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Private sector leaders bet on proposals by Enactus’ social entrepreneurs

A group of recognized private sector executives participated in the “Let’s Change the Rules of the Game – Leaders of Puerto Rico Bet on Young Entrepreneurs” panel organized by Enactus Puerto Rico, during which they discussed “social entrepreneurship” and how to change the current rules and paradigms to create alliances and structures that support their development on the island.

“We must bring together the forces of the government, the nonprofit sector, and private companies to ensure that more social enterprises are successfully integrated into the ecosystem. Enactus is setting precedents in this direction and leading this development,” said Rosa Hernández, chairwoman of the Enactus Puerto Rico board, to kick-off the panel discussion.

Aniceto Solares, CEO of Burger King and past president of Enactus steered the panel’s conversation toward a reflection that linked issues such as how much is really known about social entrepreneurship on the island and the role of private companies and the government in opening opportunities for them to be promoted and included in the ecosystem of local and multinational companies.

“We have a great need to generate economic development, while effectively meeting the social needs that we as citizens face daily,” said Rody Rivera Rojas, director of Enactus in Puerto Rico.

“Puerto Rico has been submerged in ongoing crises and precisely this has inspired our young university students, creating permanent solutions; viable and sustainable social enterprises, which are testimony to the ingenuity, creativity and innovation of this new generation of leaders,” he said.

José Rafael Fernández, CEO of Oriental Bank stressed the importance of the element of innovation saying, “the entrepreneur must translate the idea and vision into something concrete that can be turned into a financially viable project.”

“Similarly, innovation is important in this process. It is precisely from youth that what is new for entrepreneurship is being born. It remains for the island’s productive sector to be co-responsible and look for ways to unite to promote it,” Fernández said.

During their turns to speak, Bettina Mercado said her company promotes the participation of leaders and managers under 30 years of age. Meanwhile, Iván Báez, from Walmart Puerto Rico, presented his business example of the more than 2,000 farmers doing business with his company. Lastly, Liana Camacho, from L’Oréal, discussed her company’s community effort in more ecological and sustainable beauty salons with the collaboration of students from Enactus Puerto Rico.

Both Jorge Pagán, director of the Department of Economic Development and Commerce’s (DDEC, in Spanish) Office of the Youth Development Program and Solares agreed that Puerto Rico “is at the right historical moment to change the rules of the game and look at social entrepreneurship as a critical element of Puerto Rico’s socio-economic development.”

“We have to change the rules of the game. I couldn’t agree more with the name of the panel, the island is emptying out,” said Pagán.

“We need youth to bring new ideas and a robust ecosystem of companies that believe in them and give them the opportunity. The government must facilitate this collaboration and accelerate the processes of creation and sustainability of new businesses,” he said.

“Let’s promote that young people become the backbone of social entrepreneurship with everyone’s support — from the private sector and the government,” Pagán said.

Several of the 31 companies that were included in the panel discussion were:

Comfybum — University of Puerto Rico Humacao Campus students who are developing a social enterprise dedicated to the sale and manufacture of beds for pets using car tires as resources.

SWOMEN — From Columbia Central University is a social enterprise dedicated to the sale and distribution of shirts and “stickers” with messages in favor of gender equality.

Bioswēd — from the Ana G. Méndez University is dedicated to the development of a biofertilizer using excess sargassum that washes up on Puerto Rico’s beaches as raw material.

Bottle of Hope — from the University of Puerto Rico in Bayamón is dedicated to the construction of structures using plastic bottles as raw material, while complying with the island’s construction standards.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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