Twenty eight proposals from local entrepreneurs were chosen the winners of the first edition of Popular Inc.’s “StartUp Popular” initiative, which seeks to promote entrepreneurship and the economic development of Puerto Rico, bank officials said Wednesday.
Entrepreneurs from all over the island, with diverse ideas and social levels, identified economic development opportunities in times of challenges and took advantage of the benefits of the Popular StartUp program, said Ignacio Álvarez, president of Popular, during a networking event organized to unveil the chosen proposals.
Businesses like Tocamadera Café, Empresas Nolasco, Jungle Burger and Shakes, to name a few, have in common that their owners lost their jobs, which motivated them to establish their own companies.
“It’s very heartening to see young couples, professionals, and families come together to develop proposals with potential at a time when many of them were laid off or simply looking to reinvent themselves,” said Álvarez, one of the main promoters of this initiative.
For this edition, the application submission period ran from mid-November 2015 to January 31, 2016, during which 50 proposals were evaluated and more than half were approved.
“Our goal is to promote economic development in Puerto Rico, and provide the tools small business owners need to develop their enterprises. Small and medium sized businesses are a key part of Puerto Rico’s economy,” said Eli Sepúlveda, executive vice president of Commercial Credit for the bank.
The group of proponents have an average age of 38, most businesses have been operating for at least 11 months and 46 percent of them have a woman as the main partner, bank executive said.
The services these startups provide range from retail to construction. As for their categories, 17 percent are professional services, 17 percent are in food and beverage, 13 percent in retail, 18 percent in technology development, 11 percent in manufacturing, 9 percent in the tourism area, 4 percent in the construction sector and 11 percent in the wholesale segment.
Areas such as human resources, inventory management, marketing, among others, are some of the issues that “StartUp” will help these entrepreneurs tackle.
Given the success of the first edition, Popular announced the second call for entries for “StartUp Popular,” setting an Aug. 31, 2016 deadline for submission of applications.
Like the first session, the financing program will work based on proposals, and will include a wide range of services and benefits for those who qualify for financing with loans of up to $50,000. Some of the offerings of the program, once the proposal is approved, include: lower payments during the first year of the loan term; business coaching to develop the business; a commercial account (“FlexiCuenta” or “B-Smart”) and access to “My Commercial Bank,” both free of charge for one year.
The support component includes the business coaching service, which is provided through a partnership with the company 100 Ventures Business Accelerator, and networking events to connect clients with other entrepreneurs, investors and buyers.