Starting My Own Business in Cuba

Osmel Almaguer

Small business. Photo: Caridad

Since the issuing of licenses was approved for anyone who wants to become a self-employed worker, many people have gotten busy putting together their own businesses.  This is occurring especially in the areas of food service and the sale of light articles like handicrafts, clothes, etc.

The numbers of sales points have increased significantly across the entire city.  It’s even seeming like this will create a good opportunity for our battered economy to recover a little.  Sure, everything depends on the government’s regulating without being overbearing, on people being able to make good money, and on the availability of wholesale supplies and raw materials so that self-employed workers can actually carry out their work.

The minister of Internal Commerce has just been given the boot, so it seems that he wasn’t on top of his job in making sure that those things were in place.

Still, while lots of folks have begun setting up their small businesses, not all will succeed.  There are mysterious laws now operating here that are practically unknown to most Cubans: like the law of supply and demand, competition, profitability and maximum efficiency.  As a result of these, the lines at the Department of Labor are long; lots of people are already turning their licenses back in.

Efficiency has been a much talked about concept over these last fifty years, but without results since it has been imposed as an abstract idea.

With competition it’s necessary to give the customer what they want, not like things have been up until now with the vendors mistreating and cheating everybody.  To succeed, now it will be necessary to achieve a perfect balance between the rational use of resources and appeal of the product.

I too have begun to toy with the idea of becoming an owner of a food stand.  Sure, I don’t have hopes of becoming rich, because even though many of the obstacles have been eliminated, others have emerged to take their place, especially those that guarantee that no one — absolutely no one — will be making a lot of money if the government doesn’t want them too.

My expectations are to be able to take care of some of our basic problems of food, clothing and shelter, the same things I’ve been commenting on over these years Havana Times’ existence.  Those same headaches suffered by the majority of Cubans.


Osmel Almaguer:Until recently I would to identify myself as a poet, a cultural promoter and a university student. Now that my notions on poetry have changed slightly, that I got a new job, and that I have finished my studies, I’m forced to ask myself: Am I a different person? In our introductions, we usually mention our social status instead of looking within ourselves for those characteristics that define us as unique and special. The fact that I’m scared of spiders, that I’ve never learned to dance, that I get upset over the simplest things, that culminating moments excite me, that I’m a perfectionist, composed but impulsive, childish but antiquated: these are clues that lead to who I truly am.

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3 thoughts on “Starting My Own Business in Cuba

  • I am interested in opening an
    English school in Habana.

  • We would like to do a trade simulation involving some commodities coming from the philippines to cuba. Is it possible to export neutrogena-like clear bath soap and shampoo bars direct to any mini-grocery like outlet in cuba? I mean, what regulatory issues should we prepare for? Unfortunately, the cuban embassy in manila just closed shop and kuala lumpur is not that near to just make inquiries. The source will be a philippine sme with a small but established soap making facility. Please also comment on the possible price range for a typical bar of bathsoap and shampoo bar if possible.

  • Good luck with your business (ad)venture!

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