From Civil War Survivor to Rental Car Entrepreneur
The interview with Rember Guevara of Service Car Rental was ending when he looked at me pensively and said, “There is really so much more, what happened in my life, and how I got to Costa Rica.” I said, “What do you mean?” not knowing anything about his past. He then explained how he and his mother and brother were fugitives from the horrible civil war in El Salvador in the ’70’s and ‘80’s – the intimidation, the atrocities, and luckily, how they eventually were able to flee to Costa Rica.
To me, this put an even a greater emphasis on his story of entrepreneurship that I had just listened to. Here was a person that had started out with some of the worst disadvantages in life, and now, he was the owner of a successful rental car company in Costa Rica, which is an extremely competitive market. What a compelling testimony not only to him as a person, but also to Costa Rica for providing the environment in which he could reach his potential.
“I was set back 4 grades in school when I came to Costa Rica as a 10 year old, but later on, I became a class President! I always believed in hard work and wanted to make my mother proud who worked so hard to provide for us.”
After gaining experience by working for a locally owned rental car company for 4 years that eventually went broke, Rember was determined to learn from the mistakes he observed. He believed that by working hard, stressing excellent service, being frugal in your personal life, and putting what you earned back into the business, that he could succeed where they did not. He had ambitious goals.
He opened his new “business” in 2001, in his home, after his previous car rental employer closed their doors, owing all of its employees’ months of back salary. Working from home, with his new baby on one knee and his laptop on the other, he perused relationships he had made in the business, took a course on website building from New Horizons, and constructed his own website for Service Car Rental, which he still updates today. “Times were really hard then money wise, so I would take care of our two children while my wife, Sianny, worked for ATH in customer service. I made some money at home by referral bookings from previous clients as well as from my new web site. I advertised on the CANATUR website, as well as another powerful tourism website, and I would fill the reservation requests through cooperating rental car companies that knew me. I had the reservations; they had the cars.”
Taking all the money he was able to save after almost 2 years and then borrowing even more from 3 other friends and relatives, he was able to come up with enough money to put a down payment on his first rental car. But, he had to finance the rest, and that part took 4 months for a bank to finally approve a loan, but only with a co-signer and on a lease, not a sale. With no real “job”, starting a new business, this was not your typical secure bank car loan. But, Rember was not your typical borrower, and with persistence, he finally got his car.
Now, 9 years later, by paying attention to his initial mantra – hard work, excellent service, and putting your profits back into the business, Rember owns a fleet of 45 rental cars. Besides himself, the working owner / president of the company, he has three other multi-tasking employees that can do just about anything. “I farm out my mechanical work to trusted mechanics and dealers that can take care of me right away when the cars need attention. My accountant, too, is self employed. Just essential, full time employees are on the payroll. This helps me survive during the slow months, when I sometimes have to dip into the business saving to pay loans for some of my new cars. My wife and I still live simply, preferring to live frugally now and put the profits back into the business. I keep my business overhead down, and we keep our personal spending down. That is the best way to insure our survival as a business. The company I had worked for before didn’t do that.”
“Well, Rember, where do you see yourself 10 years from now – with 100 cars,” I quipped? He smiled and said, “Well, actually, some months I have a 100 car fleet right now because I get bookings for other agencies! Then, other times, they send me business when they’re out of a particular car. But, yes, I will continue to grow. But as for now, with my new baby, our third and last,” he beamed, “I am just thankful to God for his blessings and to Costa Rica.”Explore posts in the same categories: Business, Cars and Driving, Travel