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WHO WE ARE

it's great to meet you

Foundation for Puerto Rico (FPR) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that seeks to unleash Puerto Rico’s potential in the global economy so more people can live, visit, work, and invest in our beautiful island. Our targeted economic development and resilience programs work hand in hand with our community partners, providing resources, training, funding, and networks that improve the local economy from within. 

We go from knowledge to action, combining innovative, data-driven thinking with strong field-based work. We’ve supported more than 2,000 small businesses and collaborated with over 1,000 local and national NGOs. Our mission control runs out of El Colaboratorio in the heart of Santurce, a space designed to foster collaboration, share new ideas, and create synergies among other NGOs—all united by the goal of transforming Puerto Rico.

Our motto, “there is no future in rebuilding the past,” reflects our transformative vision and dream for the future of our island: a prosperous Puerto Rico that unleashes its people’s talent, creativity, and passion.

We have a first-class team of talented, passionate, and dedicated changemakers who work together for a better Puerto Rico, along with our network of partners, sponsors, and in-kind volunteers.
Our collaborative approach to problem-solving has made us a trusted and reliable partner and recipient of several prestigious federal and public grants from entities such as the USDA Rural Development Agency, the US Economic Development Agency, the Kauffman Foundation, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Support from these partners allows us to operate our programs with the highest compliance standards.

our Mission

Transforming Puerto Rico’s economy to be thriving and sustainable.

our Vision

A prosperous Puerto Rico that unleashes the talent, creativity, and passion of its people.

With help from people like you, we can change the strategic direction of Puerto Rico’s socioeconomic development, revitalize our most treasured assets, and change lives in the process. 

A better future for Puerto Rico is in our hands. Here’s how we plan to drive impact to benefit our most underserved communities:

A prosperous Puerto Rico requires a bold and innovative approach that follows many pathways. For the past decade, we’ve been working to build a strong foundation of support for this approach, engaging and partnering with stakeholders across Puerto Rico, from government to business to academia to communities. Our strong community presence across the island and our game-changing programmatic interventions have allowed us to move from the grassroots to the grass-tops while our collaborative approach with leaders and policymakers – from San Juan to D.C. – has helped scale up our impact to transform Puerto Rico’s socio-economic development.

From the inside out, we accelerate transformation through innovation, collaboration, and action so Puerto Ricans can own their future and thrive. The three areas where we are driving transformational impact include Visitor Economy & Community Empowerment, Resiliency & Infrastructure, and Thought Leadership and Knowledge Intermediation.

Our core principles include

Transformational Impact Through Innovation

Puerto Rico’s future success depends on innovative thinking that connects the dots, accelerates growth, and creates tangible benefits for all.

The Power of Ideas

Ideas have unlimited power: We need to find promising ideas, wherever they lie. We need to identify and understand the potential for our progress embodied within them. We then need the determination to test, challenge, champion, and nurture them so that potential can be realized.

Courage to Challenge the Status Quo

We must dare to examine existing paradigms that impede progress and develop bold, transformative paths forward to success and prosperity.

Community and Collaboration

Collaborations that yield strong connections and a sense of belonging will lead to lasting solutions that help our communities flourish.

Empowering people

Each individual has unlimited potential and can contribute something unique that can help make our island and its communities better.

FOUNDATION FOR PUERTO RICO:

A BRIEF HISTORY

FPR was founded with the goal of becoming a thought leader in the economic development of Puerto Rico.
Established a think tank unit focused on research, public policy and coalition building.
Created the first mission-driven incubator in Puerto Rico – El Colaboratorio (“laboratory of collaboration”) to house, support, and grow Puerto Rico’s NGO ecosystem.
Developed working plans that created a local DMO (Destination Marketing Organization) as a recognized worldwide tourism best practice.
In the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and María, we opened the doors to El Colaboratorio, housed over 180 organizations, and launched over 250 relief missions.
Designed, piloted, and funded the Bottom Up Destination Recovery Initiative. Chosen by the PRDOH to lead the Whole Community Resiliency Program (WCRP)
Received a historic grant from the prestigious Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to launch Emprende360° - an innovative small business incubation initiative.
Reactivated the Small Business Support Program for earthquake victims; published the Biological Border proposal for COVID-19; launched over 50 webinars to support small businesses.
Launched the Center for Strategic Innovation to provide Puerto Rico with a robust capability to identify and determine the viability of high impact opportunities for transformation.
2011
2013
2015
2016
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2019
2020
2021

Our

TEAM

Jon Borschow

Founder, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer
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Damaris Ocasio

Chief Financial Officer
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Alma Frontera

Vice President of Operations & Programs
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Soledad Gaztambide

Senior Program Officer
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César Santos

Human Resources Director
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Alan Taveras

Development & Marketing Director

Ana Puig

Finance and Accounting Director
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Anneliz Oliver

Program Manager
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Astrid Muñoz Muñoz

Human Resources Generalist

Andrea Castro

Grants Manager

Carla Martorell

Communications Manager
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Carmen Villanueva

Stakeholder & Outreach Coordinator
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Doménica Jara

Program Facilitator

Francis Pérez

Research & Analysis Manager
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Hagmel Vega Fontánez

Program Facilitator

Hazel Garay

Financial Analyst
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Hecdalí Marrero

Partnerships & Events Coordinator

Jean M. Charlois

Program Facilitator
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John Castro

Graphic Artist

JOHN BRIAN VÉLEZ

Communications Specialist

José Luis Colón

Grant Manager

Kenneth Matos

Program Facilitator

Kevin O. Pérez

Project Manager
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Lizbed De Jesús

Accounting Associate

Lourdes Pérez

Community Planning Lead
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Marie Ann González

Program Coordinator
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Marisa Rivera

Data Analyst
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Natalia Negron

Program Facilitator

Odalys Rivera

Program Facilitator

Omar Ramos Izquierdo

Accounting Associate

Pedro Vélez

Compliance Officer - Internal Auditor
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Ricardo Rivera

Program Facilitator

Sally Everson

Grant Designer & Writer

Shatsei Rodriguez

Program Facilitator

Verónica Montalvo

Procurement & Operations Manager
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Yenesis Vélez

Research Analyst

Jasiel Carril

Research and Analysis Intern

THE

BOARD

Jon Borschow

Founder, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer
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Graciela Eleta

Vice Chairwoman

Zulmarie Urrutia-vélez

Treasurer
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Ingrid Rivera

Secretary

Founder & President, Rove Consulting

Alexander Borschow

Director

Managing Partner at Semillero Ventures

Carlos L. Rodríguez, Esq.

Director
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Jesús Ricky López

Director

Juan Antonio Ramos

Director

CFO & Strategic Planning Director at Best Option Healthcare

Kathryn Wylde

Director
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Rafael Ortiz

Director

Managing Director at Moonsail Capital

Ramón Mellado

Director

President at Electra Corporation

Ronald Castro

Director

Principal & Chief Strategist at Roca Marketing

Dr. Rafael Bras

Director Emeritus

WANT TO BE
A CHANGEMAKER?

Want to work with people help
to transform Puerto Rico?
Here’s your chance:

2017

2018

2019

2020

Jon Borschow - Founder, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer

Jon Borschow was born and raised in Puerto Rico. After graduating from M.I.T. with a degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Jon returned to Puerto Rico to support the growth of his family’s Health business. He led this company for the next 30 years, employing hundreds of employees. In 2008, the company was acquired by Cardinal Health. Today, the company is the leading healthcare distribution company in Puerto Rico, with over 500 employees, and it is the most extensive distribution business in Puerto Rico. Jon remained as C.E.O. of the Puerto Rico business until his retirement in 2011. That year, Jon founded Foundation for Puerto Rico.

