For the past two weeks, the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust has hosted more than 200 entrepreneurs, independent professionals, startups and people needing a place to work at its headquarters in San Juan, CEO Lucy Crespo confirmed.
The displaced professionals — most of whom lack basic power and internet services — have taken advantage of the Trust’s initiative, which offers free workspace from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays. The Trust is prepared to keep its doors open through the end of the month, she said.
“This was a need that came up after Hurricane María, when people needed to return to work, but were unable to because of the lack of power and internet,” said Crespo, in an interview with this media outlet. “We’re running on a generator, which is why we offer the limited hours.”
“We wanted to do this free of charge to contribute to the ecosystem. We know there are other places that charge a nominal fee, but the Trust has wanted to offer this free alternative, so more people benefit,” she said.
The initiative is part of the “Levanta tu Negocio PR” campaign, which brought together the Trust, InPrende, Centro de Emprendedores, Piloto 151, Grupo Guayacán, and Puerto Rico Trade and Export, as this media outlet reported.
“To rebuild and strengthen the island’s business ecosystem, we must work together for and on behalf of our communities by serving as facilitators for the creation of innovative opportunities,” she said. “This CoWorking Spaces initiative, at the Trust’s Innovation Center is part of this effort.”
To set up the space, the Trust borrowed additional tables and chairs from its furniture provider, and set up a workspace that accommodates more than 100 people, who must reserve the space to be able to use it.
Workspace is one of the four major areas of need entrepreneurs and small companies have expressed a need for following the hurricane, as evidenced by a survey the nonprofits conducted.
That same group expressed a need for access to electricity, water, communications, and the internet. They are also seeking financial assistance — loans or grants to get their businesses back on their feet — and business advice, Crespo said.
“One of the things that we’re doing is creating this group that advices companies and takes them step by step, to help them assess if their business is still viable or not,” she said.
“We all have to work together and support each other, and this is one way of doing it,” she said. “We’re very proud that we’re helping and we’re ready to do this through the month of November.”