Foundation for Puerto Rico (FPR), a nonprofit organization, formed an alliance with five business advisory organizations to enhance business conceptualization and development in the southern region of the island after receiving a $295,000 grant from the Kauffman Foundation.
Alma Frontera, the FPR's director of Partnerships and Strategic Projects, explained to THE WEEKLY JOURNAL that the nonprofit joined INprende, Centro para Emprendedores (Center for Entrepreneurs), Grupo Guayacán, Causa Local, and Colmena 66 to create an educational program to guide and bolster 15 entrepreneurs to open their businesses.
"This group of organizations has received for the first time in Puerto Rico this grant from the Kauffman Foundation to be able to hold an incubation project for new businesses in the southern area. We were chosen after an evaluation of 750 requests from 42 states and two territories," Frontera said.
The proposal—which will begin on October—will take place in Ponce and Coamo for one year. Frontera stated that they expect that the companies—which must be geared toward visitor's economy—will take shape during the advisory year and may be able to create at least two jobs each.
Alessandra Correa, founder of INprende, said that the curriculum will be gradual and it will represent the integration of each organization's best practices.
"The curriculum of our programs is being modified to unify it for this project," Correa said. She added that they intend to motivate participants "and carry a message of possibilities while placing entrepreneurs in the correct entrepreneurial mindset."
Correa will be in charge of activating entrepreneurs and supporting them in validating and implementing their ideas.
"A project like this is very important, especially for the historical moment in which the country is living, which requires more collaboration. This allows us to add value to each other. The ecosystem has a curriculum with a goal that will facilitate the work of these entrepreneurs," Correa affirmed.
Nerma Albertorio, founder of the Centro para Emprendedores, said that they will be working alongside participants to see if there are business-related opportunities with their ideas. Likewise, they will guide them in the idea structuring process and business management.
"We will have a very robust and solid generation of entrepreneurs. This ecosystem has all the organizations that a person might need to go from the idea until it becomes a reality. Many of our programs complement each other, so we devise the perfect path for an entrepreneur," Albertorio opined.
Moreover, Laura Cantero, executive director of Grupo Guayacán, asserted that it is a good opportunity to expend their respective business advisory programs to different parts of Puerto Rico. She stated that the process will allow them to know which practices work and which don't in order to improve their services.
"We love the idea of returning to those municipalities and to be able to expose the people of that region to these programs, to which they sometimes lack access because entrepreneurism oftentimes takes place in the metropolitan area," Cantero said.
Participants will also have access to the Kiva platform, which offers loans of up to $10,000 with a zero percent interest rate. Ana María Cintrón, from Casa Local, stated that "without money the wheel does not gear, so they have a commitment to provide $1 million in the next two years."
Meanwhile, Denisse Rodríguez, from Colmena 66, informed that they will be available to introduce participants to other organizations and programs to complement the process.
"We are here to create access pathways to these entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are at risk and the least we can do is to support them along the way and being there for them," she stated.
Given the fact that statistics reveal that in mainland U.S. startups fail within a year of opening, Albertorio said that part of the program is focused on validating the business idea before it steps into the market.
"We will be mitigating many of the mistakes made in that first year with the curriculum," she said.
The call to participate will begin in October digitally. Frontera stressed that in order to participate, people only need a business idea, not something concrete.