Having lived in several countries and worked within various international organisations in different industries, it would be fair to describe Joaquin Pinto Ferrand as a global citizen. Originally hailing from Peru, he studied Political Science and International Affairs in Paris, France, before gaining valuable experience in a wide spectrum of industries.
Among these, he describes leading projects in microfinance in rural communities in the South American Andes as a particularly enriching experience, as well as an interesting role within the mining sector: one of the most important economic activities in South America. “I worked with international companies in gold, silver and copper mines, creating relationships with governments, organisations and local communities to bring development projects into the community,” he explains.
After that, he was employed by Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche as Public Policy Manager. “As Roche is a global company, I was working with stakeholders across different regions to facilitate conditions for access to innovation in the medical industry for patients,” Joaquin maintains – and while on the surface these avenues may appear wildly different, at their core is one element that has always appealed to him.
“It is the ability to communicate with stakeholders at different levels, from the community to higher levels of an organisation, bringing them together for specific objectives that make an impact. I really believe in working together to make things happen,” he smiles.
It was while he was at Roche that Joaquin dipped his toe into entrepreneurship for the first time, drawing on his love of literature to set up a publishing company. Yet while he’s the first to admit that it wasn’t “a money maker”, it did serve an arguably more useful purpose: “it was a great school for me. As my first introduction to the corporate world, I learned a lot from it, and the company still exists today – it has served as somewhat of a sandbox.”
It was his personal life that brought him to Malta. After visiting the island on honeymoon, Joaquin moved here permanently with his wife, and it wasn’t long before he founded his second company, a consulting firm for the pharma sector. “This was in 2019, and the company has been very successful. I employ consultants around the world, and it’s something that has really worked well with the international dimension of my career,” he maintains.
Some time later, another life change prompted him to start something new. “I got divorced, and decided to begin an MBA programme with a British University in Malta,” he explains. It was here that he met Juan Manuel, who would become Co-Founder in his next venture: Boom Studies.
“We became good friends right away, and often discussed the different pain points shared by our classmates, international students that came to Malta who had a difficult time finding information, proper housing, and other issues,” he says, explaining that this prompted the pair to create a business plan based on this for the MBA.
“Boom Studies started out as an academic project. We wanted to find the solutions that we could implement to make life easier for international students. Upon telling some friends about the project, they became interested in investing, so without actually trying, we raised the funds, and that’s how it started! We decided to incorporate the company in Malta and give it a try,” Joaquin recalls.
The company’s mission at the outset was clear: to help students gain the very best international experience. Given his own journey, it is a cause that is close to Joaquin’s heart. “I’ve had the chance throughout my life to experience different countries, and I know that it can be hard, for various reasons. We want to help people take that important step, because this creates global citizens, and that in itself is important. Understanding different markets and different ways of thinking opens new doors,” he says.
The pair hit the ground running, and at the outset, their immediate focus was finding trustworthy partners, good schools, reputable housing, insurance to help students cover the journey, and activities they can engage in, making Boom “a one-stop-shop where students can plan their journey with someone that speaks their native language, and can help them make their plans a reality.”
Since then, the company has grown exponentially, and today, international expansion is front of mind for the Co-Founders. “We are expanding to Canada, Dubai and Ireland. We just inaugurated our offices in Montreal, and we have teams in all the destinations. We are now focused on making new partnerships with schools and service providers and meeting all the teams,” says Joaquin, admitting that, with this growth comes added challenges. “We are 40 people now, scattered across 10 different countries, so it can be difficult to coordinate, especially with some of the time differences! The administrative part is very complex, and trust is very important.”
Another important focus is fundraising, he reveals. “Because we are always innovating, we always want to improve on what we have and provide new services, and this requires a lot of investment in different technologies. We are hybrid workers – while we have offices in different countries, we also believe in a high-performance digital structure that allows people to navigate information and acquire different services.”
Throughout his journey, Joaquin credits one aspect of his outlook with opening up myriad opportunities above all else. “I think it’s a way of facing life, without fear of change. Embracing change and believing there are always new opportunities. I truly believe that when you are in a comfort zone, doors can close to you. They open when you decide to look further into a space beyond where you are comfortable. I’ve been doing this my entire life, sometimes by choice and other times by circumstances.”
This translates into his thoughts on leadership. Joaquin believes that above all, a good leader has to have the capacity and be open to learn, or risk becoming obsolete in the face of innovation. “You also have to be resilient and adapt – that means implementing changes,” he maintains, adding that the balance between adopting a human approach and having good business sense is also essential.
Sharing some of the lessons he’s learned along the way, Joaquin makes a case for taking measured risks, admitting when you’re out of your depth and building (and maintaining) a good reputation. Ultimately, however, his advice to aspiring leaders is to take the plunge, while always sticking to your values.
“If you feel that you have it in you to be an entrepreneur, take the risk. Surround yourself with like-minded people who have the same values. The most important part of doing business is having your values right – that way, you can run your business with a clear conscience. Keep your values as your North star, and follow them without question. Finally, never stop learning. You can never say ‘I know it all’.”
The interview forms part of the 50 Business Leaders project. The online serialisation on MaltaCEOs.mt will feature 50 distinguished business leaders, CEOs, and emerging business minds to create debate and encourage business leaders to share their journey with our readers.
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