The Perfect Blend: Consulting and Coffee—Our March Alum of the Month

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IES Abroad

After studying abroad and graduating in 2012, Jose Ramon Campos (Nantes, Spring 2011) worked for the French government in Grenoble to perfect his French skills. When his contract was up, he returned to the United States to start a business consulting firm, Dan & Camp Consulting. One year later, he’s opened up a French coffeehouse and bakery in San Antonio, Texas.

Learn how studying abroad inspired Jose’s latest endeavor and brought him back to France to find the perfect bakers.

IES Abroad: Why did you choose to study abroad in Nantes?
Jose Ramon Campos:
My goal was to learn French and immerse myself in the language, culture, food, and way of life in France. Nantes was the perfect opportunity. I was placed with a French host family, and all of my courses were in French. In Nantes, unlike Paris, very few people speak English, so I had to learn French. After four and half months, I was nearly fluent.

IES Abroad: What were some of your most memorable study abroad experiences?
My entire experience was full of lasting memories, from my friends and teachers, to Nantes as a city itself and the IES Abroad field trips. I became really close with my host family. They included me on their family vacations and took me to their chateau. On several trips back to France, I visited them each time. Before studying abroad, I had not traveled much and had never been to Europe. Now, I have visited 36 countries, and I attribute my study abroad experience as the impetus to my travels.

IES Abroad: You went on to serve as an IES Abroad Ambassador. Why was this important to you?
JRC: Coming back to Southern Methodist University, I felt like everyone should have the chance to study in a different country, learn another language, and expand his or her cultural and intellectual horizons. I gave talks and presentations about my experience and encouraged other students to go abroad. In 2013, I was honored with the Ambassador of the Year Award and had the opportunity to attend the Annual Conference in Chicago.

IES Abroad: When you first arrived in Nantes, did you have any career goals in mind?
My majors were Economics, Finance, and Political Science. My career goals before and after Nantes were the same, utilizing my studies to start a business or two in various industries. But my experience in Nantes helped open me to different cultures, ways of life, and thinking. For instance, after Nantes, I spent the summer working in Amman, Jordan, with Iraqi refugee girls, and I learned to read and write Arabic. I feel like Nantes started a cycle of cultural growth for me.

IES Abroad: What led you to co-found your firm Dan & Camp Consulting?
Upon returning from Grenoble and after my second stint in France after graduating, I came back home to San Antonio. One of my best friends approached me with the idea of starting a business consulting firm. He had a business management background and had successfully run his family’s firm for six years. We moved forward quickly and have been helping small, local businesses grow efficiently ever since.

IES Abroad: What services do you offer and who is your typical client?
We offer various business services, but most of our clients bring us on for marketing, strategy, operations, and management work. We don’t have a typical client in terms of industry, as we have worked with international wholesalers, dentists, dance studios, brokers, casino dealers, and even cemetery service firms. But an overarching characteristic is that our clients are business people seeking to both expand and grow their business or need help solving a problem. In terms of numbers, our clients range in gross yearly sales from $50,000 to $6 million. Some are just starting out, while others have been in business for 25 years.

IES Abroad: In addition to consulting, you recently opened CommonWealth Coffeehouse & Bakery in San Antonio. What inspired you to start the business?
The coffeehouse actually started out as a client for my firm. When the coffeehouse ran into issues with the city and zoning, I got deeply and personally involved. I helped run a political campaign to elect a business-friendly councilman and a public relations campaign to win over the neighborhood association. Both were successful and we opened the coffeehouse six months later. By that time the owner had approached me and offered me a stake. Although the coffeehouse was not my idea, it did take on some of my vision for a coffeehouse and bakery, which was molded by my experience in France. Looking back, I remember returning to San Antonio in the summer of 2013, when we started the consulting firm, and missing French pâtisseries—that simple French luxury of having boulangeries everywhere and being able to walk across the street and get fresh, quality bread and pastries.

IES Abroad: Your coffeehouse has two bakers from France. How did you find them?
I put out job offers in France and received over 250 applicants. I interviewed approximately 30 via Skype and personally flew out to two tiny towns in France and interviewed our bakers. We have been open six weeks now and the English they know spans from the seven weeks they have been here. When I first got back from France, I would never hear French spoken in San Antonio, but now we speak it all the time in the coffeehouse. We have had the small French community come out, and I meet more French people every day who come to visit us.

IES Abroad: Did you build any skills abroad that have impacted how you run your businesses?
Definitely—the open mindedness that one can acquire while traveling. Business is about steering through difficulties and hurdles on the way to certain targets and goals. Having an open mind and analyzing the variables without stress has really helped me. Immersing oneself in a foreign country takes effort and perseverance, as well as pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and not being afraid of embarrassment. I think that correlates with business. In the end, it’s just about dealing with people.

IES Abroad: What advice would you give to current students who are thinking of studying or interning abroad?
I knew I wanted to study abroad from my first day at SMU, so I started planning ahead. I started taking a lot of my courses for my majors, leaving the generic requirements for my time abroad, thus leaving me more options on where to go. You get this amazing chance to live and study abroad. Regret is awful, but regretting the chance to make lasting memories, life-defining experiences, and lifelong friends is not something I have to live with.


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