Backing its mantra that “the island’s future development will be in the hands of youth,” the Economic Development Bank is kicking off its “Because You Can” entrepreneurial initiative with a visit to Sacred Heart University in Santurce this Friday.
The campus is one of 34 that agency staff, in conjunction with nonprofit venture capital firm Grupo Guayacán, will visit in coming weeks, EDB President Ivonne Otero announced Tuesday.
The initiative announced late last year to foster an entrepreneurial culture at the college level, will also encompass the University of Puerto Rico, the Inter American University, the Polytechnic University, the Ana G. Méndez University System and the National University College — a significantly larger group that what was initially envisioned, when the UPR was the only one on the list.
The initiative seeks to provide students the information and support they need to trust self-employment as a viable alternative to achieve professional and personal development and spur the creation of small- and mid-sized businesses. The program also provides students the opportunity to apply for working capital loans of up to $35,000.
Ultimately, the agency is prepared to finance as many as 600 business proposals by college students, granting as much as $21 million in loans.
“Through ‘Because You Can,’ we’re looking to reach niches, such as youth, which have historically gone unattended,” said Otero, flanked by representatives from all of the participating colleges.
As part of the visit schedule, the EDB and Grupo Guayacán staff will offer orientation services so that students can walk out with a “clearer idea of what they would like to do. In other cases, they will leave there with completed loan applications, given that the rectors of these colleges have already identified students who have a business plan in place,” Otero said.
The UPR’s Utuado and Mayagüez campuses are next in line for visits, on Jan. 24 and 25, respectively.
During the news conference, UPR President Miguel Muñoz touted the benefits of the initiative, which he said would fuel “entrepreneurs instead of employees.”
“Puerto Rico prepares good professionals and there are many who want to have their businesses,” he said. “This funding initiative is an opportunity for our youth. They need financial support and help to create their work plan and in financial planning for businesses. We want to see more entrepreneurs, more young talent creating companies.”
‘Netflix started with $6K’
Some of the eligibility requirements are: students must be 21 years old, have a minimum GPA of 2.50 and have completed or about to complete a bachelors degree from an accredited university. The loan must be repaid in seven years and grants a moratorium on the principal and interest for the first six months of the financing term.
So far, the EDB has met with 64 students who took the initiative of going to the agency after the program was announced. Of that group 20 have filed an application for funding, Otero said.
For Grupo Guayacán Chair Francisco Uriarte, the $35,000 maximum loan available is “a lot of money, because Netflix started with $6,000. There is business activity, we’re witnesses of it.”