Jon has also given back to the community by serving on the boards of directors of hospitals, schools, charities, religious organizations, research foundations, resident associations, and insurance companies. Among the more recent charities that Jon has chaired are the Puerto Rico chapter of The United Jewish Appeal and the Puerto Rico Holocaust Memorial.

In addition to giving his time freely to these causes, Jon has donated to various charities, including La Perla de Gran Precio, a home for homeless, drug-addicted women infected with AIDS and their children. Jon is a major philanthropic giver. At M.I.T., he has endowed a needs-based undergraduate scholarship for students from Puerto Rico. In 2011, he expanded his relationship with M.I.T. to include a multi-million dollar investment in the M.I.T. Puerto Rico Economic Project to develop a new strategy for growth for Puerto Rico involving the M.I.T. Center for International Studies, The M.I.T. Community Laboratory, The M.I.T. Political Science Department, the Sloan School of Management, and the Puerto Rico Center for a New Economy. In 2011, Jon established the Foundation for Puerto Rico to focus on high-impact catalytic philanthropy to support these goals.

Damaris Ocasio, Chief Financial Officer

Ms. Ocasio is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a B.A. in Business Administration. With over 25 years of experience in highly regulated environments, including the healthcare and nonprofit sectors, she has been responsible for designing and implementing processes and procedures to strengthen organizational compliance with federal and local regulations. Her knowledge includes operations, finance, human resources, business development, vendors and customer relations, distributions, internal audit, complex project management, and success translating strategies into maximum benefits commensurate with the best interest of stakeholders, customers, employees, and the public.

Alma Frontera, VP – PROGRAMS AND OPERATIONS

With two decades of experience in production, logistics, and project management, Alma has worked for companies such as Hilton, SMG (Coliseo de Puerto Rico), and Univision, producing, rebranding, and creating new businesses while managing premium clientele. Alma has worked with a wide range of brands and companies throughout her agency journey, including Coca-Cola, Sony, Wrigley, and Peroni Brewery.

After hurricanes Irma and Maria decimated the Caribbean, Alma switched gears and decided to focus and dedicate her work to the recovery and rebuilding of the islands. Wanting to contribute more to the community and Puerto Rico’s economic development, Alma joined Foundation for Puerto Rico alongside a fantastic team of dedicated professionals to ensure the continuance of the impactful initiatives steered by Island Relief.

Alma manages funds and is hands-on to ensure successful execution. She led the organization’s on-the-ground relief efforts, including over 230 missions islandwide and distributing $2+M in immediate aid. As Director of Economic Development Programs at FPR, Alma ensured the implementation of our portfolio of programs and managed more than $10M of private and federal funds while building an exceptionally empowered team of 30. After working alongside Secretary Cidre at the Economic Development and Commerce Department, Alma returned to FPR to continue pushing forward its impact and presence around the Island by designing new structures such as the Field Engine.   

Alma is an executive member of the Board of Directors of Women Empowered (WE), a member of the Advisory Board for the Kingbird Innovation Center at SUAGM, and a former executive member of the Board of Directors of the YMCA in San Juan. Avid believer and promoter of women in the business and sports industries, Alma is passionate about improving and raising awareness on gender and equality. Her favorite topics are the importance of mentors, Millennials in the workforce, and people development. She is a former local sports analyst looking to inspire young girls to become whomever they want to be. 

Alma is a graduate of the University of Puerto Rico, an Aspen Institute fellow, a former instructor in NSLC programs at American University (Communications, Sports Broadcasting, and National Security) and UC Berkley (Marketing, Advertising, and Public Relations), high school teacher, and cheerleading coach. 

Soledad Gaztambide Arandes, Senior Program Officer

Ms. Gaztambide Arandes holds a B.A. in Geography and Anthropology and an M.A. in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning. With almost 20 years of professional experience, Soledad is an environmental management professional skilled in project/program coordination and management, advocacy, alliance building, ecological awareness, stakeholder engagement, and policy analysis, with a demonstrated history of working in governmental and non-profit organization sectors.

She is FPR’s Senior Program Officer for the Whole Communities Resilience Program. This planning program is part of the Puerto Rico Department of Housing CBDG Disaster Recovery funding to address the impacts of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. Ms. Gaztambide supervises developing and timely completion of a risk and vulnerability data dashboard and community education component. She has extensive experience in policy and government relations in the environmental field and public engagement to raise awareness and funding for critical initiatives related to protecting and managing protected areas, among other areas of expertise.

César A. Santos Cardona, Human Resources Director

César has a BA in Sociology with a minor in Psychology and an MA in Industrial-Organizational Psychology. He is a licensed psychologist certified as a Lean 6 Sigma Green Belt. César has more than 16 years of experience leading Human Resources teams. He has held various positions throughout his career centered around Organizational Development, Process Improvement, Strategic Alignment, Coaching, Training, and Human Resources Management. His expertise is in developing cross-functional teams from formation to performance levels, designing adult learning programs, leadership development, strategic consulting, and process improvement. At Foundation for Puerto Rico, César leads all Human Capital endeavors, including harnessing and leveraging the potential of all team members, including volunteers, internship students, and other personnel. 

Ana M. Puig Rivera, Finance and Accounting Manager

Ms. Puig holds a BBA and MBA in Accounting, with over 15 years of experience in Non-Profit and Governmental Accounting and Budgeting design and management, and has been FPR’s Finance and Accounting Manager and Budget Officer since 2019. For the past three years in the organization, along with supervising 4 team members, she has designed and executed FPR’s Annual Budget Templates and budgeting process, as well as the federal billing process for the following federal programs: USDA Rural Development, EDA, and HUD’s CDBG-DR Whole Community Resilience Planning Program, that has resulted in over $2 million of successful invoicing over the past two years. 

Under her leadership, FPR passed its first Single Audit in 2019 and the most recent Single Audit in 2020. Along with the FPR’s Finance and Accounting Team, she successfully designed and implemented a new Accounting ERP System. She also supported and collaborated with the first approved organization, negotiating indirect cost rates with a federal cognizant agency. Ms. Puig collaborates with FPR’s Compliance, Procurement, and Development departments, designing federal, public, and private grant budgets and processes. She holds a Yellow Belt Lean Sigma Certification and Fidelis’ iSupervise Certi Certification and is proficient in various accounting ERPs such as SAGE, Oracle, Blackbaud, and others.

Anneliz Oliver, Program Manager

Ms. Oliver holds a BS in Psychology and completed graduate courses and practice in Clinical Psychology. For the past four years, she led small business and community development support programs and community outreach initiatives in Foundation for Puerto Rico (FPR). She has extensive experience in project management, ensuring timely and effective completion of deliverables, outcomes, and compliance.

Ms. Oliver designs and oversees program evaluation and measurements and implements strategic improvements to address challenges and achieve targets. She is skilled in stakeholder management, particularly in collaborative and participatory design. Anneliz led Island Relief efforts after Hurricanes Maria and Irma in 2017, overseeing the logistics and the successful deployment of water filters, impacting 200+ elderly homes and 90+ communities across the island. She successfully led project coordination for the Bottom Up Destination Recovery Initiative pilots in Humacao and Orocovis, which were scaled to an additional 12 municipalities with EDA and private funding. Anneliz delivered programming and direct services that strengthened community-driven initiatives to promote resilience and socioeconomic development by fostering collaborative relationships between individuals, non-profits, and private and public sectors. She has also collaborated with small businesses, community-based organizations, and government officials to implement asset-based community development initiatives for their visitor economy sector while strengthening entrepreneurship and social capital. She led earthquake relief efforts through the management of the Small Business Support Program, which provided cash grants and technical assistance to small businesses in Ponce and Guánica severely affected by the tremors of 2020. She served as Program Manager for Emprende360, an innovative multi-stage business incubation model executed with the leading organizations in the sector. This model led to the selection of FPR as the only grantee in Puerto Rico to deploy SBA’s Community Navigator Pilot Program.

