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Portrait of Nidia Penagos, Founder and Director of Uncover Colombia.

March 9, 2020, 12:36 pm

As some of you might already know, Uncover Colombia was founded and is directed by a woman. As International Women’s Week kicks off, we would like to present you; Nidia. In this interview, she shares with us a bit of her story, why she created the company and how she manages to juggle her home life as a mother of twins and being a businesswoman.


Hi Nidia, tell me a little bit about what you were doing before creating Uncover Colombia

I am an Industrial Engineer, and before Uncover Colombia, I spend various years working in the production and quality control areas in various companies in Colombia and also in the UK. I’ve also studied a Master in Strategy Management and a Diploma in Quality Assurance. Nothing related to the tourism industry.

I came to the UK in 2004

 

When did you start Uncover Colombia and what pushed you to do it?   

I’ve always wanted to have my own company and after a few years in London, I was tired of hearing comments about narcotraffic and drugs in Colombia. I wanted to do something to help a little bit to change that image.

At the same time, I’ve met people interested in travelling to South America, including Colombia. They were asking me about where to go, which places to visit in Colombia, etc. So, when I learned that one of the pillars of the Colombian government (at that time) was the tourism, I thought it could be an opportunity to do it.  It was the perfect way to combine my desire to create my own business while doing something for Colombia. This idea started at the end of 2010.

 

So how did you do it?

I have a good friend in Colombia with experience in the tourism industry, I talked to him about the idea, and he jumped straight in. We started working on the business plan, looking for some capital and then finally, in June 2012, we registered the company.  

We didn't have much money, so we had to do many things by ourselves. Work long hours and learn many new skills, from Legal, Finance to Marketing and Operations.

 

What were the difficulties? How did you get through them?

The first difficulty was to promote Colombia as a new destination. It was very tricky to go against the perception of Colombia as a dangerous country. We had to push harder, write a lot about the country, why it was worth visiting it and explain that it is becoming a safe destination. Off course, the Colombian government was also doing an excellent job of promoting the country, which also helped us.

Being a small company is not always easy. The resources are limited, so you need to be very creative to use resources and prioritise the work and plans you think could have a more significant impact.

Having your own business is a dream many people have, but at the same time, it’s challenging. It can feel very disheartening, especially in moments where you feel like it isn’t possible to carry on or when you have so much work to do than you don't even know where to start. You have to be strong and very disciplined to do it.

 

How do you manage with your kids, and how was it at the beginning?

Having my own business has given me the flexibility I require, as a mom of twins, to be able to take care of them as well as continue working. It has been tough, particularly the first year, when the lack of sleep affects your general performance. Fortunately, we got help from our families, especially during the first six months, which allowed me to have something to work. The support of the rest of my business partners and the rest of the teams was also crucial to be able to do it.


What does Uncover Colombia bring to you?

Working at Uncover Colombia has been the most challenging and rewarding experience in my career. The satisfaction of doing what I love but also having the opportunity to do something for my country is fantastic. With Uncover Colombia, we have been able not only to help to promote the country as a fantastic and safe destination but also have the opportunity to work with local communities and help them to get sustainable benefits from tourism. This feeling helps me to carry on creating new adventures and ways to promote Colombia. This is a feeling that I share with the Uncover Colombia team.

 

What is your favourite tour?

My favourite tour is the Colombian Amazon Tour. You can see how spectacular this region of Colombia is in just four days. The area has an incredible mix of wildlife, stunning views of the Amazon river and the unique traditions of local communities.

 

What do you do outside Uncover Colombia? Any hobbies?

Since the twins were born, it has been a bit difficult to have some time for myself. I spend most of my time with the kids and my husband, which I enjoyed so much. But I have to say that I missed a little bit spending time doing puzzles and building dollhouses. I hope I can do it again soon, maybe the kids will love it as well.

I also love hiking, my husband and I used to spend the weekends visiting natural reserves to hike a do some birding as well. We hope to do it again very soon and take the kids with us.


In conclusion, where would you like to be in five years?

I hope that in five years, we will offer more exciting experiences and adventures in Colombia that allow visitors to see the amazing natural landscapes and the unique traditions and culture of the local communities.

 

Share with your traveller friends!

Leslie Anglade
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Leslie Anglade

Leslie is from a small town in France, but she moved as soon as she could to start exploring new horizons. She went to London after finishing her studies and was supposed to stay there only six months to learn English, but she fell in love with the city and never moved back. She started working for Uncover Colombia as an Oline Marketing Manager, and the next step will be for her to go to Colombia as her dream has always been to travel to South America.

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