compare it to some of the airports found in Asia today there simply is no comparison).

Here are some photos I took earlier this year in Medellin while walking through a well known mall in the city.  You’ll see the retail shops of certain Colombian brands you may have not even know existed.  You’ll also see UK and American brands.  The Banana Republic in this mall is nicer that the one at the mall in my area of Atlanta.

Brands are crossing borders into territory they used to never be seen in.  And some of these brands are able to source production “locally” and sell it locally since Colombia is a producer of apparel.

The retail scene is Colombia is on the move and no doubt this is also happening in other key Latin American cities. The interesting thing is that the shelf pricing is about the same as in the USA but the general income levels are not.

In any event, getting yourself to see the world in person gives you a perspective on how things are and how things move that nothing else can replace.

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An Interview with Shauna Mei from

Q. To tee up this Q & A with some context, can you tell me what your company is all about?

A. is an online discovery destination where consumers can learn about – and purchase – unique products and gifts from around the world, collectively curated by global influential tastemakers from Daniel Boulud to Tim Gunn.  We offer one new luxury item every day to our members, who sign up for free to receive to learn about our exclusive products.  We showcase a range of lifestyle products, but all are united by their exceptional workmanship, provenance and aesthetic.  We believe in the importance of story-telling, highlighting the inspiration, creative process and what makes our curator’s finds truly unique.

Q.  What led you to start  Was there an AHA moment for you the gave birth to the idea?

A. The AHA! moment came to me when I was living in Sweden.  I’ve had the opportunity to travel and live all over the world and am constantly discovering unique products that should be globally available.  Designers and brands designer, it is extremely difficult and expensive to expand their brand and products globally.  I wanted to create a discovery destination and platform for people to be able to buy the best the world has to offer.  I wanted to create a destination across your entire lifestyle…versus forcing the consumer to have to go to different categories.  Time is the new luxury and people want to cut through the noise on the internet. is all about cutting through that noise and clutter and working with the most influential tastemakers and experts to discover and make available treasures of the world.

Q.  What makes AHALife a real business instead of just a cool idea?

A.  Since the company launched its site in September 2010, AHAlife has grown its subscriber base by almost 10 times.  We’ve created a sustainable platform that is a destination for the most discerning consumers to find the best unique lifestyle products the world has to offer.  It is very difficult and expensive for a mono-brand to drive high quality awareness and traffic to their site.  We aggregate the most discerning and influential individuals to come to one place, AHAlife, to discover, learn about and purchase.  Over time, as we grow, we will have more and more of an impact for our brands. We are on an incredible growth track right now.  The biggest potential for us is in the global market, and we haven’t even scratched the surface, we will be shipping internationally in the beginning of December.

Q.  I understand you come from Beijing.  What was your path to NYC?

A.  I was born in Inner Mongolia, raised in China and moved to the United States when I was 8 years old.  I grew up in Seattle, and attended MIT studying computer science, electrical engineering and management.   After graduation, I took an investment banking job at Goldman Sachs. While I was at Goldman, I worked on several deals in the luxury space.  I was fascinated by the industry dynamics and a little after a year at Goldman, I resigned to co-found a private equity luxury advisory firm with the former CEO of Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs and Oscar de la Renta.  After several years investing and advising brands in the luxury space, I moved to Sweden to become the COO of Casall; a premium fashionable active wear brand.  It was AHAlife that brought me back to New York City.

Q.  Many Chinese love exclusive products.  Would the AHAlife concept work in China?

A. As an emerging luxury market the Chinese consumer has a natural appreciation for brands and quality.  In the next five years, China’s luxury goods consumption will reach $ 14.6 billion, making it the world’s largest luxury consumer. This incredible growth is driven by consumers constant appetite for history, heritage and knowledge of exclusive products. AHAlife will do well in China for these reasons as we provide a constant stream of unique high quality merchandise with a story.

Q.  What is the hardest part about being an entrepreneur?  What’s your daily challenge?

A.  The most difficult part of being an entrepreneur is having so many ideas and figuring out how to prioritize.

Q.  What’s next for AHALife?  Anything interesting planned for 2012?

A. Stay tuned! Our main focus will be to grow internationally as well as expand to more offline partnerships.  We are opening our first boutique in the SLS Beverly Hills Hotel later this year in partnership with SBE group!

Q.  I ask this question of all global travelers like yourself – What is your favorite airport, hotel and restaurant in the world?

A.  Amsterdam Schiphol, Peninsula Hotel in Kowloon, Hong Kong, Gou Bu Li Bao Zi in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia

Shauna Mei is the founder and CEO of

Thanks Shauna for taking the time to participate in this Q & A session and best to you and

Tour the world in 80 seconds

It’s Sunday night.  I’m in a light mood.  Saw this very cool video put out there by Sony to promote one of their cameras.  Go around the world in 80 seconds. Cool marketing piece.  

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A Creative Twist


I came across this the other day and think it is not only funny as hell but I bet these guys are killing it with these as they describe "soul crushing" posters.  They're actually really funny and there is something for all occasions.

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Cachaça (and great marketing)

I recently came across an ad for Cabana Cachaça (that most excellent Brasilian spirit made from sugarcane juice) which caught my eye for two reasons.  One was for the below image and two was because the ad directs the viewer to the URL with the words “Uncensored Images and More at….” then prints the URL (see below).  This is brilliant marketing.   To top it all off, when you get there the web site is excellent.  Check it out for yourself:

Cabana Cachaça