She now serves as Program Manager for Puerto Rico’s Community Navigator Pilot program, designing and executing a multi-stage business development model alongside leading organizations to provide access to recovery and relief resources through technical assistance and access to capital. Ms. Oliver’s skills include project design, logistics, coordination and management, grant management, stakeholder management, and collaborative/participatory design.

Carla Martorell Colón, Communications Manager

Carla Martorell Colón is an experienced Communicator and public relations professional. She possesses a BA in Communications and Journalism. She started her professional career as an editor for the island’s number-one radio news station, WKAQ. Following this professional opportunity, she further developed her communication skills, landing a position as both a producer for a radio talk show and a news reporter. After six years working in the news, she became the Treasury Department Press Office Director, changing her career path to public relations. During the five years she directed the communications office at the Treasury Department, she managed several communications crises, like implementing the local sales tax in 2007.

After five years in the government, Martorell accepted a position in the private sector as a Senior Account Executive in Comstat Rowland, a highly prestigious public relations firm in Puerto Rico, where she managed accounts like Toyota, Microsoft, British Airways, and Nokia, among others. Later, she started as Public Relations Director at JMD Communications, overseeing all PR accounts, crisis management, social media content, and new business acquisitions. Martorell joined Foundation for Puerto Rico in January 2020, following her desire to work for the third sector and the well-being of her island.

Carmen Villanueva, Stakeholder and Outreach Coordinator

Mrs. Villanueva holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Arts, with concentrations in Accounting and Economy, and a Master’s Degree in Finance and Accounting. Mrs. Villanueva also possesses certifications in Fraud Examination and as an International Client Service Facilitator. In addition, Mrs. Villanueva has been distinguished as a member of multiple Associations, including but not limited to being a Spokesperson of the Puerto Rico movement for Decent Housing, President and Community Leader of the #9 Community Board Territorial Ordinance, Institute of Internal Audit, Executive Committee of CDBG-DR funds monitoring of State Housing Department, advisory member of the Department of Education and the Department of Recreation and Sports of Puerto Rico. For almost two (2) decades at Popular Inc., Mrs. Villanueva served from platform official to Senior Fraud Examinator, Auditor, and Officer of Norms and procedures. In 2002, she received the opportunity to work as Coordinator of the CEDICE Economic and Social Development project, providing education and close accompaniment to communities with economic and social disadvantages. 

Mrs. Villanueva then moved to serve as Academic Director in the CASA project of Toa Baja to provide education for young people unable to complete High School Diploma, as the Finance & Administrative Manager responsible for the whole financial and fiscal compliance operations of Buena Vista Group, Inc., Collections Manager for Legal Credit Solution, Inc., and community liaison for Firm, United and Resilient with Advocacy (FURIA) Inc., with the mission to foster education and protection of human rights to communities through participative advocacy. Thanks to her substantial experience and demonstrated special connection with communities, Mrs. Villanueva continues to create positive social impact through her role in FPR, being an instrumental resource for successfully identifying opportunities to expand strategic outreach of the WCRP program and highlighting fundamental elements to strengthen the most vulnerable communities of Puerto Rico.

Verónica Montalvo, Procurement Associate

Ms. Montalvo holds a B.A. in Business Administration and has been the Procurement Associate at Foundation for Puerto Rico since July 2020. Verónica has professional experience in domestic and international logistics, including supply chain management, procurement/purchasing, planning, and inventory management. In early 2000, while studying, she worked as a Receptionist and Customer Service Coordinator at a local Customs House Broker, arranging clearance and delivery of import shipments. Later, other opportunities for professional growth arose, where Verónica continued to expand her knowledge in different fields and processes of Supply Chain Management (SCM) while working with international Freight ForwardersIn 2012, she started to work the complete SCM cycle, from planning, purchasing, shipment arrangement, receiving, inventory management, and delivery for Telecommunications and Medical Equipment Companies.


As the Procurement Associate at Foundation for Puerto Rico, she has reduced procurement costs and on-time delivery of products and services by standardizing processes, negotiating favorable terms, and streamlining supplier channels for different Program Projects and internal purchase needs.

Francis Pérez, Research Manager

Program Manager at Foundation for Puerto Rico since 2016. Francis has a BA in Finance. He was part of the Center of Innovation team, managing several projects and programs that sought to improve the visibility of our island’s assets globally, inspire more travelers to visit, explore our geography, and increase the economic activity of our communities.

Before joining FPR, he worked for GE Capital’s Risk Management Program as a financial analyst, where he completed two rotations, one in financial model validation and governance in Connecticut and the second in cash flow underwriting, working on $10MM to $500MM loans for procurement deals supported by private investment firms at Bethesda, MD. While working for GE Capital, he had the opportunity to be part of the team that oversaw the sale of the equipment financing division in the Federal District of Mexico. Later, he moved back to Puerto Rico where he worked with Champlain Advisors, a boutique placement agent and financial advisory firm, focusing on the areas of project management, market research, deal analysis, and CRM management.

Hazel R. Garay Vazquez, Accounting Coordinator

Ms. Garay holds a BBA in Accounting and a minor in Finance and has five years of experience in general accounting and the accounting cycle for non-profit and retail industries. During this period, she has gained experience in managing inventory, customer services, and retail general accounting. She joined Foundation for Puerto Rico (FPR) in 2019, and for the past three years, has executed roles such as payroll accountant, accounts payable, preparing and assisting with federal billing process, receivables accountant, and fiscal sponsorship accountant.

Ms. Garay currently occupies the accounting coordinator position. Along with the Finance and Accounting Team, she successfully designed and implemented a new accounting and Payroll ERP. Also collaborated on the first successful single Audit in 2019 and the next Single Audit in 2020 and assisted with gathering information as needed for the annual tax filing. Ms. Garay assists the Finance and Accounting manager with monthly closing accounting procedures such as Bank account reconciliations, holding bank account reconciliation, journal entries preparation, SEFA report updates, and Financial Statement preparation. She holds a Yellow Belt certification in Lean Six Sigma and is proficient in various accounting ERPs such as Sage, Peachtree, QuickBooks, and Blackbaud.

Jean-Manuel Charlois, Regional Community Planning Associate

Mr. Charlois holds a B.A. in Communication Sciences and an M.A. in Planning, with a special interest in community planning, participatory processes, and knowledge development for effective – horizontal participation and just relations.

As part of the Planning Team, Charlois has helped develop WCRP’s tools and processes, particularly supporting the development of the Education Strategy designed to provide guidance to communities, sub-recipients, and vendors during the implementation of the Planning Framework. He is in charge of the development of different educational and support materials, such as the Resiliency Snapshots and the script’s development of the video capsules contained in the Education Strategy. With 19 years of experience developing, directing, and editing award-winning documentaries and Scientific TV Series, Jean provides Foundation for Puerto Rico (FPR) with solid assessment in developing media content for educative, documentary, and marketing purposes. His background as a professor and designing community workshops helps FPR in the development of technical assistance for communities and small businesses. Mr. Charlois sees FPR as a strong ally of those communities’ providing expertise and technical production support as well as a potential repository for multipurpose audiovisual material.

