Hi! My name is Pamela Ayuso. I am CEO and Co-Founder at Celaque, a real estate development company in Honduras. I also run a blog where I share my experiences as an entrepreneur. Ask me anything!

Pamela Ayuso
Mar 5, 2018

Celaque is a real estate development and property management firm. Its current project is Astria, an apartment building, which is under construction. Celaque's next project is an office building in the central business district of Tegucigalpa.

I believe in investing in the best tools available, such as systems and processes, to free up the time to focus on strategy, innovation, and growth. I am happy to discuss my experiences as a real estate entrepreneur, how to implement systems and processes in a growing company or anything else! 

www.celaque.net

www.growbusinessblog.com

www.linkedin.com/in/pamelaayuso/

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Do you have a favorite quote on business/entrepreneurship that you would like to share?
Mar 10, 8:56AM EST0

Yes, here are a few. My favorite is the last one:

“Fall seven times and stand up eight." Japanese Proverb

"I never dreamed about success, I worked for it." Estee Lauder

“Do or do not. There is no try.” Yoda

Mar 10, 9:07AM EST0
What piece of advice would you give to a person who wants to start a business in real estate?
Mar 9, 3:54AM EST0

My first piece of advice would be to find a niche within the market, something that nobody else is doing and that the market needs. Next, I would recommend starting small. Because real estate is a capital-intensive business, it is better to validate your processes and product before going big. Finally, don't be afraid to do things differently. Just because something has always been done one way, does not mean there is not a better way.

Mar 9, 8:16PM EST0
Any books or reading material that you recommend for the successful implementation of entrepreneur skills in 21st century?
Mar 8, 10:32PM EST0

Sarah, thank you for your question on one of my favorite topics: books. Here are some books I would recommend:

  • Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio. This book came out last year. In it, Dalio shares the principles he uses in life both personally and professionally. They are a very valuable way of looking at the world and extremely helpful for an entrepreneur who is building an organization.
  • How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg. The authors write about how they built Google. It has many brilliant ideas that can be implemented in any business at any stage, regardless of industry.
  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck. I think this book is useful to any entrepreneur. The author describes how we can adopt a growth mindset, where the belief is that any talent or capability can be developed. This same mindset can then be extended from individuals to organizations.
  • The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. Habits are powerful tools at a personal and at an organizational level. Duhigg explains in his book how habits work and how we can harness them for growth.
Last edited @ Mar 9, 8:10PM EST.
Mar 9, 7:56PM EST0
What are a few of your success stories regarding your journey as an entrepreneur?
Mar 8, 4:16PM EST0

Hi! Great question. I can share a couple of success stories that come to mind:

  • The first one was when I went to Astria a month ago (our current building under construction) and I saw our model apartments during our first open house. Everybody loved them. The fulfillment of all those months of hard work was worth the wait.
  • Sometimes it's the little things that make all the difference. We spent all of last year implementing our Enterprise Resource Planning software, Netsuite. We wanted to get rid of our Excel-based databases and reports to reduce errors and improve efficiencies. We finally accomplished our goal. Now, I feel a sense of achievement each time I pull up one of those reports on demand.
  • We are designing our next office project and it is almost ready. It took many iterations but we were finally able to achieve the concept we wanted, along with the internal distribution and a design we are proud of.
Mar 9, 7:05PM EST0

What would be your growth strategy (location, target customers, etc.) and future plan for your business? 

Mar 7, 12:42PM EST0

Hi Nitin. The plan is to diversify by location and type. We are currently building an apartment building and will begin construction on an office building soon. We hope to start building in other parts of the city, with different products at different price points. 

Mar 8, 9:11AM EST0
Show all 3 replies
What do you do in the real-estate business?
Mar 5, 1:17PM EST0

Hi Milos! We design, build and sell/lease residential and office buildings. We are currently building an apartment building and are developing an office building, which is set to start construction in the second half of this year. I have worked on the development, operation, and commercialization of nine buildings, including our current one, Astria. 

Mar 5, 4:14PM EST0
How large do you plan on having this apartment complex being?
Mar 5, 1:06PM EST0

Astria has 138 apartments. It is being built in one single stage and should be ready by July of this year. There are apartments with one, two, and three-bedrooms in the building. 

Mar 5, 4:02PM EST0

Is your family in Real Estate? What kind of home did you grow up in?

Mar 5, 12:43PM EST0

My grandfather owned a small hotel and built an apartment building before I was born. Despite growing up around this, I never imagined I would end up in real estate. I even lived next door to the apartment building, in my grandparents' home. The house has only one level and it has a beautiful midcentury modern style. 

Mar 5, 3:56PM EST0

How do you get financing for such a large project? How do you go about it?

Mar 5, 11:43AM EST0

We use a combination of the firm's capital, bank loans, and outside investors. The most significant portion is financing from local banks. 

Obtaining a bank loan can take about two to three months. The first step is to approach the bank to see if they are interested in working in our industry. Once an interest has been established, we start preparing all the documentation the bank requires. We usually have to turn in a variety of information such as financial statements, market studies, and legal documentation. The bank will then analyze all the information. If our loan is acceptable, our case is then presented to the bank's internal committee. The committee will then decide whether to approve the loan and the conditions that will be offered. The process is quite thorough. Once a relationship exists, though, it is easier to obtain more financing in the future. 

Mar 5, 3:49PM EST0
Do you ever manage/supervise the construction zone?
Mar 5, 11:41AM EST0

Hi Gregory! We subcontract the major parts of construction, such as the structure of the building. Our job at Celaque is to oversee all the subcontractors and the construction workers we hire for the parts we manage directly, like masonry. I personally don't supervise that work, we have a great team of engineers and architects that manage the entire construction process. 

