Education for entrepreneurship and transformational leadership in rural Costa Rica

Filed Under: EARTH News
Date: June 28th, 2019

With enthusiasm and determination, 26 young people from Liceo de Pocora de Guacimo (a local high school neighboring EARTH University) are developing business plans to implement in their communities. Their dreams are becoming reality, thanks to the EARTH-sponsored youth entrepreneurship program Promoviendo Futuras Empresas Rurales (Promoting Future Rural Businesses).

Born of a partnership between EARTH University, the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica and numerous nonprofits including Yo Emprendedor, Global Shapers and Nosotras Woman Connecting, the initiative expands opportunities for young people to secure a better future via entrepreneurship.

“Support for sustainable development and commercial growth benefits the prosperity of Costa Rica and is one of the main goals of the U.S. government,” says the U.S. Embassy’s Office of Public Affairs. “[This project] is key to that effort because it provides young people of vulnerable populations with the necessary experience and tools to be able to lead their own business ventures. In this sense, EARTH University represents a platform in which many key players in the provinces of Limon and Guanacaste converge to bring greater opportunities to these communities, generating a multiplier effect among the young people of each region in favor of a self-determined, entrepreneurial mindset.”

Since April, the students have been participating in workshops and trainings covering three themes: empowerment, innovation and business.

Empowerment. Participants are given tools that dignify rural living and help them to face their fears. They also are assisted in developing soft skills, leadership, and ethical values.

Innovation. Participants are incentivized to think ‘disruptively’ and to embrace creative design with tools such as design thinking and strategic planning.

Business. Participants are taught how to identify market opportunities, utilize basic marketing and budgeting tools, evaluate projects, and generate employment for others.

Upon completion of the seven-month program, the young entrepreneurs will present their scalable business plans. Of those, five will be granted $500 USD in seed capital.

“We seek to increase our impact and advance leadership education that will transform rural areas. I am motivated by seeing the direct impact we, as a University, are having,” explains Karina Poveda, program coordinator at EARTH Futures. “It is wonderful to see the confidence that the young people are developing. They feel heard and supported. They know their own potential; they know they matter to us as people. We can leave a mark on their lives, and they can leave a mark on each other’s as well as those of their families and communities.”

High-impact ideas  

Program participants passed through a selection process in which they exhibited genuine interest, an entrepreneurial spirit, a desire to overcome their situation, and an aspiration to sustainably develop their community.

  • Sharlotte Baltodano, 15, is one of the teenage-girl participants – a population comprising 60% of the group. Currently, she leads the waste-management program at the high school and dreams of becoming a fashion entrepreneur in Costa Rica. “I want to create a non-pollutive fashion line. I want to do something sustainable that does not contaminate. I know that the textile sector is not environmentally responsible; so, I want to offer an alternative. I hope to see myself as a businesswoman in sustainable fashion. With this program, I have had the opportunity to tour the Women Connecting event, where I was able to strengthen my idea. The program has been a very nice way to learn. Those who have facilitated the workshops have treated us very well, given us a lot of knowledge and answered all of our questions. I am very happy. A great future awaits me. I am never going to stop trying.”
  • Wendy Rojas Rocha, 17, is in her last year of secondary school and is already leading a small business. “I run a microbusiness – called Craft and Plants – dedicated to the design and sale of terrariums. My business partner makes bamboo artisan crafts and, together, we prepare them for sale. This program has helped me to strengthen my business. Each session has been interesting. We have learned how to produce and build upon ideas. It has made me leave my comfort zone.”
  • Ruslan Carpio Jiménez, 16, is convinced that he will soon implement the plan he is working on. “This initiative means a lot because I would like to be able to help others in my community via my entrepreneurial project – a bakery that will be called ‘Sana’. I wish to make gluten-free, low-sugar baked goods. In the workshops, we have learned a lot. We have been given specific tools that help us to envision more clearly the businesses we want to build. For example, the design-thinking tactics have helped me to define my project. I never imagined I would be involved in a project like this. The people who come from the University and other organizations have been exceptional. During the mid-semester recess, I am committed to saving what is necessary and growing that into seed funding for my business.”

EARTH University embraces a clear, strategic vision that is global and future-focused. Through EARTH Futures, we are building a new, scalable and replicable model for youth empowerment in rural areas – part of our commitment to our value of sustainable development.