Kevin Pérez, Procurement Officer

Mr. Pérez holds a BA in Material Management and is a Certified Supply Chain Professional and a Certified Quality Auditor. In his role at FPR, Mr. Pérez works the federal purchases of different programs such as EDA and WCRP, in addition to keeping the SOPs in force and with the necessary controls to be in compliance. Mr. Pérez also manages the activities of the Procurement Associate and maintains a continuous flow of purchases for FPR operations. Some of his additional projects are auditing, monitoring, and continuous improvement functions to ensure good documentation practices and all the requirements set forth in CFR 200 and other federal regulations. These projects work on a wide variety of procurement types, from community planning to business resilience products. 

Lourdes Pérez Medina, Community Planning Lead

Ms. Pérez-Medina holds a M.S. degree in City and Regional Planning and a professional B.A. degree in Architecture. Currently, she leads the planning team for FPR’s Whole Community Resilience Planning Program. As the Community Planning Lead, she has successfully managed a team of four planners, the development of a comprehensive community resilience planning framework, and an education component centered on themes such as resilience, participatory planning, just relationships, and community advocacy.

Prior to joining FPR, Lourdes worked with several grassroots community-based organizations in both NYC and Puerto Rico across various climate justice, environmental justice, and housing accessibility projects and initiatives. As the Climate Justice Policy and Programs Coordinator at UPROSE –a community-based organization in Sunset Park, Brooklyn—she had the opportunity to coordinate the Climate Justice Alliance’s northeast regional hub around the Transportation and Climate Initiative, the development of N.Y.’s first community-owned solar cooperative, and a community-led re-zoning proposal for a climate-adaptive industrial waterfront. Lourdes’s passion and professional core are rooted in social justice values and equitable, sustainable, and climate-adaptive development.

Marie Ann Gonzaléz Laboy, Volunteer Program and Administrative Support Coordinator

Marie Ann Gonzalez Laboy has an MA in Social Work Direct Services. She is licensed to work with all populations, especially with vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. She has experience working with survivors of domestic violence and investigating cases of abuse according to law 246, “Child Abuse law.” Marie Ann has also worked managing cases with a religious-based organization (REHACE) in the recovery of Puerto Rican families after Hurricane Maria in the Eastern Region of the island. This experience opened the opportunity for her to work with the Whole Resilience Planning Program at Foundation for Puerto Rico.

The experience working with various communities and outreach activities provided an opportunity for the development of community tools, guides, and manuals that promote and support the active participation of the communities in all matters that concern them. She has developed and participated in different types of outreach efforts with communities, organizations, and municipalities to promote applications for the WCRP program in an effort to involve communities and all sectors to position Puerto Rico in a better place to face disasters and any other events.

Marisa Rivera, Data Analyst

Marisa Rivera has studies in Environmental Sciences, Geography, and Planning.  As Data Analyst for the Whole Community Resilience Planning Program, Ms. Rivera was responsible for developing all supporting tools provided by the program, including Social Capital and Risk & Vulnerability Indicators Story Maps, which display valuable information regarding social capital assets and vulnerability indicators in six thematic areas (Economic Development, Housing, Infrastructure, Environment, Education, and Health), respectively, as well as a Risk & Vulnerability Dashboard.  Ms. Rivera’s passion for place-based knowledge, in conjunction with her experience with managing and displaying geographic information, has enabled her to create effective tools and information sources capable of supporting problem-solving and decision-making processes for a variety of stakeholders, from governments to NGOs to communities.

Pedro J. Vélez Rivera, AFA, Compliance Officer, Internal Auditor

Mr. Vélez Rivera holds a B.A. in Business Administration, with a concentration in accounting and over 15 years of experience in the audit, compliance, risk, and internal controls field over various industries. In 2021, he joined FPR as Internal Auditor and Compliance Officer after serving as a Risk and Internal Control Manager in the Suiza Dairy Corp, where he was directly responsible for assessing the effectiveness of internal controls using integrated solutions based on an implemented risk basis approach and the organization’s internal controls, operating procedures, and compliance policies and regulations. He oversaw the development and introduction of cost-effective policies and procedures based on workflow reviews.

As a Senior Internal Auditor, he oversaw and conducted different types of operational audits through units, departments, and areas using integrated solutions based on an implemented risk-based approach. He also leads the audit team in unique and complex projects, including evaluating unusual transactions, unauthorized disbursements, and suspicious behaviors. 

ZULMARIE URRUTIA-VELEZ, Director

Urrutia-Vélez brings along a solid academic background and diverse professional exposure to sophisticated business decision-making affairs in both local and multinational public accounting firms, government, professional and commercial organizations, private practice, and academics.
 
Urrutia-Vélez currently leads the Risk Management Services Practice at FULCRO INSURANCE. Her professional experience includes high-profile work scenarios such as P&G, E&Y, KPMG, Puerto Rico Tourism Company, Department of Economic Development and Commerce, and as a professor at the School of Business of the UPR-Río Piedras (“FAE” for its Spanish acronym). She has served as a board member of non-profit organizations such as Asesores Financieros Comunitarios, CPA Society Foundation, ABRE Puerto Rico, Teatro UPR, and FAE Advisory Board. She co-founded the Fondo de Amigos FAE to promote academic efforts within AACSB accreditation standards.
 
Urrutia-Vélez served as a Member of the Puerto Rico Accountancy Board 2007-2009 and as president of the Puerto Rico Society of Certified Public Accountants 2015-2016, a term during which she was recognized as one of the leaders/speakers of the Private Sector Coalition.
 
Urrutia-Vélez holds a Master of Laws (LLM) with Honors from Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago; a Certificate in Business from IE University (formerly Instituto de Empresa) in Madrid; a Juris Doctor from the School of Law at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR); and Bachelors in Business Administration specialized in Accounting, Magna Cum Laude, from the UPR, Río Piedras. She is a certified public accountant (“CPA”), an attorney at law admitted to practice in Puerto Rico, an Alternate Disputes Resolution – Mediator certified by the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico, and a Certified Property [Insurance] Appraiser and Umpire (“CPAU”), also admitted by the Office of the Insurance Commissioner to act as Neutral Umpire in Puerto Rico, and Associate in Insurance (“AINS”) designation. 

Carlos L. Rodríguez, Esq.

Carlos L. Rodríguez Ramos has been Chief Legal & Compliance Officer and Corporate Secretary of Triple-S Management (TSM) since September 2021 when the Compliance area was added to his responsibilities. Rodríguez has served as Chief Legal Counsel and Corporate Secretary since 2016. In addition to Legal and Compliance, Rodríguez leads Internal Audit and the teams responsible for public policy and government affairs, corporate matters, and board governance, and serves as chair of the company’s Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) Committee. Rodríguez joined Triple-S Management in 2013 as Associate General Counsel. As someone with a strong commitment to service and the community, he serves on the Board of Fundación Triple-S and Foundation for Puerto Rico.

From 2011 to 2013, he worked as Deputy Chief of Staff for Programmatic Affairs and Special Projects of the Office of the Governor of Puerto Rico. He joined the administration of Governor Luis Fortuño in 2010 as Assistant Legal and Legislative Advisor. Aside from his experience with the Executive branch, Rodríguez worked as Law Clerk for the Chief Justice of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court, Federico Hernández Denton, from 2007 to 2009.

His education includes an LLM from Columbia University, a master’s degree from the Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University, and a JD from the University of Puerto Rico School of Law. Mr. Rodríguez has extensive academic experience as an undergraduate professor of political science and economics and adjunct professor at the University of Puerto Rico School of Law, where he has taught health law courses and conducted research on the regulation of the healthcare industry, public health law, and constitutional and legal implications of public health policy.

