Se enamoraron de vacaciones y ahora lideran un boom de emprendedores LGBT+ en Colombia

Patrick and Julián have been together since they met in 2015. More than a year ago they founded KreARCE, a company that develops other ventures in Bogotá.

Thanks to the projects they undertake together, Julián Arce and Patrick Knoedler hardly ever separate. In their day to day they share an office, they accompany each other in meetings with suppliers or partners and together they close deals. Born in distant continents and with an age difference of 14 years, they carry dissimilar life experiences, but they combine their visions about what to bet on in business or where to go to have fun; like when they met in the middle of a vacation in Cancun and began to unite their love story with that of their professional passions.

The year was 2015 and the Arena Festival was being held in Playa del Carmen, one of the largest musical events that brings together the LGBT+ community in the world. They both attended with separate groups of friends. They never met there, but while Patrick, a German, stayed a few more days in Mexico, Julián, a Colombian, missed a flight and was forced to stay another week at a friend’s house. In order not to get bored, he entered Grindr, he met someone on a Wednesday and when he went to the agreed site, his date did not appear. On the way home he stopped at a hotel to get the free Wi-Fi signal. There he reopened the application. A man greeted him, the geolocation said he was staying at that hotel. It was Patrick, who asked her to come in. Julian walked through the door and they didn’t come out again until two days later.

On a car trip to the beaches of Tulum, they discovered that mutual interest was growing. “I said I didn’t want a partner because I was in a reset of my life,” explains Julián. “Him too, because he had been single for about three years after two long relationships.” Thus, they chose not to pair up, although “from the first moment” they knew that “the thing was serious.” “Let’s be friends,” they agreed to avoid disappointment.

Together with the KreARCE team, one of his ventures.
Together with the KreARCE team, one of his ventures.

“That was the worst thing we could say, because then we started hanging out as friends and we liked each other better.” Julián remembers it in a video call next to Patrick, from the office where they work together in Bogotá. A week after that meeting in Cancun, he went to visit Patrick in Panama, where he was staying for the European winter. At the airport he had a mishap: because he did not have the 500 dollars in cash that they demanded as a requirement to enter, they returned it. When he landed after a sad return trip, he found on his cell phone a message from Patrick telling him that he was leaving on the next flight to Colombia.

In the following months they saw each other in Panama, in Germany and returned to Colombia at the end of the same year, when they decided to start living together. They have not married, but they are registered as a de facto union to guarantee Patrick’s residence in the country, where he has already been for seven years.

To communicate they speak Spanish, although at the beginning they alternated it with English. “We had agreed that we would speak English, for me to improve mine, but he is not a good teacher and I am not such a good student,” Julián jokes.

Julian and Patrick often take business and pleasure trips together.
Julian and Patrick often take business and pleasure trips together.

One of their “strengths” to be able to do almost everything together is “having a lot of fun”. They had a two-year honeymoon in which they traveled and began to conceive projects together. “To tie our lives together and do something between the two,” says Julián, “I studied a master’s degree in Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Spain.” Patrick, a biologist by profession, brought a background as an entrepreneur in his native country. Julián had also been a dance teacher at schools, universities and gyms.

One of the activities they enjoyed the most was going to restaurants and getting to know new places, seeing the decoration, the way the dishes were presented. One night, in an establishment in Barcelona, ​​they saw a girl eating a cupcake with much pleasure. “It was like a food orgasm. She looked at the food, tasting it again and again with a sense of wonder on her face. We said: ‘this is what we want, to create a place that causes that feeling in people’”.

In Colombia, they founded KreARCE (@krearce), a company that since March 2021 has housed several projects to generate and develop ideas based on sustainability and inclusiveness, and with which they have managed to position themselves in the innovation boom that has turned Bogotá into one of the centers most dynamic in the region. One of those projects is the Peace&Love restaurant (@peaceandloverestaurante), a retro-style place that began offering lunch but was transitioning to night hours.

The “eco-friendly” decoration of the place is the product of elements collected from abandoned houses, garbage dumps or dumps. “This is where circular economy concepts come in. We want to give things a second life: reuse, recycle and thus create a system or, better said, an eclectic environment full of things that are part of one, but also of those who come and leave a gift or take photos”, Patrick explains.

The Preace&Love restaurant is one of his projects with the closest ties to the community.  Google Colombia highlighted them in June, Pride Month.
The Preace&Love restaurant is one of his projects with the closest ties to the community. Google Colombia highlighted them in June, Pride Month.

With Peace&Love they were highlighted in Pride Month by Google Colombia; They are also linked to the Bogotá LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce. Among the 13 people who make up his payroll, there are members of the LGBT+ community, but also of different religious beliefs and nationalities. However, it is not something that was initially proposed in this way. What they have done is “search for talent” and diversity has come in addition. Patrick argues that when “filters” are not applied and a “particular segmentation” is not sought, diversity “arrives automatically, because you are letting in the normal diversity that exists in a society”

Another venture of that same “umbrella” of projects is Rosie’s Store, where the work of 40 local entrepreneurs meets. It arose somewhat unexpectedly when Rosie, the lady who worked with them doing various jobs and jams, vinaigrettes, hummus and other recipes for the restaurant, could not return to the restaurant due to a visual problem.

“Let’s open a store to sell Rosie’s products,” they said to each other. But since there was a lot of unoccupied space in a store, they looked for other enterprises (crafts, organic food, eco-friendly products) to join, and those who charge a “small item” to be able to maintain the expenses of the store. In the same house is where they have their offices and they present fairs, workshops, contests, music events and live theater on weekends.

On a day-to-day basis, Patrick is more in charge of administrative matters, currently also taking care of Kiosko, a project focused on technological development in Latin America. Julián took care of the “creative” part and that is why he was the one who decorated the restaurant. From that colorful atmosphere in which clients always seek to photograph themselves, an art and design workshop called Indulgences of Others emerged, where they personalize spaces through recovered and reused pieces.

In the restaurant, they also put on an apron, serve food, attend to the register and alternate tasks. Patrick thinks it’s “a lot more fun” to start a business together. “It’s a huge learning.” If there is an argument, they try not to bring it into the workplace. “But every time we discuss less and we make decisions together,” says Julián, one day before traveling together to Mexico for work and pleasure.

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