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Puerto Rico’s SME’s eligible for up to $100K in seed funding from gov’t

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Puerto Rico’s small- and mid-sized businesses (SME’s) looking to grow their operations may be eligible for as much as $100,000 in seed funding from a number of programs under the Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC, in Spanish).

During a roundtable discussion to mark small business month, the agency brought together five companies — Abartys Health, LLC; Aseguratec; Guilty; Kiwi Financial, LLC.; and UVA — that have benefitted and grown with backing from the agency’s “Pymes Innovadoras” seed funding program.

“Puerto Rico has limited investment sources for new companies, and so we took it upon ourselves to put seed funding into business opportunities,” said Víctor Merced, one of the DDEC’s officials who works directly with the incentive programs.

“We don’t put restrictions on the use of the money. The entrepreneur tells me how they’re going to use it,” he said, noting that under the Pymes Innovadoras program, applicants are considered based on their innovative concepts, business plans and financial structure.

The DDEC’s strategy to develop small businesses is split under the Trade and Export Program, the Labor Development Program, and the Federal Contracting Center.

Under the Support for Innovation and Entrepreneurship initiative, the agency gives small businesses the opportunity to get the capital they need to start or scale their operations, with a view to commercializing and exporting their innovations internationally.

Through a financial grant of up to a maximum of $100,000, assistance is provided to these small businesses and entrepreneurs, to help them guide their growth plans.

There is also funding available for marketing, which grants a reimbursement of 50% of the expenses incurred by the local company to develop their promotional campaign for its products or services for the foreign market. Local businesses with eligible marketing activities can receive a match of up to $50,000, if their annual sales do not exceed $10 million, and up to $30,000, if annual sales are less than $100,000.

Interested SMEs may also request a Special Incentive for Foreign Transportation, which grants reimbursement of 20% of the costs of transportation of products abroad, up to a maximum of $2,000 for land, sea and air shipping. Eligible companies can receive up to a maximum of $50,000 for the transportation of products from both points.

The agency also has programs for women who want to start a business for the first time or want to take an existing one to the next level. These programs can benefit the younger segment, from high school or college. The business can be an app, or some type of service, as well as help to export its products and services.

Suhaily Sepúlveda, founder of Guilty, an online fashion platform where Puerto Rican women can rent or buy clothes, advised other small businesses to focus on “discipline, consistency and focus.”

“Discipline is required to dedicate long hours to the company sacrificing personal time, family time, etc. Consistency and focus on the consumer’s need is essential to keep the company in the right direction, even in the most difficult moments,” she said.

Guilty received backing through the Pymes Innovadoras program, which she said was key to surviving the COVID-19 pandemic. The company was founded in November 2017, at Sepúlveda’s apartment, where she began with 50 styles to choose from. At present, Guilty has more than 10,000 pieces of clothing in its inventory, which it rents locally.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 27 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.
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