The U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua on GEW
Global Entrepreneurship Week
President Obama has said that “what transforms villages is whether they have an entrepreneur or whether they don’t […] entrepreneurs create jobs and spur economic activity.” In my career, I have been blessed with the opportunity to travel and work all over the world, and I can tell you, every village, every town, every city, has entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurship, more than anything, is what causes economies to grow. In the U.S., we have seen this throughout our history: in the United States, from 1980–2005, firms less than five years old accounted for nearly all net job growth in the country, and in 2007 alone, these same young firms accounted for nearly two-thirds of job creation. Entrepreneurship is what drives growth: entrepreneurs are responsible for 67% of the inventions since 1945. Beyond that, what I have seen most strongly throughout my career is how entrepreneurship changes lives and communities. When someone opens a business, they aren’t just creating a job for themselves –they are supporting their entire community.
I saw this in the town where my family lives in Pennsylvania: to support her children, a single mother opened a bridal shop. This bridal shop remains open, and both my sisters bought their wedding gowns at her store. This example may seem small, but entrepreneurship is important at every level. When I think of entrepreneurs, I think of people who have a vision, a mission, and the drive to begin their own business despite daunting challenges. I have witnessed this drive all over the world, and Nicaragua is no exception. The United States Government has programs worldwide to support entrepreneurship, including in Nicaragua.
One such example is the Peace Corps. Throughout the world, Peace Corps Volunteers work to assist small and beginning businesses through education and technical advising. In Nicaragua’s west, just outside of El Sauce, a group of Nicaraguans organized themselves into the artisan cooperative Fuente de Pino. They now use their natural resources – red and yellow needles from pine trees – to make baskets and home gifts for sale. Through their dedication and hard work, and with technical assistance and advice from the non-governmental organization the Enlace Project and the Peace Corps, these women have honed their craft and grown their business. They now send out a catalog of their products, have improved their marketing, attend business and leadership training, and participate in trade fairs.
Through its ‘Empresas y Empleo’ project, USAID assists Nicaraguan businesses expand and reach new markets. Using its 'anchor firm' model, the program helps businesses expand their supply chain by sourcing from local producers. Since 2010 this has led to 4,000 new jobs and $19 million in new sales benefiting 2,600 SMEs. One such anchor firm, Chiles de Nicaragua, doubled their production of chiles for Tabasco Sauce, making them the largest supplier for the Louisiana-based McIlhenny Company in all of Latin America.
Earlier this year I appeared on VosTV’s Locura Azul with several female entrepreneurs who attended State Department-supported leadership and entrepreneurship conferences in the U.S. These five women – Maribel Espinoza, Aida Mayorga, Carmen Davila, Flora Ortiz, and Gabriela Aleman – amazed me with their work ethic, innovation, and dedication to the expansion of their businesses.
All these people, and millions more worldwide, chose to become entrepreneurs because they saw an opportunity that others had not. Though their decisions were personal, the effect of their decisions is global. This week is Global Entrepreneurship Week, but I encourage you to look for opportunities and to think about starting your own business, throughout the year. I wish you all the best of luck in your endeavors!
Follow Phyllis Powers on Twitter @EmbPowers.
[Photo Credit: US Embassy Nicaragua Flickr]