Nicolas Laverde is from Bogotá, Colombia. He divides his time between there and Toronto, Canada, while frequently traveling to the United States. Bogotá is where most of his family lives, as well as his closest friends and 145-pound Newfoundland dog, Roger.
Along with his dad, Nicolas manages the Laverdieri Club, a sports club (tennis and soccer), an events space, spa, and boutique hotel. “The Club has been around since 1988, and I’ve been working here since 2003,” says Laverde. Since he started, the club has seen much growth, going from seven employees to 60 at one point. Laverdieri Club also offers tennis, football (aka soccer), and basketball lessons. “The nature of the small business has taught me to be involved in each department,” he explains. “From human resources, legal department, to customer service, you name it. I have to be all over the place.”
Owning a business does mean he’s constantly thinking about it, of course. “Maybe it’s just too much passion or too many things to do,” he says. “My head won’t stop processing and creating things.” But for Laverde, customer appreciation and helping employees in their career paths make it all worth it. Running your business, especially one oriented toward customer service, is a lot of work. “Be prepared to ‘serve’ people, your employees, and your customers,” says Laverde. “Be ready to work long hours and learn to lead, manage and motivate your team. Be calm and patient.”
Before joining the Laverdieri Club, Laverde took hundreds of trips worldwide to compete in tennis. “I represented my city, Bogotá, in national tournaments, then my country, Colombia, on tours in the U.S., Central, and South America,” he says.
He also represented South America on European tours and received a sports scholarship to study international business at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida. “All the skills that I developed, not only for tennis but in life in general, have shaped who I am today as an entrepreneur and as a person.” Laverde even played tennis against the great Roger Federer — and yes, that is who his dog is named after.
For people visiting Bogotá, Laverde recommends a trek up Monserrate, the mountain that rises 3,152 meters (10,341 feet) above sea level in the city’s center. (For reference, Bogotá lies 2,640 meters/8,660 feet above sea level.) The church at the top is visible from most of the city below. Before Catholicism was established in the area, Indigenous people such as the Muisca also used the mountain for religious purposes, calling it quijicha caca, meaning “grandmother’s foot.”
You’re bound to be hungry after venturing to such heights. “We have tons of restaurants to choose from,” says Laverde. Typical Colombian food is always a good choice, like ajiaco (chicken and potato soup), frijoles (beans), morcilla (blood sausage), mazorca (corn on the cob), arepas with ají (stuffed maize dough with a spicy sauce), and bandeja paisa, a whole platter of various, hearty foods. “Some local aguardiente cannot be missed,” adds Laverde, referring to the distilled spirit flavored with anise, “alongside some Latin music like merengue, salsa, vallenato, or some reggaeton here and there.”
Colombia is not as dangerous as the news makes it seem, adds Laverde. “And when friends come, they love our city, culture, nightlife, and restaurants.”
by Kara Elder