Selva Constructor, Karolo’s latest business venture, is an architecture and construction firm based in Tarapoto, Peru.
CIPE began working with Peruvian NGO, Instituto Invertir, in 2008, with the belief that developing business and leadership skills in young Peruvians from the country’s diverse regions would help build a culture of entrepreneurship and civic participation – creating alternatives to the limited social and economic opportunities. This, in response to the general populations’ frustration with the shortcomings of the country’s democratic system and an increasingly anti-democratic rhetoric from leaders in certain areas of Peru. The initial vision of what program success would look like has been far exceeded thanks to the initiative of young Peruvians like Karolo Pérez Alvarado.
Long-time CIPE Development Blog readers may recall being introduced to Karolo back in January 2010. As one of the inaugural fellows in the first ever EmprendeAhora (EA) program in 2008, Karolo and his teammates were awarded first prize in the business plan contest for their idea to inject adventure into bio tourism in the San Martín region of Peru.
Having struck up a friendship with Karolo during my visit to Tarapoto, San Martín, naturally we made it official on Facebook. In the years since I have maintained contact from afar and watched as Karolo grew from a young man with a fun business idea into a successful entrepreneur serving as a driving force behind his community’s development, and an inspiration for young entrepreneurs around the country.
(Ver en español.)
Opportunities in Bambamarca, Peru, are not plentiful. For most people, earning enough just to get by can be a challenge. Earning enough to employ others, send your children to school, and invest in more sustainable business practices are luxuries which most in this small district in the Cajamarca department don’t have. The average household income reaches just barely $100 per month and most Bambamarquinos don’t have electricity or running water. Many cannot read.
Despite these challenges, one Bambamarca native decided to invest his time, money, and opportunities back into the community. Videlmo Maluquish Silva is a young entrepreneur who participated in the inaugural EmprendeAhora youth leadership and entrepreneurship training program in 2008. Since 2008, EmprendeAhora has been bringing college students from every region of Peru together with a focus on creating entrepreneurs who understand the value of democracy and the responsibility of the private sector to improve the economic opportunities in their communities.
(Watch the video in Spanish.)
During late August 2013, CIPE program officer Brent Ruth and I had the opportunity to travel through Peru to meet with EmprendeAhora alumni who have become amazing entrepreneurs. The purpose of this trip was to conduct an evaluation of the impact these alumni are having in their regions; however, I never could have imagined the impact their stories would have on me.
It was extremely motivating to hear how these alumni, with a little help from the EmprendeAhora program, gained the confidence to believe in themselves and in the entrepreneurial initiatives they’d only dreamed of before. Even more impressive was that they were all interested in doing business with a purpose. For them it was as important to have a positive social impact—if not more important— as to make a profit.
In order to share the positive social impact the EmprendeAhora alumni are having in their regions, Brent and I filmed our interviews with the alumni we met with in Peru. Throughout this year CIPE will publish a series of videos. The first video in the series tells the story of 2008 alum Jorge Luis Cueva Ramírez, co-owner and manager of a retreat hotel, Casa Cumbray Hotel de Campo in La Libertad, Peru.
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.
Over the course of June and July, nearly 1,000 high school and university students in cities throughout Ecuador learned about business plan development, leadership and communication, market economy, and democracy. However, they did not learn about these topics by reading their textbooks or from listening to a professional consultant or workshop facilitator. Uniquely, the message on the importance of a market economy, democracy, and an entrepreneurial climate came from a group of 45 aspiring young leaders and entrepreneurs. These 45 university students from rural areas of the country are the first participants in the Emprendedores Ecuatorianos (Ecuadorian Entrepreneurs) program organized by the Ecuadorian Institute of Political Economy (IEEP).
The Emprendedores Ecuatorianos program, launched earlier this year with local private sector and CIPE support, is modeled after the successful EmprendeAhora program in Peru. In this its first year, IEEP selected 45 participants based on a lengthy application process. The educational program took place from March to May at the Universidad del Espiritu Santo in Guayaquil and consisted of 100 hours of courses on leadership, business plans, democracy and economy, marketing, and human development.
EmprendeAhora participants at the inauguration of the 2012-013 EmprendeAhora program. (Photo: EmprendeAhora)
Entrepreneurship and business ownership is becoming an increasingly attractive career path for many young women in Latin America — with the help of programs like the CIPE-supported EmprendeAhora entrepreneurship and leadership courses in Peru.
In recent decades more and more women have begun to enter into the labor market and formal private sector, leading to an increased productivity for businesses and higher economic growth rates. As former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mentioned at a recent conference, between 2000 and 2010, women’s participation in the labor market in Latin America and the Caribbean grew by 15 percent. Without such growth, the World Bank estimates that the level of extreme poverty in the region would be 30 percent higher. These facts demonstrate the importance of women actively participating in the formal economy.
Nevertheless, such participation is not always easy. Would-be women entrepreneurs have to overcome many obstacles in order to achieve economic independence. In the case of Latin America and the Caribbean, as in many other regions, certain obstacles make it difficult for women to enter the formal private sector or become entrepreneurs. While in some cases legislation can create unnecessary hurdles, many times obstacles come in the shape of family members, societal norms, or even a lack of confidence that causes women to underestimate their own entrepreneurial capacity.
Last October U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to Peru. Clinton’s Peru trip barely made the headlines, but her remarks deserve attention and continue to ring true worldwide, especially in Latin America.
On her agenda: discussing bilateral and regional cooperation and delivering a keynote on women’s financial inclusion. In her remarks, she emphasized that economic strength is derived from social inclusion, and “at the heart of social inclusion [is] a commitment to women and girls.” But unfortunately the world’s attention was elsewhere, caught up in controversy over Libya and other regional priorities.