Kathryn Wylde, Director

Kathryn Wylde is President and CEO of the nonprofit Partnership for New York City, the city’s leading business organization. Its mission is to work with government, labor, and the civic sector to increase economic opportunity and build a stronger New York, focusing on education, infrastructure, and the economy.

Wylde was the founding CEO of the Partnership’s housing and investment fund affiliates. From 1982 to 1996, she was responsible for developing and managing affordable housing and economic development programs that contributed to the renaissance of blighted urban neighborhoods across the five boroughs. The New York City Housing Partnership was the sponsor of the city’s New Homes and Neighborhood Builders programs, producing more than 35,000 units of new, owner-occupied housing, and of the Neighborhood Entrepreneurs Program, which enabled more than fifty minority and women-owned firms to purchase and rehabilitate apartment buildings that were formerly owned by the city.

From 1995 to 2001, Wylde worked with Henry Kravis and Jerry Speyer to establish and manage the Partnership Fund for New York City. This civic Fund was capitalized with more than $100 million in private contributions. The Fund has led successful public-private initiatives to diversify the city economy, both geographically and by sector. It built a network of business experts and investors that nurtured the city’s “innovation economy growth,” creating thousands of jobs and promoting entrepreneurship with a focus on disadvantaged communities.

Wylde was named chief executive of the Partnership in 2001. Under her leadership, the business community worked with the government to develop an impact assessment and response to the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, generating $23 billion in federal aid to support the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan. Subsequently, the Partnership has been a significant source of the research and policies required to sustain New York City’s role as the world financial capital and a global high-tech and life sciences hub. In 2017, the nation’s first Transit Innovation Partnership was established with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to accelerate the improvement of the region’s transit system.

Wylde is an internationally known expert in housing, economic development, and urban policy. She serves on many nonprofit boards and advisory groups in New York and Puerto Rico, including the NYC Economic Development Corporation, the Fund for Public Schools, the Manhattan Institute, Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO), and the Governor’s NYC Regional Economic Development Council. She has authored numerous articles, opinion, and policy papers and has been recognized by dozens of educational, professional, and nonprofit institutions for her leadership.

Before joining the Partnership, Wylde worked in senior positions at the former Anchor Savings Bank and Lutheran Medical Center in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. She is a native of Madison, Wisconsin, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of St. Olaf College, and resides in Brooklyn, New York, and Quebradillas, Puerto Rico.

HICLEAN Dry Cleaning and Laundry

In 2016, Ana Guzmán and Joseph Santiago founded HiClean Dry Cleaning and Laundry after parting ways with a franchised dry-cleaning establishment. Choosing to invest their savings, they inaugurated two stores in Bayamón and added another a year later. Much like numerous small enterprises, the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 in Puerto Rico cast a shadow, prompting them to pivot their strategies. They diversified their services, introducing home and business delivery, and leveraged their client database for direct communication and special offers. Initially grappling with a sales dip, their resilience, aided by financial support and innovative adaptations, ensured their continued operations. 

Embarking on the PULSO program, they initially aimed to franchise their business. However, the program’s guidance led them to a pivotal decision—postponing franchising plans in favor of opening their fourth store. This decision involved implementing the innovative insights gleaned from PULSO. 

Ana emphasized how PULSO served as a catalyst, jolting them from the routine and prompting a transformative overhaul of all their stores. She elucidated that they had been immersed in day-to-day tasks without contemplating business expansion. Joseph credited PULSO’s workshops and mentorships, particularly the Marketing and Digital Presence track by Brands of Americas and the Business Plan Innovation track by INprende, for propelling their Riverview location to its most successful sales year. 

The Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC) played a crucial role in facilitating financing for the new machines and equipment needed for their fourth store. Ana and Joseph highlighted the streamlined process with LEDC, contrasting it favorably with their past experiences with private banking institutions. 

Beyond the physical transformation of their businesses, they noted that, prior to PULSO, HiClean had a limited presence on social media. Grateful for Brands of Americas mentorship sessions, they now actively build an online presence, reaching a wider audience. The business plan guide from INprende surpassed their expectations, providing a focal point for their objectives. 

Joseph stressed the significance of ongoing education for small business owners, citing how PULSO, despite his managerial background, provided fresh insights. He advocated for the proliferation of programs like PULSO, asserting that the dynamic nature of business demands continual learning. Ana echoed this sentiment, urging all small business owners to embark on a PULSO-like experience at the outset of their journey to enhance their understanding of business dynamics and minimize mistakes. 

While their initial expectations from the program centered around developing a business plan, their PULSO experience not only inspired confidence but also propelled them to open their fourth store. Reflecting on their journey, they took pride in persevering through adversities like hurricanes, earthquakes, and the pandemic. Their sales now surpass pre-threat levels, and they proudly proclaim, “We are now the top Dry-Cleaning store in the municipality of Bayamón, and our new store will be the top one in Guaynabo.” 

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Healthcare

Imagine a world where every ailment is detected in its earliest stage, where every treatment is personalized to your unique genetic makeup, where tedious administrative tasks are automated, allowing your doctors to focus solely on your care. Picture a healthcare system where life-saving medications are discovered at lightning speed, and mental health support is just a click away, available 24/7. Visualize surgical procedures carried out with unfaltering precision by robotic hands, guided by artificial intelligence.

In this world, AI-powered wearable devices monitor your health continuously, flagging potential concerns before they escalate. Virtual assistants remind you to take your medicine, answer your questions, and provide you with comfort during your healthcare journey. Regardless of where you live, quality healthcare is always accessible, thanks to telemedicine driven by advanced algorithms.

This world isn’t a distant utopia. It’s the imminent future of healthcare, transformed by AI. A future where disease prediction, prevention, and treatment reach unprecedented levels of efficiency, accessibility, and accuracy. A future where healthcare becomes truly personalized, proactive, and patient-centered. Welcome to the revolution of healthcare by artificial intelligence.

We see a future where healthcare becomes truly personalized, proactive, and patient-centered. This is the revolution of healthcare by artificial intelligence.

Alleviating healthcare worker burnout: Puerto Rico is experiencing a healthcare worker shortage, with the few that remain experiencing a disproportionately high workload. This has caused long wait times and various medical areas to be unattended. The number of workers is not proportional to our population. This is increasingly worrying considering the advancing aging population. Due to this, burnout is incredibly common among the available healthcare workers. Artificial Intelligence has the potential to alleviate this problem by revolutionizing the healthcare system by improving efficiency, accuracy, and accessibility. AI can assist in early detection and diagnosis of diseases, aid in treatment planning, and enhance patient monitoring through remote care and wearable devices. It can automate administrative tasks (e.g., documentation, scheduling, record management, information retrieval, etc.), streamline workflows, optimize resource allocation, reduce healthcare costs and alleviate the burden on healthcare workers. AI-powered technologies, such as virtual assistants and chatbots, can provide basic medical information, freeing up healthcare workers to focus on more complex patient care. AI-driven decision support systems can enhance clinical decision-making, reduce errors, and improve patient outcomes. Additionally, AI-powered research and data analytics can accelerate medical discoveries and enable personalized medicine. These AI-enabled solutions have the potential to enhance the healthcare system’s efficiency, alleviate healthcare worker’s burnout, and ultimately improve patient outcomes.