Mar 5, 3:40PM EST0
Where is Tegucigalpa and what are the living conditions like?
Mar 5, 11:22AM EST0

Tegucigalpa is the capital of Honduras. It has a population of over one million. The city is the seat of the government, so our primary institutions are located here. Along with the government, most of the embassies and international organizations are headquartered in Tegucigalpa. 

The city has a hilly terrain, which directly affects our industry. We are surrounded by mountains, so we don't have a lot of neighboring flat land to expand as the city grows. This geographic quirk has incentivized the construction of buildings as solutions for both residential and commercial use. 

Mar 5, 1:36PM EST1
Was there anything else you dreamt of doing besides real-estate?
Mar 5, 11:22AM EST0

Hi Violeta! When I was young, I also wanted to be an actress, believe it or not. It was fun to act, but I chose to focus on my other dream of becoming a businesswoman as a career.

I started out in finance, but life led me into real estate. I had had no exposure to the sector before starting to work in real estate, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I ended up enjoying my work in a way I never anticipated. Ten years later I can't imagine working in any other sector. 

Mar 5, 12:53PM EST1
What is the most fun part of your job? Who is your favourite architect of all time? What about favourite building?
Mar 5, 8:53AM EST0

Thanks for that question! The most fun part of my job is creating. I love visualizing ways in which we can solve a problem or innovate a process or product. Then I like finding the right partners to make that vision a reality and bringing that idea into the world. 

For example, with Astria, an apartment building we are currently building, I had the idea of creating beautifully designed interiors that had all the function that our customers wanted at an affordable price. We put together a budget with the goal of giving our customers everything they wanted, and through a lot of hard work and creative decisions, we were able to accomplish the objective. Our model apartments are now ready, and I have to say that I am in love. We were able to give our clients, everything they had asked for, including more light in every room, guest bathrooms, and quartz countertops. Here is an example of a room at Astria:

My favorite architect is Zaha Hadid, who was a visionary. And my favorite building is the Flatiron building in New York. 

Mar 5, 10:37AM EST0
How is the real estate market in Honduras at present? Would you advice investing in real estate there at the moment and why?
Mar 5, 7:13AM EST0

Honduras is a country that is developing and grows steadily year over year. It is also a country that is becoming more and more urban as people migrate from rural areas. Finally, Tegucigalpa, the capital city, in particular also grows every year, yet the real estate sector has been undercapitalized for many years. There is a lot of demand for both residential and commercial structures, and the supply is not always steady.

The combination of all these factors makes this city an excellent place to invest in real estate development, in my opinion. I have worked on the development of 9 buildings including our current project, Astria, and so far we have been able to lease or sell all of the space successfully. 

If you are interested in investing in Honduras, let me know, I can help to point you in the right direction!

Mar 5, 10:37AM EST0

Do you have partners in the business? Who is/are your co-founder/s? How did you come up with this idea of a real estate development company?

Mar 4, 4:01PM EST0

Hi! I have been working in real estate development for a decade, so starting Celaque was a very natural transition. Plus I have learned a lot about the sector and have a passion for it. My partner and co-founder is also my husband. We were partners at a prior real estate development firm and decided to go off on our own. 

Mar 5, 10:40AM EST0
Did you also build your own home? If not, would you like your own company to work on your own family home or would you rather go with another company?
Mar 4, 2:31PM EST0

I would trust our Projects team with anything. They are fantastic builders, and I enjoy working with them. We also have some of the most reputable suppliers in our city, so we already have the infrastructure in place for any construction, including my own home. 

Mar 4, 7:21PM EST0
What is the hardest thing about your job? Is technology making it easier? Are you and people in the industry scared of losing jobs because of advanced technology or it is mostly seen as positive?
Mar 4, 1:49PM EST0

Hi! One of the main challenges in our industry is that we can't experiment and iterate as others can. We design a building, which then takes 18 months to construct. In that time, there may have been changes in the market that are difficult to respond to once a project was initiated.

Technology does make us more nimble. We have found that every upgrade has made our process and our product better. Our team can focus, therefore, on our core values rather than having to spend time putting out fires. 

Last edited @ Mar 4, 7:13PM EST.
Mar 4, 7:10PM EST0
Is it harder for you in this fields as real estate is notoriously considered ‘a man thing’?
Mar 4, 11:28AM EST0

Although I have a lot of male colleagues, I also work with many women. On the financing side, for example, almost 100% of the people I work with are women. I haven't felt that my career has ever been held back for that reason. If anything, it may have helped me view things from a different perspective. 

Mar 4, 7:00PM EST0
Where and how do you source partners for the company? For example lighting, furniture, interior etc, do you have companies you work with long term or that changes per project?
Mar 4, 8:36AM EST0

Celaque is relatively new, but a part of the team has been involved in real estate development for over a decade. In that time, we have developed close relationships with many of our suppliers. Many, in fact, have grown with us. We have worked on previous projects with the majority of the suppliers that are involved in Astria. We value those relationships and hope to continue growing together.

Mar 4, 6:51PM EST0
Are you planning to rent out units in the apartment building or will you be selling the units?
Mar 4, 12:53AM EST0

Yes, we will be doing both, selling and leasing. Usually, we will start selling even before the building is finished. For residential buildings, some clients like to see what they are purchasing so they will wait to buy when the building is underway. 

Last edited @ Mar 4, 7:16PM EST.
Mar 4, 6:46PM EST0
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