Entrepreneurial college students are the kind of people Banco Santander wants to support not only in Puerto Rico, but wherever it does business worldwide. So on Thursday, the Spanish financial institution did just that, awarding a combined $26,000 in credit lines and scholarships to up-and-coming impresarios.
During a ceremony held at a Condado-area restaurant, Banco Santander, through its Santander Universidades division, held the second edition of its “Entrepreneurial Innovation Award” ceremony to select the five best business proposals out of 50 received this year.
The first prize, a $10,000 credit line to use as seed funding, went to Juan Alemán and Ramón González, University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez students for their “Stography” project, a web application through which users upload videos of events that other users can comment on and view as they happen.
The second prize went to a trio of students from Sacred Heart University who last year secured a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, for setting up the world’s largest cup of coffee. Paul González, Orlando Montañez and Pedro Fernández received a $5,000 credit line to expand their Coffee Belt project, an online marketplace for the world’s best coffee, including Puerto Rico’s gourmet products.
The third prize, a $3,000 credit line, went to a group of five students from the UPR-Bayamón — Keyshla Molina, Stephanie González, Dashira Pérez, Armando Mulero and Nanette García — for their “Young Entrepreneur Group,” an publication focused on teaching and developing entrepreneurship in future generations at an early age.
“For Santander this day means rewarding the efforts of the universities who are our allies in this endeavor and help young college students at the stage when they need it most,” said Rafael Vélez, director of Santander Universidades in Puerto Rico. “It is very satisfying to see they can achieve their goals through our initiative.”
Honorable mentions were also awarded Thursday to two innovative projects: “El arte de la Aventura Fría” (“The Art of the Cold Adventure”), to Sacred Heart University student William Torres, who produces ice cream creations in untraditional shapes, for children; and, DNI, a web-based news application created by Jannette Santana, a Turabo University student. Each winning project received $1,500.
Finally, five students from the Conservatory of Music, Sacred Heart University and the Pontifical Catholic University in Ponce, each received $1,000 scholarships for video projects.
Each business plan submitted for the competition had to be in its final stage and overseen by a university professor or staff. The competition will take place again in the upcoming school year. New applications will be accepted starting in August, Vélez said.
Joint effort to develop, retain local talent
The Santander Universidades division has collaborative agreements in place with eight local universities, and has awarded 600 scholarships since its establishment. Over the past decade, it has invested $11 million in local college students.
For Santander President Javier Hidalgo, putting money into college-aged entrepreneurs is “a moral obligation we have to make jobs possible.”
“But the support to universities doesn’t make sense if it doesn’t create businesses. Students need to study but it is fundamental for them to find jobs, which are created by businesses,” Hidalgo said. “One way that a person can develop even further is by being their own boss and being responsible for making their own dreams a reality.”
“What we want to happen in Puerto Rico is for students to see that their future is here, which is why through the Universidades program, we’ve participated as an incubator and provider of seed funding,” the banking executive told News is my Business.