In January 2019, I visited Bogotá, Colombia along with my parents and Priscilla. One of the sites that we visited was Plaza Bolívar which is the main square in Bogotá. This square is home to their judicial and executive branches of government as well as a beautiful cathedral. As we were walking about, taking in the sight of the amazing architecture and looking at the obscene amount of pigeons, we noticed some oblea stands.
This was around our fourth day in Colombia and I had kept hearing about obleas as well as seen various places advertising them. An oblea is a Colombian dessert that has a thin layer of arequipe, or dulce de leche, sandwiched between two wafers. We approached a street that had at least six oblea vendors all clustered next to each other. Every stand was individually owned and operated but they were all within a thirty second walk of one another. As Priscilla and I looked on at the vendors while pondering whom to get an oblea from, I noticed that most of them were selling their obleas for the equivalent of one dollar. However, there was one woman who was selling her obleas for two dollars.
I looked at the menus and didn’t see anything notable about why these obleas should cost an extra dollar. While it’s only a dollar in the grand scheme of things, this price represented a 100% markup compared to her competitors. Was this oblea really twice as good as the other ones mere steps away?
What only added to my confusion was that many of the oblea stands had some variation of Mick Jagger’s face or the Rolling Stones logo. Either Mick Jagger was diversifying his income streams to sell desserts in Colombia or vendors were taking advantage of a popular icon to sell their products.
But why the Rolling Stones? I didn’t see any Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin oblea stands during my time in Colombia.
Either way, it still didn’t answer my question as to why this one woman’s obleas were a dollar more.
I needed to find out.
We purchased two obleas for a grand total of four dollars. We immediately ate them and concluded that they were delicious. However, they were probably the same as all of the other obleas on that street. Who knows? For the sake of my dentist, I elected not to have a second oblea immediately after from an adjacent stand!
Later that evening, I was still curious about the mystery of this oblea. It continued to weigh on my mind, a mental beast of burden, if you will.
That evening, I learned that while there were a few stands with Mick Jagger or Rolling Stone branding on them, we happened to purchase obleas from Janeth Gutierrez. Now if you had asked me that morning who Janeth Gutierrez was, I would have told you I didn’t know. However, in 2016, Mick Jagger had an oblea from the very same stand we did after the Rolling Stones performed their first concert in Colombia. This put Janeth on the proverbial map as far as obleas went.
She would later leverage her transaction of selling an oblea to a man she did not recognize at the time and use it to boost her sales.
And sure enough, when I think back to that day, I only went to her oblea stand because she had sold one to Mick Jagger, albeit indirectly. I may not have known about it at the time but the fact that Janeth Gutierrez had the confidence to stand in a sea of oblea vendors and charge twice as much as others communicated an important fact to me.
She knew that her obleas were worth it. Heck, a Rolling Stone had one!
That brazen confidence led to a rebranding of her stand and an increase in sales. The branding may have been copied by her fellow competitors on the street but one thing remains; only one oblea vendor has sold to a Rolling Stone and only one oblea vendor on that street can get away with charging $2 for an oblea.
Just like Janeth Gutierrez knows the value that she can command, you too must be unafraid to know your value.
It is not until we recognize our own value that we can both get what we need and what we want. (Last pun I promise!)
Originally published at the EID Visions Blog on January 22, 2021.