Making History: Keep&Go CEO Now First Female Association President

Posted by Victória Oliveira on May 22, 2024 9:43:29 AM

Born and raised in Cali, Colombia, Carolina Buitrago, partner and CEO of the Colombian self-storage company Keep&Go, has been appointed as the first female president of the Foro de Presidentes, an association of business leaders in Colombia that was created in 1989 to support the country by strengthening businesses.


Buitrago joined the association in 2018, shortly after being introduced to the institution by a colleague. Highly motivated and hardworking, it didn't take long for her to climb her way to the top of the organization’s hierarchy, becoming the vice president of the organization, an important steppingstone on her way to becoming

the first-ever female president of the institution. 


“I decided to do it because I wanted to finish strengthening gaps in the forum,” Buitrago says. “I needed more time. I designed a work program for two years that seeks to project the forum and strengthen its institutional structure.”


During her campaign for the presidency, Buitrago’s energy and enthusiasm captured the attention of other members. Her ambitious goal to link a total of 50 new members to the institution during her time in office, which would result in a growth of around 25 percent in members, as the institution currently has slightly more than 200 people, helped consolidate her campaign, ensuring her the presidency for the next two years. “In the long term, [I aim to make sure the association] leaves its mark as a forum that works for its members and their companies in a complete cycle of the three missionary aspects: companies, people, and society,” she says.


For Buitrago, who has been a member for the past six years, the Foro de Presidentes has been fundamental when it comes to decision-making. She mentioned the support of her peers, all seasoned business leaders like herself, as a network she could count on and essential during crucial times in her business endeavors.


With a strong background in the financial sector, Buitrago obtained a business administrator MBA from Tulane University. Before delving into her own ventures, she worked as a manager for renowned companies such as Brinks and Western Union.


Screenshot 2024-05-22 at 9.34.57 AMHer association with the self-storage world started in a rather unusual way, with an invitation from her business partners in Bogotá to become the CEO of Keep&Go in 2009. Soon after the invitation, she attended a self-storage expo in Las Vegas, where she first began to grasp the concept and, most importantly, the business side of this new venture she was about to embark on.


Since opening the first Keep&Go facility in Bogotá, she has managed to expand her business both within the city and at Chia, known to be a kind of suburban area to Bogotá.


When researching the self-storage market, she realized some nuances in the Colombian market and its customers, which impacted and helped her perfect the self-storage business model. The biggest takeaway from her previous experience was how the customers prefer to hire a company to complete every step of the job, instead of getting involved. This is a trait from the Latin American market, where the core of every business is its customer service. However, the demands were even higher in Colombia; unlike other parts of Latin America, having a bellboy in the warehouses to help organize and transport their valuables from their vehicle into their storage spaces wasn’t enough. In Colombia, the market demanded a complete service; as a result, she adopted a business model that included a packing and moving service to Keep&Go.


While expanding the business, Buitrago invested in developing portable warehouses around the city, a unique venture in the country designed to be outdoors. This venture attracts customers looking to store their valuables so they can go about their activities without carrying heavy bags and other miscellaneous items. 


Having worked as a business advisor for over 50 companies, most notably startups in the technology sector like Davinci Technologies and Sacra, Buitrago stays updated on emerging technologies and innovation, pioneering their use in her business ventures. “[The majority of investment is] on our people and their training [as well as] in technology applied to all areas,” she says.


Burtraigo is praised for her discipline, for her work and life balance, and for going above and beyond to ensure her ventures don’t suffer because of a new role, even when that role is as demanding as being the president of the Foro de Presidentes. “In reality, my time at Keep&Go has not changed. I have extended my extended hours to attend forum matters [making sure to schedule] meetings very early or in the afternoon. I manage my agenda with a lot of planning and my meetings with efficient methodologies,” she states.


As the first female to achieve the leading position at the traditional institution, she hopes to inspire other women to join and take on administrative roles at the association, especially leading ones such as president and vice president. “It is an honor to represent women in this role, and I believe that example is the best way to inspire others,” she states. But she doesn’t stop there, as she also actively puts in the effort to make sure she is not the last woman president at the institution. “We are leading a female leadership group in which we work on actions focused on promoting this leadership in women.”


The leading-by-example style goes beyond just her work at the forum, as she states Keep&Go currently employs more women than men. “We do not have specific policies. That’s how it has always been; we [are proud to] have a good diversity.”