Healthcare accessibility for isolated municipalities: In Puerto Rico, there are gaps in healthcare accessibility. Some municipalities, specifically those at the center of the island, have little to no access to healthcare services. Most times, they either have only one physician for the whole community, which causes long wait times, or they must commute out of their municipality to receive medical service. Telemedicine enabled by AI-powered platforms allows remote consultations, breaking down geographical barriers by providing access to medical services in these isolated areas. AI can also facilitate remote monitoring of patients’ health conditions through wearable devices and sensors, allowing healthcare providers to track and manage their health remotely. This reduces the need to commute out of their municipalities for in-person appointments. Additionally, AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants can offer 24/7 support, providing immediate responses to basic medical inquiries and delivering healthcare information to patients at their convenience. Likewise, AI algorithms can assist in diagnosing and conducting a preliminary assessment on patients, providing access to specialized care even in areas where certain medical specialties may be scarce. Therefore, implementing AI can help reduce healthcare disparities on the island.

Ensuring Healthcare for the Aging Population: Puerto Rico has a rapidly aging population, its share of older residents being one of the largest in the world. At current rates, Puerto Rico will be disproportionately populated by older residents. This brings a myriad of concerns, specifically in the healthcare sector which can be easily overwhelmed by the large influx of older patients. AI could be the solution to this problem. AI can assist in the personalization of healthcare plans by considering the unique needs and preferences of older adults. Through AI-powered monitoring systems, the health of elderly individuals can be remotely tracked, allowing for timely intervention and proactive care. AI-based virtual assistants can offer companionship, reminders for medication and appointments, and support for daily living activities which can enhance the independence and well-being of the elderly. These options reduce the need for in-person medical services. This way, AI can ensure Puerto Rico’s elderly are taken care of despite the limitations of personnel and resources.

Drug Discovery and Development: Puerto Rico used to be a pharmaceutical manufacturing giant until companies started to leave for places with better tax incentives. The pandemic demonstrated the issues with outsourcing medical drugs and resources. This started conversations on needing to re-domesticate the health industry. Since Puerto Rico already has the necessary infrastructure, it has an advantage over other locations. With the help of AI, Puerto Rico could become once again the pharmaceutical mogul it used to be. AI can significantly shorten the time to market for new drugs by predicting their effectiveness and potential side effects. It can also identify potential therapeutic uses for existing drugs, thereby repurposing them and saving time and resources in the process.AI can be used to analyze large datasets of genetic and biochemical information to identify new drug targets. This can help to focus drug discovery efforts on promising targets, increasing the chances of success. AI can be used to design new drug molecules that are more likely to be effective and have fewer side effects. This can be done by using AI to simulate the interactions of drug molecules with target proteins. AI can be used to screen large libraries of drug candidates to identify those that are most likely to be effective. This can help to reduce the number of laboratory experiments that need to be conducted, saving time and money.

Mental Health Care: Overall, there is a mental health crisis in Puerto Rico. The uncertainty about the future, economic struggles, natural disasters, and a failing healthcare system have contributed to a worsening mental health. There’s a complex trauma within the residents that is not being properly addressed. In the field of mental healthcare, AI has the potential to revolutionize the way that people receive care. One of the most promising applications of AI in mental healthcare is virtual counselling and therapy. AI-powered chatbots can provide support and therapy to people who live in remote areas or who cannot afford traditional therapy. These chatbots can be accessed 24/7, making them a convenient and accessible option for people who need help. For example, the company Woebot offers an AI chatbot that can help people to manage their anxiety and depression. Woebot is trained on a dataset of millions of text messages, and it can use this data to provide personalized support and advice. Woebot can also track a user’s mood over time, and it can alert the user if their mood seems to be declining. Another way that AI can transform mental healthcare is by monitoring patients’ moods and emotions. AI-powered apps can be used to track a user’s mood, sleep patterns, and other factors that can affect mental health. This information can then be used to identify people who are at risk for developing mental health problems, and it can also be used to track the progress of people who are already receiving treatment. Moodpath offers an AI-powered app that can help people to track their mood. Moodpath uses a variety of methods to track mood, including facial recognition, text analysis, and surveys. This information can then be used to identify patterns in a user’s mood, and it can also be used to provide personalized advice. In addition to providing virtual counselling and therapy and monitoring patients’ moods and emotions, AI can also be used to alert professionals when intervention is needed. For example, AI-powered apps can be used to track a user’s heart rate and breathing rate. If these measurements indicate that a user is experiencing a panic attack, the app can automatically send an alert to a mental health professional.

Pika Pika Productions continued...

Jennilys Lajara-González founded Pikapika Productions with hopes of making a positive change in Puerto Rico after she left for 3 years after Hurricane María, felling she owed it to her homeland. After the pandemic hit in 2020, she decided to return to the place that truly made her happy, and upon returning, was shocked at what appeared to be a different Puerto Rico: a place where people were standing up more for what they believed in, what they deserved, and were determined to make positive changes to improve the island’s future. As a starting point, Lajara started networking among leaders from several nonprofit organizations and entrepreneurs and began making fundraising events for them, in what would be the start of Pikapika Productions.  

Lajara shares that her business was born “in reverse”. She explains that prior to submitting to PULSO, Pikapika was not even a registered business, although she was already getting requests from potential clients. She knew she still required taking essential steps to formally launch her business, such as a business plan, permits, insurance and access to capital. Still, Lajara was completely lost on how to go about this. “I had the product, but needed help correctly structuring the business”, reports Lajara. Moreover, she explained that she knew she needed a team of mentors that were not only great, but were the best at what they did. After viewing a Facebook ad about the CNPP program, PULSO, she researched spokes and thought this was the opportunity she had been looking for.  

Lajara was not disappointed. During an interview, she elaborated that each spoke brought essential knowledge that not only helped her business but also helped her aid the organizations to which she provided services to. Spoke Colmena66 was the first to provide Lajara with guidance, receiving a personalized action plan with referrals to other support services that could establish a baseline for her journey, as well as leveraging the network of entrepreneurial support organizations in Puerto Rico. Lajara explains that this was extremely useful for her, as she identified a lot of available resources that were already at ther disposition but did not know. 

Spoke Centro para Emprendedores was also very helpful for Lajara’s journey in building her business. Before coming into PULSO, she had encountered numerous hurdles and was overwhelmed by the bureaucratic and administrative work that the state requires. Centro para Emprendedores helped her map out a process where she could complete all the missing steps for her to have her business properly established without interfering with the boost of clients she was receiving.  

Lajara also expressed several times her immense gratitude for spoke INprende’s mentor Natalia Bonderenko and their team. This stage proved to be one of the most helpful for her in terms of taking her services to a new level, challenging her to produce something different and innovative, opening her mind and business to new opportunities that have proved fruitful for her in the months ahead, securing more clients and collaborations.  

The Pikapika owner also appreciated being “being called out” by her mentors from Brands of Americas, after seeing the amazing things he had been doing, but not visibilizing any of ther initiatives. She went on to describe how this spoke’s counseling made realize the importance of taking advantage of what showcasing her work in social media could do to reach more clients. Since then, she has started documenting everything and participating in other social media platforms she had not considered before. This has resulted in new alliances and a broader network of clients and collaborators.  

Lastly Lajara also benefited from spoke the Latino Economic Development Center’s services, receiving valuable insights about what lenders are typically searching for when a business applies for financial assistance programs, loans, or any other financial aid.  

Today Pikapika Productions is a thriving business, with new and potential clients and partners thanks to CNPP services. Pikapika is a properly established business, it has a well-researched business plan, marketing efforts that are expanding and reaching new audiences through social media platforms, and an operational system that provides her with insights about the results of her marketing strategies. In our interview, Lajara adds that – just as importantly – she no longer feels like she is raising a business her own, and is grateful for the resources, support and knowledge she received from the PULSO team and the community she now feels is there to continue supporting her, which she describes as “best team possible”. 
 
