Finding Purpose at Bridge for Billions
Before I get into the Guatemalan ecosystem and remote working, I want to share the combination of experiences that shaped the reasons I joined Bridge. To begin, I started my career after university in the corporate world. I was working in the sales and marketing department at a large consumer packaged goods company in Chicago and I loved it.
However, I have always been passionate about social impact and knew that at some point I would want to work in that space. After three years in the corporate world, I decided to take a “small” break in my career and volunteer for a few months in Guatemala. I loved the country and ended up working with an NGO, leading the fundraising team there for 2 years- a completely, completely different kind of “sales” experience.
My experience working with the NGO was extremely fulfilling and helped me realize my passion for sustainable social impact through social enterprise. I knew then that “sales”, or business development, for social enterprise was something that I wanted to continue to pursue.
I then decided it was time to move to Madrid (where I have a ton of family) and do my MBA at IE Business School (with a focus on learning more about social enterprises and their business & impact models). My goal for after the MBA was to find a socially impactful organization with values that matched mine in Madrid.
During the job search I spoke with professors, mentors, family friends, you name it, to learn about the social impact ecosystem in Madrid and was recommended Bridge for Billions several times- a clear sign that I needed to reach out. Around the same time, Pablo, Julie and the team were looking for someone to develop our business in the US so I reached out… and the rest is history.
My Trip to Guatemala and Remote Working
As I mentioned earlier, I spent time in Guatemala for two years before coming to Spain and fell in love with the country. The culture and landscape are obviously very beautiful but it’s also a country full of opportunities. I found the amount of entrepreneurial activity amazing during my time there- whether it be with traditional business, social enterprises or NGO’s.
So I decided to take this trip and work remotely from Guatemala for a while to reconnect with my network there, get a better understanding of the entrepreneurial ecosystem and seek out new opportunities for impact.
A land of opportunities ….and challenges
I had a great time just scoping out the ecosystem in general.
Guatemala ranks as having one of the highest levels of entrepreneurial activity in the world. Necessity based-entrepreneurship is also abundant in the country. Because many businesses stay at a microenterprise level, or in a ‘survivalist’ stage, Bridge for Billions seems like a good fit in the ecosystem as a useful resource for entrepreneurs to continue moving forward and planning for success.
I was able to speak to several players in the private sector like companies and universities, and organizations in the public sector as well. I spoke to organizations working with entrepreneurs in both urban and rural Guatemala, and everyone said the same thing… There’s a huge amount of entrepreneurial potential and opportunity yet to be exploited and explored for economic well-being and development.
There is a large appetite for entrepreneurship in the country for many reasons but there are still various challenges that keep these entrepreneurs from starting or growing their businesses and making the profit or impact desired. Geographically, resources for entrepreneurial support are mostly centered in the urban hubs. Poor infrastructure and accessible technology are still large barriers for entrepreneurs not located in larger urban cities.
Funding is obviously another challenge many entrepreneurs have to grapple with, particularly the small and microenterprises. There are a number of incubators and accelerators that offer opportunities to develop a business model and learn about and connect to funding but this is still only available to the few. They are either expensive for many, have limited capacity and/or are inaccessible for entrepreneurs around the country. For microenterprises, getting a loan is not an easy or financially safe option either.
The need for online entrepreneurial programs in Guatemala
An online program like Bridge for Billions could be a great solution to many of these challenges with potential to reach more people in the entrepreneurial ecosystem than can be supported by the current system. Bridge for Billions would be a complementary player in the ecosystem that will ultimately, encourage more innovation based entrepreneurial ideas around the country and region.
Remaining productive while remote working
Remote working was … different for me. While I missed the companionship of being in our office in Madrid, I might argue that I was more productive while working in Guatemala. I typically worked near friends who were also working, so I was never alone all day and started my days at 7 a.m. (unlike Spain, life starts early there)! I actually discovered that my most productive hours are early in the morning, who knew! I’m not sure I would like to do remote working permanently, but for the few weeks in Guatemala – it worked!
My favorite thing about the trip was seeing the potential that the country has for entrepreneurial growth…and I don’t think it’s limited to just Guatemala. I think many of the things that we’ve learned within the Guatemalan ecosystem and how Bridge will fit in, are scalable to the region. It was truly inspiring to meet so many of these passionate “do-ers”, involved in some amazing things to positively impact their communities.