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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: BISILA BOKOKO-ECHOLS, Executive Director of The Spain-US Chamber of Commerce

In November 2005, Bisila Bokoko-Echols became Executive Director of The Spain-US Chamber of Commerce located in New York City. The Chamber is a bi-lateral private U.S. non-profit organization with a $1.7 Million budget and a staff of 14 dedicated to fostering trade, investment and institutional relations between Spain and the United States. As Executive Director, Mrs. Bokoko-Echols provides day-to-day operational leadership, including supervision of staff across four departments: Foreign Trade, Publications, Events, and Professional Exchange Program; secures financial resources through membership fees and fundraising events; and develops long-term and short-term sustainability strategies with the Board of Directors. Mrs. Bokoko-Echols travels internationally to visit with foreign government and business leaders to discuss ways to enhance trade and promote Spain exports.

Mrs. Bokoko-Echols structured and secured partnerships with media and entertainment giant Disney to promote products from the region of Valencia in the US market, resulting in a 25% increase in the demand for exported wines from Valencia.  Her most recent major partnership includes the Public Broadcast Station (PBS), where she helped structure a deal to air two televised shows: “On the Road Again” featuring Iron Chef Mario Batali and Oscar winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow and Spain’s famed chef Jose Andres in “Made in Spain” to promote the food, wine and tourist industry in Spain. As a result of her efforts, Spain has recently been featured in several publications including Vanity FairNew York MagazineFood & Wine and Oprah.

Prior to joining the Spain-US Chamber of Commerce, Mrs. Bokoko-Echols had a six-year tenure with IVEX NYC, a Spanish agency dedicated to developing trade and investment opportunities between the Spanish region of Valencia and the United States. Here, she worked her way up the ranks from International Trade Specialist to Director. Mrs. Bokoko-Echols developed and implemented more than 100 international business projects to enter the US market. She played a key role in securing Valencia as the host city for the 32nd Annual America’s Cup, outbidding Portugal's Cascais, France's Marseilles and Naples in Italy. 

Mrs. Bokoko-Echols received her Masters in International Relations from the City College of New York, her Masters in Business Administration and Degree in Law (J.D. Equivalent) from the Universidad CEU of San Pablo. She is on the board of directors of the Global Information Network, member of the Africa Development Institute, Spain Law Board, Black National Organization of MBA’s, and the National Association of Female Executives. Mrs. Bokoko-Echols resides In New York City with her husband and two children.  We are pleased to present her as our latest Mover and Shaker.

Peachy Deegan interviewed Bisila Bokoko-Echols for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: What should Whom You Know readers know about the Spain-US Chamber of Commerce?
Bisila Bokoko-Echols: The Spain-US Chamber of Commerce is a Private, U.S. non-profit membership organization dedicated to fostering trade, investment and institutional relations between Spain and the United States. Anytime someone wants to know about Spain, we encourage you to contact us.

Do all countries outside the US have something similar set up here to the Spain-US Chamber of Commerce?
Yes, there are organizations like the Spain-US Chamber of Commerce in most countries and we all cooperate.

How did you originally become involved with the Spain-US Chamber of Commerce?
I first became involved with the Spain-US chamber at the end of 2005 when I was working to the Regional government of Valencia (Spain). I was a member of the Chamber of Commerce at that time and it was amazing that they offered me to apply for the position that was vacated by a person whom I admired; she had been offered a great position in Spain. I did not think twice; I tried and I succeed among 8 other candidates [that also were considered].

What are the most challenging aspects of your position?
To find funding for the Chamber particularly at this difficult times and to develop strategic trade partnerships between Spain, Latin America, West Africa, and United States.

What do you enjoy most about your position?
The possibility of being a decisive-leader in several industrial areas: Clean Energy, Financial Sector, Fashion, Infrastructure, Agro-business, etc…. To use my negotiating skills in order to make both sides of the ocean to understand  each other better., I love the nature of my job which is to structure strategic partnerships among international trade organizations, expanding US-Spain trade and investment opportunities, and helping businesses successfully enter international markets.

What would surprise most Manhattanites about Spain?
The great quality of life that exists in Spain in general. Spain knows how to combine professionalism with fun at all times no matter what.

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?
New York itself as a whole, because New York always obliges you to be on the top of your game. The pursuing of excellence is contagious in NY.

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan? 
Meatpacking District 

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan? 
Bergdorf Goodman

What is your favorite drink?
Water, Champagne

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan? 
Monkey Bar, Standard Grill

What is your favorite Manhattan book? 
740 Park by Michael Gross

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience? 
At the Chelsea Piers playing golf

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else? 
Walk around Central Park

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience? 
Visit to the Museum of African Art

What do you think is most underrated and overrated here? 
The kindness of Manhattanies is underrated. I believe that people in this city are helpful and very kind. There is an amazing positive energy in this city!

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it?

Laugh with Peachy and the travel columns

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you? 
I am an Afropolitan, a person who of African origin born in Spain and living in New York City. I consider myself a little bit of everything, European-Spanish, African and American.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers? By e-mail at 

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