In 2019, Alberto Soto competed in GSEA and pitched his company, Utopia Premium Teas. He placed second at the 2019 GSEA Global Finals in Macau, China and is continuing his work with Utopia. In addition to his first company, Soto is also the CEO of Tunart, another company he started that helps artisanal fishermen in Guatemala sell their fish.
When Soto was at a sushi restaurant in Guatemala, he asked the owner where the fish was from. She told him it was imported from Vietnam, and she would never use local Guatemalan fish at her restaurant, since it is too low quality.
This information struck Soto’s social entrepreneurial spirit, so he decided to find a solution that led him to start Tunart.
“We didn’t even see it as a business. We just wanted to solve the problem that local fishermen couldn’t sell their fish,” Soto said.
Soto soon realized that Guatemalan fishermen did not have access to the right resources to keep their fish fresh. This problem led to a low demand for locally sourced fish and very low profits for the fishermen.
One of the main roots of the problem was no access to ice factories on the coasts. So, he invested in an ice factory and started giving out ice to the fishermen for free to help keep their fish fresh. This helped increase the quality of the fish, as well as the demand for Guatemalan fish, both locally and internationally.
Now, Tunart has a few boats to catch the company’s own fish, but also buys 90 percent of their fish from local Guatemalan fishermen. Overall, Tunart catches, buys, processes, exports and distributes fish to international markets.
Becoming A Student Entrepreneur
From a very young age, Soto knew he wanted to reach his entrepreneurial goals. So, he decided to get started as soon as possible.
Soto’s journey as a student entrepreneur was not easy, and he often considered dropping out of university. After talking it through with the dean at the Universidad Francisco Marroquín in Guatemala, he decided to continue his student entrepreneurship, but also had to make sacrifices in both areas.
While his grades were not perfect, he was able to continue growing, both as a student and as an entrepreneur at the same time. Earning his college degree ultimately helped Soto stand out as an entrepreneur when seeking investors for his company.
“The fact that I had already won an entrepreneur competition and I had a college background gave the investors I approached a bit of confidence that, at least there was something behind this kid that they could trust,” Soto said.
In 2019, Soto got a call about if he would like to participate in the local GSEA competition. Soto said yes and asked when it was. The competition was in only a few hours. Even though he was not prepared, he attended the competition, pitched his company Utopia Premium Teas and continued to win multiple events in Guatemala. Soto eventually took second place overall at the GSEA Global Finals in Macau, China against the top student entrepreneurs from over 50 countries.
You can view his winning presentation here on YouTube.
“Without GSEA, I couldn’t have accomplished anything that happened to me afterward,” Soto said.
Experiencing other student entrepreneurs doing incredible things was very motivating for Soto. Since he is a competitive person, he said he enjoys being exposed to others who are more successful than he is, because it raises the bar in a good way.
“It is good when someone is better than you. You see them as an opportunity that you can do more. Sometimes you feel like you cannot improve, but then you see someone who is more successful, and you realize being better is possible,” Soto said.
Becoming an EO Member
In October 2021, Soto became an EO member. He said a big reason for his success in reaching the membership requirements was approaching Tunart as an opportunity to solve a social problem using a scientific method, rather than as a business plan.
“As an economist, I see social problems and I want to solve them. I really believe the best way of solving problems is through enterprises and private businesses because they are self-sustainable,” Soto said.
In order to reach success with a company, Soto recommends focusing on a problem and working very hard to find a solution for both the suppliers and clients. Additionally, he suggests starting now, starting small, learning and fixing any issues. Once you have your process down, scale and invest.
As a new EO member, Soto is excited to be a part of a network of entrepreneurs, who he can open up to with business experiences and problems.
“There is a lot more empathy and the entrepreneurs have had those experiences before, so they can teach you. Through their experiences, you can learn. Life is about learning,” Soto said.
In the short term, Soto plans to get his business to a stable $15 million in annual revenue, so he can begin to pursue other social entrepreneurship endeavors. In the long term, he would like to become the president of Guatemala and unite the surrounding countries of Central America.
“We are very small countries divided, and there is no reason to be divided. We are the same thing, we have the same culture, we have the same language, we have the same everything, but we are divided,” Soto said. “That’s my long-term goal, and that’s why I started early.”