Introducing the Carlson Global Institute

Carlson School Hosts Opportunities to Explore Business in Cuba

Friday, April 1, 2016


This year, students, alumni, and leaders from the business community seized the chance to learn about business in Cuba—an emerging market that experts predict will offer big opportunities for forward-looking businesses in the coming decade.

A Hotbed of Entrepreneurship

Offered for the first time this spring, undergraduate students in MGMT 3010 spent spring break in Cuba—where for the first time in a half century, enterprising citizens are leveraging opportunities to cultivate their own businesses.

“It’s a major moment in history for Cuba,” says Senior Lecturer Steve Spruth, who teaches the class. “Right now, we’re seeing the Cuban government open different categories of businesses that entrepreneurs can enter. They can own cars that offer tours, they can turn their houses into bed and breakfasts, they can turn their living rooms into restaurants—we’re seeing these explosions within certain categories inside Cuba.”

A New Trade Partner

Last fall, leaders from the business community, Associate Professor and John and Bruce Mooty Chair in Law & Business Paul Vaaler, and Congressman Tom Emmer discussed how Minnesota businesses can forge partnerships in Cuba. The event—Global Matters: A Conversation on Cuban Travel, Trade, and Investment Prospects for Minnesota Businesses—revealed several insights. The key takeaway for attendees: U.S. companies should begin exploring opportunities now.

“Today, it’s no longer a question of if the Cuban embargo will be lifted. It’s a question of when the Cuban embargo will be lifted,” says Emmer.

A Shifting Landscape

Carrie Johnson, ’97 MA-HRIR, visited Cuba on a trip led by the Society for Human Resource Management last fall to learn about emerging business opportunities, with an emphasis on HR practices.

“I’ve always been curious about Cuba,” she says, adding that the recent shift toward normalizing the relationship between the United States and the island country piqued her interest in learning more.

Johnson and her 14 colleagues spent most of their time in Havana, where they were some of the first Americans to visit the U.S. Embassy. They met with HR practitioners, experts on employment and foreign investment law, and businesspeople from foreign companies operating in Cuba.