Ten young Costa Rican entrepreneurs and social leaders will travel to the U.S. for five weeks to take part in President Barack Obama’s Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative. The fellowship program is aimed at developing entrepreneurial skills and boosting economic opportunities for young professionals from Latin America and the Caribbean.
The program also provides opportunities for U.S. entrepreneurs, innovators and investors to bolster networking throughout the Americas.
The Ticos are part of a group of 250 business and social entrepreneurs between the ages of 21 and 35 who will visit companies or non-government organizations throughout the U.S. They will work jointly on a venture action plan to be implemented in their home countries upon their return.
Fellowship hosts in their field of expertise will offer them counselling and guidance along the way.
Fellows will also attend a networking event in Washington D.C. with U.S. government officials and global public, private and non-profit leaders.
Upon the fellows’ return, their hosts will visit them in their home countries to continue the collaboration process started during the internship.
Costa Rican fellows
The fellows chosen from Costa Rica represent social projects and businesses in a wide diversity of areas. These include environmental programs, aid programs for rural women and tourism. Others work on technology solutions or mass consumer products such as natural drinks and snacks, craft beer and clothing.
Ignacio Cubero, one of the selected entrepreneurs, pitched his company Zero Army, a natural juice bar that sells juices in reusable glass bottles and along with healthy lunches and snacks.
He will travel to Indianapolis where he will share his experience on “promoting responsible practices and environmentally friendly consumption” of his products, he said.
Cubero said the program represents a unique growth opportunity. He said that during the selection process he always emphasized his goals of developing skills to become “a better entrepreneur and a better leader for his projects.”
Besides Zero Army, he created two more projects: Tiger House Translations, a translation agency specializing in legal and business translation and STOLAS, a rooming house and adventure tourism service for students and interns visiting Costa Rica.
Karla Delgado is a fashion designer who will travel to Miami. There she will exchange information and experiences on the three clothing brands that she manufactures and distributes here.
Her brands are Koala Designs, a company uniform line; Mangata a summer clothing and bathing suit brand for women; and Beard Man, a men’s clothing brand.
Delgado said she decided to apply for the fellowship after seeing a post on the U.S. Embassy in San José’s Facebook profile. She said she is very interested in showing that Tico businesses like hers can offer international quality.
Delgado also said she’s looking forward to making the most of the internship and that she was very happy when she heard she will be in Miami. “I think I can both learn and share a lot in Miami, and I’m sure my products are well suited for people there,” she said.
One of the program’s most attractive perks is that it allows for international networking opportunities to expand fellows’ businesses or social initiatives. Despite this, the program ensures that all fellows will first use the acquired knowledge and experience in their home countries.
Cubero from Zero Army said participants are not allowed to accept work or business opportunities during their time in the U.S. and for up to two years after the end of the program.
“I’m very interested in opportunities to expand my business abroad, but I find it very positive that the program looks for us to first use our knowledge and experience for local benefit,” Cubero said.
The fellowship’s main goal, according to a news release, is to encourage about 50 formal businesses and civil society associations every year between emerging ventures in Latin America and the Caribbean and their counterparts in the U.S.
The other Tico fellows are:
Deborah Chavarría: Co-founder of 2da Mano, a social business offering women in rural areas options to sell second-hand clothing.
Alberto Collado: Of Studio Cromat, a company dedicated to help designers and clients understand each other.
Omara Fuks: Of TRAPP, a business platform to digitize waivers and evaluation forms for tourism companies.
Andrés Gamba: Co-Founder of Elegí Tu Deporte, a company that provides information about public and private facilities and sports initiatives in Costa Rica.
Eduardo Leitón: Founder of OneSea Foundation, a non-profit organization promoting the adoption of best practices and strengthening the capacities of public institutions and local governments.
Jorge Mena: Co-founder and general manager of Riish and Toosh Afro Costa Rican Paintings, aimed at preserving the Afro Costa Rican Culture by creating colorful paintings and Caribbean designs.
Alonso Quesada: Founder of INNOVANDO, a company focused on delivering systematic tools for Latin American companies in their early stages of development.
Erick Ramírez: Founder and CEO of Corcovado Cervecería Artesanal, a Costa Rican craft brewery developing innovative beers.