The Entrepreneur Challenge — an initiative headed by the Department of Economic Development and Commerce’s Youth Development Program — has entered its second phase, during which it will select 10 participants to present their business proposals, the agency confirmed.
“After launching the challenge for the second consecutive year in February, 280 young people stepped forward and registered to participate in the project. After an initial evaluation, 125 participants were selected,” said Economic Development Secretary Manuel Laboy.
The selected young entrepreneurs participated in group trainings that ended in May and were adapted due to social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19, he said.
“Despite the new conditions since mid-March, this group of young people did not give up and managed, through the use of technology, to complete their 16 hours of training for the development of their business models,” Laboy said.
For the last phase of the initiative, only the 10 participants who completed the 16 hours of training, with viable business ideas and who have met other requirements, will be chosen. Those selected will have the chance to receive individual advice, validate their idea and present their business model in front of a panel of experts, in the event known as “Demo Day,” he said.
Natalia Bonderenko, executive director of INprende, which is a partner in the initiative, said “this year, despite the challenges that the pandemic brought us, we managed to digitize the program and send the participants the complementary tool to their homes.”
The goal for the first phase of the program were fully met, according to schedule, she said.
“We had perfect participation, motivation, and the desire to continue forward prevailed at all times. The 125 young people organized and structured their business ideas through the Entrepreneur Challenge educational methodology without any limitation,” Bonderenko said.
The participants who completed the 16 hours of training will receive a certificate that will allow them to apply for economic aid and incentives through the Department of Economic Development and Commerce, said Roberto Carlos Pagán, head of the Youth Development Program.
During the “Demo Day,” a panel of judges will select the four winners who will get individualized mentoring to develop their company and prizes amounting to $25,000, Pagán said.
The first place winner will receive $10,000 in seed funding to start their business, second place will get $8,000, third place will get $5,000, and fourth place will receive $2,000. The funds come from the Youth Development Program.