Recently I attended a meeting of graduates from the CIPE sponsored EmprendeAhora program run by Instituto Invertir in Peru, who gathered to develop an alumni network that can continue to help them with their new businesses (we have featured blogs on this very successful program). Seeing these 60 youths work diligently toward establishing an ongoing network using their personal time and resources was inspiring enough, but probably the most impressive aspects of the event were some of the personal stories I heard. Margarita Calle has one of those stories to tell and I would like to share it with you here:
“My way of being and seeing the world completely changed between 2011 and 2012. I was studying economics at the National Central University of Peru in Huancayo, and my short-term goal at that time was to apply for a job in a private firm or in the public sector, and to find a ‘good’ job that would allow for my professional development while working to establish my career. This plan was based on working for someone and finding happiness in it, which is the path that society usually persuades us to take.
“While I was surfing the Internet, reviewing financial websites and other relevant sites for my career, I found a scholarship program: EmprendeAhora, and without really understanding what it was about, I applied – I have always liked to seize opportunities as soon as I identify them. Immediately I knew it was not like any other program because, in addition to specialized information that was required, they requested the description of a business idea that had two fundamental and innovative requirements: that it support the development of the region we come from and that it satisfy a need that has not been met. I began thinking about my region, and I started to believe there was potential for development that could be led by young people like me. I began to feel something different and I think it was at that point when I started to feel the ‘entrepreneur’ feeling.
“I received the good news that I was admitted to the program, and that I would be able to go to the summer sessions. These included specialized and motivational courses, and beyond teaching and giving us the most useful tools to develop our business ideas, we discovered what it meant to be an entrepreneur in Peru – to be willing to leave our comfort zone and develop a business.
“The content on democracy in the course instilled in us from the start was crucial and helped us to understand the involvement of young people in issues of citizenship, economic and academic freedom, and how we should take part in this every day of our lives.
“The network of friends and entrepreneurs we created during the course is invaluable. It is great to learn alongside other young people who have the same motivation to grow (personally, economically, culturally, and socially), while at the same time support growth in our society. The networks that we are creating, and the business associations and corporate social responsibility initiatives that are forming, are invaluable.
“Until recently my story was just an experience, but now I can proudly say that I am a young entrepreneur: I have an online bookstore and a social initiative to incentivize reading in children living in extremely poor districts across Peru. And I can and must thank EmprendeAhora for the opportunity I was given — not only for the knowledge I received, but also for what I discovered in myself thanks to other alumni. With EmprendeAhora I came to understand Peru through my colleagues, and with the alumni network we are supporting Peru’s development with our talents.”
John Zemko is Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean at CIPE.