Resilience as an entrepreneurship engine

Every successful entrepreneur must have the ability to be resilient and adaptable to changes in their industry or market. But other entrepreneurs face challenges beyond what is typical. That’s the story we explored in the tenth edition of Stay Open, Stay Safe, where we talked with Katerina Sánchez, program manager of Grupo Guayacán, and Anneliz Oliver, program manager of Emprende 360°, about the resilience of entrepreneurs on the island, who are unstoppable.

A year ago, Foundation for Puerto Rico convened a group of collaborators from Puerto Rico’s entrepreneurial ecosystem – INprende, Centro para Emprendedores, Grupo Guayacán and Causa Local – to launch Emprende 360°, an entrepreneurial training program in the municipalities of Coamo and Ponce with the goal of creating and launching new businesses within the visitor economy in the southern region of the island.

"Each organization has a methodology that represents a part of the business path that each entrepreneur takes in the process of developing his or her business idea," explained Anneliz.

What is innovative about Emprende 360° is the creation of an integrated curriculum that can be completed within the framework of one year, where the modules and proprietary tools of each organization are joined in a sequential way.

As if the challenge of entrepreneurship were not great enough, program participants faced great adversity beyond their control, such as the earthquakes in the South that have not stopped since December, and now the COVID-19 pandemic. This has forced a lot of adjustments to the program, as prior to these mishaps, the expectation was that most sessions would be held in person. However, “two days before the third session of Community I-CORPS, we decided to move the workshop virtually before the lockdown announcement was made,” says Anneliz.

Even so, the first virtual session was very successful. “These entrepreneurs have faced personal challenges, challenges beyond their control, and yet they have continued with their projects,” says Katerina.

Just like the entrepreneurs, the organizations collaborating with the program had to adapt to the virtual world. However, the program continues completely virtually to this day. “At no time did I hear a ‘this is very difficult’ […] How much technology could be used, we exposed them to it and at no time did we hear a ‘no’,” says Anneliz. From business presentations prepared on cell phones to the use of new tools, the entrepreneurs remained faithful to the process.

For those who aspire to become entrepreneurs, Katerina gives them the confidence to contact the organizations available in the business ecosystem. “There are a lot of opportunities out there, but you have to ask for help and you have to contact the people who are there for that,” says Katerina.

Emprende 360º is funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

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