“What advice would I give to people that are starting a business or already have a business? Learn about Pulso NOW! I even sent out invitations to people for Cohort 3. Because it’s important to educate yourself and keep learning. Because even though you may have a bachelor’s degree in business administration from 20 years ago, the world evolves, people change and everything changes and you need to keep changing, learning, and growing with it. And my recommendation for people who are thinking about being an entrepreneur or already are, is to always look out for resources such as this one. If this is your life’s work – like it is for me, you need to be accompanied by people who actually know. And if you have the opportunity to participate in a program like PULSO, (which is free!) you need to invest your time in it.” – Jennilys Lajara, owner of Pikapika Productions and {uerto Rico CNNP client. 

Tráime continued...

Javier Orlando Cordero Ríos and his partner Keshia Odette García Cabán founded “Tráime” during the COVID-19 pandemic in Puerto Rico, with hopes of having an additional income and make what they thought was an innovative idea come to life. Although Javier had previous experience being a business owner, neither Javier nor Keshia had a formal educational background in business. Javier has a college degree in Political Science and Keshia has a master’s degree in criminal justice, but both were able to manage several businesses thanks to Javier and his family’s experience managing multiple local businesses.  

“Tráime” is a service-oriented business that finds solutions for other businesses and entrepreneurs who are establishing their company. They provide services such as logistics, permit acquisitions, business assessments, merchandise transportation, and more. Prior to their participation in the PULSO program, “Tráime” was generating a healthy income by providing services to various clients, but the owners were worried about the longevity of the business. How would they keep this successful business model after the pandemic? In addition, Javier and Keshia were building their services from scratch, contacting several professionals to help them with the operations of their business and with their own clients. Due to their lack of knowledge, they had to invest both time and money in tasks they were unable to handle independently. 

According to both owners, PULSO provided them with the necessary knowledge to address various gaps. Additionally, the mentors affirmed the innovative nature of their business and confirmed they were on a promising trajectory. They described how counseling from spoke INprende was instrumental in identifying business opportunities and realizing the need to strengthen their businesses rather than spreading themselves thin across multiple clients. This shift allowed them to concentrate on delivering more comprehensive services to a select group of clients, leading to significant time and cost savings, and ultimately increase their revenue. 

Furthermore, they highlighted unanimous mentor consensus on the importance of enhancing their digital presence to attract more customers. Although they lacked the tools and knowledge for this, spoke Brands of Americas came to their aid by devising a content strategy and initiating the development of a landing page. This digital transformation not only improved their visibility but also helped streamline their operations and reduce the need for additional personnel. 

Both owners expressed their gratitude and relief for the robust business ecosystem in Puerto Rico and praised PULSO for providing comprehensive support in a structured manner. Overwhelmed at first, they found PULSO instrumental in guiding them through various aspects of their business. 

Less than a year into the PULSO program, “Tráime” is already hiring a part-time employee and has witnessed increased customer acquisition through their revamped social media strategy and services offering. They are even considering acquiring a physical location to expand their operations, particularly in client merchandise storage. Strategies developed and implemented through the program has enabled them to achieve their financial projections faster than anticipated. 

The participants expressed deep gratitude for the program, as well as their desire for more iterations of PULSO across the entire island. They suggested tailored versions of the program for individuals with business ideas, startups, and established businesses. They firmly believed that participation in such programs should be mandatory for all business owners, as it could minimize bankruptcies, enhance the longevity of seasonal businesses, and contribute to overall economic growth. 

As a final thought, Javier and Keshia expressed: “We recommend the program 100% because it has helped us in every aspect – not only as business owners and tangible results, but as human beings. There’s nothing like having the company experts and the positive energy that other business owners transmit”. 

Business financial literacy and credit counseling

During this stage businesses will gain deeper understanding on financial management, credit and financing. With the guidance and counseling of experts, businesses will generate and interpret financial reports. As a result of this stage businesses can expect to:

  1. Complete a workplan to start building personal and business credit score.
  2. Develop budget using available tools.
  3. Plan to have accurate and key financial information for decision making and loan applications.
  4. Develop business financial projections.
  5. Create a structured archive of key financial documents.
  6. Establish a relationship with a lender and a clear pathway for financing to address their current business plan.

During this last stage, businesses will understand their financing needs and have a clear path to reach those. If necessary, client will apply for financing through LEDC. With the guidance and counseling of experts, businesses will understand the importance of recordkeeping, assists clients to apply for a loan, overcoming barriers to accessing financing.

 

Modality: Virtual

 

Trainings per cohort: 3 workshops (2 hours each)

 

Individual counseling: 3 sessions per business (6 hours of direct services and 4 hours of indirect services)

 

Total hours per business/per cohort: 16 hours

Marketing and digital presence

Through three educational modules business owners will go from the basic concepts of the industry to the complexity of developing marketing campaigns, as well as strategies for customer acquisition and loyalty. It will provide individualized technical assistance to each business to develop a humanized brand, a marketing strategy (including digital) and to establish e-commerce as one of the company’s revenue streams, on an industry-specific platform. As a result, it is intended that businesses establish e-commerce (as applicable) with a sales strategy and a complete the development of a marketing strategy.

 

Modality: Face-to-face/ in-person

 

Trainings per cohort: 4 workshops (4 hours each + Q&A session)

 

Individual counseling: 1 session per business (1.5 hours)

 

Total hours per cohort/per business: 17.5 hours

Business plan innovation

The Business Innovation stage looks to encourage a growth mindset based on problem solving and identification of innovative business ideas with high potential to evolve into business. Using INprende’s methodology businesses will learn about the process and the necessary steps to develop an innovative business plan in a structured and result oriented way. Participants will receive a business innovation manual detailing the business plan methodology and a working template, which will guide businesses in their innovation journey. Through a series of workshops and innovation sessions, participants will conduct commercial, technical and financial validation exercises with the guidance of INprende. As a result, businesses will complete a detailed business innovation plan tailored to their business by the end of this stage.

 

Modality: Virtual

 

Trainings per cohort: 3 workshops (2 hours each)

 

Counseling per cohort: 3 innovation sessions (1 hour each)

 

Total hours per cohort/per business: 9 hours

Business 101

Business 101 is an introductory stage that paves the way for strategic business development, optimization and innovation. Through a series of workshops and individual technical assistance, businesses will be diving into their existing business models and learning about opportunities to grow under a new economy. Businesses will learn how to re-evaluate their customer segments, assess the viability of their existing business model, and identify key areas of opportunities considering new industries demands around the world. Businesses will also receive educational material and a revised business profile with an action plan to identify and assess new business opportunities.

With the help of experts, businesses will :

 

Identify pitfalls and areas of opportunities under existing business models.

 

Identify strategies to address challenges

 

Evaluate and ensure business follows existing laws and regulations. 

 

Modality: Virtual 

 

Trainings per cohort: 4 workshops (2 hours each) 

 

Individual counseling: 2 sessions per business (2 hours of direct services and 3 hours of indirect services)  

 

Total hours per cohort/per business: 13 hours 

Business assessment, profiling, and referral

Once selected to participate in the program, you will go through an assessment with Colmena66 that will establish a baseline for your journey before proceeding to the following stages. This assessment will also provide you with a profile of your business as well as referrals so you can leverage the network of entrepreneurial support organizations in Puerto Rico and expand your own connections to other business development resources and support.

Funding disclaimer

Foundation for Puerto Rico (FPR), Puerto Rico Housing Department (PRDOH), the Whole Community Resilience Planning Program (WCRP), CDBG-DR and CDBG-MIT Programs are not responsible for the publications shared in the WCRP Support Resources webpage and are not obligated to update the information.

