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Bisila Bokoko, the voice of experience in international trade.

Bisila Bokoko

Bisila Bokoko, born in Valencia in 1974, defines herself as "a cultural hybrid. Born in Spain to African parents, I am now a U.S. citizen and have lived in New York City for the past fifteen years. She is a reference, both as a person, for her numerous charitable projects, as well as for her great professional career.

She began her professional career at the law firm of Carbo & Martinez in Valencia as a legal assistant. After 2 years she began her career in the field of international relations. She was in charge of the Export Institute of Valencia (now IVACE) for 6 years. In 2005 she became Executive Director of the Spain-US Chamber of Commerce until 2012. Given her extensive professional background, Bisila has a unique vision of the commercial relations between Spanish and U.S. companies. Therefore, we wanted to ask her a series of questions that Spanish exporting SMEs will find very interesting.

"The American market is divided into 5 submarkets geographically and you have to take into account the different cultures in order to meet the needs of the different groups that are multicultural."

How was your experience as director of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in the United States, breaking the so-called “glass ceiling”?

My experience as Executive Director of the Spanish Chamber in the United States was one of the most enriching experiences of my life and a great learning experience. I was fortunate to be surrounded by magnificent leadership in the person of the Chairman upon my arrival, Mario Diaz-Cruz III, and a Board of Directors who believed in me. I was given the opportunity to work with a lot of flexibility and was given room to grow. I also encountered some challenges and became a hurdler.

Given your trajectory in IVACE and the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in the United States, how has the process of expansion of companies to this country changed? What were the actions you carried out during your time as Executive Director that marked a before and after?

The Spanish business environment when I started was very different from what it is today, and I witnessed its rapid evolution. In 2000, when I arrived in the United States, I found companies that had many fears and complexes about the country, and little by little they gained confidence and became better prepared to establish themselves in the market. Already in 2006, I noticed very visible changes. In addition, a very significant step was taken since companies not only wanted to sell in the USA but also to invest and set up companies in the country.

I lived through a very sweet period because the big Spanish companies in infrastructure, finance, and energy, began to make large investments, and I was part of these processes, it was very rewarding for everyone. On the other hand, we set our sights on less traditional sectors, since in those years fashion, art, culture, and technology were not promoted too much, and we worked to carry this out, as well as to support entrepreneurs. There was a lot of support for the traditional businessman and little for the entrepreneur or start-up, and we created the Young Entrepreneur of the Year award, for example.

World Investment Forum, 2018

What do you think are the key factors in expanding into the U.S.? What would you say to SMEs that are considering opening up to the U.S. market?

The fundamental factor when expanding is to take into account the legal framework of the United States, which is complex, and to have prior advice. The assistance of an accountant is also an important factor to have a clear accounting.

Understand that the American market is geographically divided into 5 submarkets and take into account the different cultures in order to meet the needs of the different groups that are multicultural. Relying on Chambers of Commerce, Trade Offices, or private consultants is important to have access to importers, distributors or potential partners is very convenient and facilitates the work.