FPR, PRDOH, WCRP, CDBG-DR and CDBG-MIT programs don’t manage any of the resources presented, can’t respond to questions related to these opportunities and neither represent or endorse any of the resources shared in this newsletter. For additional information, please refer to the links provided.

Non-governmental or external opportunities are provided for outreach purposes only. FPR, PRDOH, WCRP, CDBG-DR and CDBG-MIT programs don’t endorse, compensate or collaborate with any outside vendors or organizations and, as such, the expressions or content of the websites, applications or pages may not be construed as the official position or opinion of the mentioned entities with respect to these topics.

By browsing the websites linked on this page, the recipient assumes all liability, including, but not limited to, possible phishing attempts, scams and malware downloads. The user also accepts all responsibility and risk by clicking on cookies, as well as by rejecting or accepting any offers or advertisements. Providing name, phone, address, or other information, while browsing the websites linked above, is done at the discretion of the recipient. FPR, PRDOH, WCRP, CDBG-DR and CDBG-MIT programs have no influence or participation in how the websites use the data. They are also not responsible for the protection of user data and will not be liable for intrusions, expressions, hacking attempts or improper behavior on such websites.

N'Corcho continued...

His business is the first and only one in Puerto Rico that distributes innovative handbags and other accessories made from sustainably harvested cork. At first it was a challenge to convince people that these were high-quality products, because people normally associate cork with wine bottles and nothing else. Despite that, Morgan promptly started to move the product, making outstanding sales in festivals and major events in Puerto Rico. After seeing his huge success during these initial months, he decided to bet on himself and his business and invested all of his savings and earnings in new merchandise. Unfortunately, just days after his big investment, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the island and caused a complete lockdown – shutting down all events and malls island wide. This left Morgan with no liquid assets, no source of income and a house full of products that did not have a point of sale. Desperate, he turned to sell his products on the streets or wherever he could but was understandably worried about the image his brand would now portray. He really wanted to maintain his brand’s high-end look but was struggling to make ends meet.  

Although Morgan was able to open a store in a prominent northern region mall once social distancing measures were dialed down, he was still worried about his venture’s future. 2021 was a year in which both people and small businesses received financial relief aid, which allowed clients to continue buying his products, allowing his business to stay afloat. He anticipated that 2022 would be different, as financial aid became less available. He desperately needed entrepreneurial training to ensure that his business could bounce back and continue growing. 

When Morgan entered SBA’s community navigator pilot program in Puerto Rico, PULSO, he confessed he was very skeptical about the training he was going to receive, worried they would be a waste of time. His worries and skepticism faded away as soon as he began his first stage of the program, with spoke Colmena66. He described this as an enlightening moment that set the tone for the rest of this journey. During this stage Morgan was provided with a roadmap called “Tu Camino Empresarial” (Your entrepreneurial roadmap), which clearly detailed trails of business support programs and organizations that could help entrepreneurs and SME’s in establishing and growing their business, no matter what stage they were in. Morgan explained how he shifted to a more optimistic outlook, feeling that he was beginning to understand that he was not alone in this journey. Following the program’s second stage, “Business 101” led by spoke Centro para Emprendedores, Morgan was surprised at how mentors explained typically complex terms in ways that were easier for him to understand and apply to his business. The program’s third stage led by spoke INprende allowed him to better understand who his target client was, and that his current location may not be the place where they would typically go shopping, making him reconsider his point of sale. N’Corcho also benefited from the manual that this stage provided to improve his business plan, making it easier to plan ahead and make future projections. In addition to this stage, he also benefited greatly from the tools that spoke Brands of Americas provided him during the “Marketing and Digital Presence” stage, which helped him develop a more structured plan towards gaining more brand recognition in the Puerto Rican market. He also acknowledged that his social media skills received a major boost and that this, combined with his plans to expand, will duplicate sales and increase brand recognition in Puerto Rico.   

Morgan explains that following the program’s services, he now feels more confident about N’Corcho’s future, especially now that he has developed his support network with PULSO’s mentors and peers. After going through most of the program’s curriculum, Morgan was ready to apply for financing to implement his plans to expand based on his newfound knowledge obtained in PULSO. With the help of the spoke Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC), Morgan was able to structure his business’ finances and work on his loan readiness. LEDC was also able to guide Morgan through his loan application, which was ultimately approved for $45,000. 

After months of only having one point of sale and one part-time employee, Morgan is set to open a second location in a mall with higher traffic, recruiting 3 additional employees starting December 1st, 2022. In addition to that, Morgan was finally approved to receive a $45k loan thanks to the guidance from Latino Economic Development Center, the organization that led PULSO’s last stage. Morgan expresses immense gratitude for the support he has received from the CNPP consortium, insisting that given the chance, he would do it all over again.  

Wafol Café Success Story

Both were self-taught entrepreneurs, with completely different career and education paths (Alexander studied Electrical Engineering and Calibration, and Daphne was in the Natural Sciences field). By reading books they managed to learn about how to establish and run a restaurant. Prior to the program’s impact on Wafol Café, this innovative restaurant had a very distinctive business model. The restaurant had no servers and was based on a self-serve business model that allowed customers to come in and make their own waffles and breakfast by adding the toppings that they desired.  

However just 1 month after its opening in December 2019, Puerto Rico was struck by a series of earthquakes and 3 months after that, the first COVID-19 patients were confirmed and Puerto Rico was put under a mandatory lockdown. These measures put a serious strain on many entrepreneurs and small business owners like Alexander and Davny. In their case, they were able to partially resume their business after restrictions dialed down. Still, local regulations only allowed 50% capacity in restaurants, which ultimately pushed Wafol Café towards re-inventing their original business model into a dine-in experience with servers, while also implementing delivery services.  

PULSO’s stage-based assistance allowed Alexander and Daphne to overcome many of the challenges that they were facing, specifically in reassessing their original business plan to consider pre-existing and new challenges through the Business Assessment, Business 101 and Business Plan innovation stages of PULSO. In an interview with the CNPP Hub team Davny recalls that after a counseling session with spoke, Centro Para Emprendedores, they discovered that the way they were managing their inventory was part of the reason behind their cash flow limitations. 

Thanks to these services being provided early in the program, Davny and Alexander were able to learn about how discarded products, employee meal benefits and price inflation increased costs per unit, and how to adjust their pricing strategy to stay on top of it. 

They then began developing a standardized system to help them have more control of their finances. In addition, program services allowed Davny and Alexander to become aware that 40% of their sales revenue came from a specific product, which ultimately led them to develop a sales strategy to continue driving revenue through their star product. Additionally, counseling sessions made them realize that they were overlooking their weekday consumers (such as employees from nearby offices, parents that take their kids to school early in the morning, and retired/elderly people that live in the area), which represented an additional business opportunity for growth. The program’s innovation sessions with other cohort participants were especially helpful for Davny and Alexander in identifying additional business opportunities.

By connecting with other entrepreneurs from Vega Baja and nearby municipalities they concluded that their area did not have sufficient food delivery options, which was an area of opportunity to expand their services. The duo is now developing the second phase of their business plan that considers a rebranding effort that includes a new webpage connected to a new delivery system to help them take advantage of the opportunity and reach their ideal customer. As their business slowly moves into the digital experience, they recognize how workshops from spoke Brands of Americas are helping them ensure the successful implementation of these efforts.  

After having an original plan where they only contemplated 3 employees, they now have 14 employees and are in the process of restructuring their kitchen and buying advanced equipment to help them achieve their projected production capacity. What began as a part-time venture, is now a full-time source of income. They both expressed that since enrolling in the program they no longer feel like they’re raising a business on their own, and their progress has made it possible for Alexander to quit his day job and make his living wage completely off their business.