For the past four years, Miller Center has been asked to facilitate a GSBI® Boost accelerator program in Mexico by the US Embassy there. This annual event is an opportunity to work with smart, passionate social entrepreneurs focused on eliminating poverty, protecting the environment, and promoting social justice in Mexico. This year’s program was held in beautiful Oaxaca, a historic colonial city in the southern part of the country.
Cecilia Foxworthy of Agora Partnerships and I co-facilitated the program. Cecilia is a Miller Center alum and a social entrepreneur in her own right, having founded two enterprises to expand opportunities for low-income youth. Her expertise, innovative thinking, and social consciousness make her an invaluable mentor to our Boost participants, and it’s always a pleasure to work with her.
What’s in a Boost?
Based on the same world-class GSBI (Global Social Benefit Institute) methodology as all our accelerator programs, a Boost is an intensive, hands-on workshop condensed into three days, where social entrepreneurs develop an initial business plan, financial model, and executive summary.
The first day focuses on their impact model, target market, value proposition, competitive landscape, and go-to-market strategies. Day two focuses on the economics of their enterprise. We guide them through developing a basic financial model, creating a growth plan, and determining their financial needs to cover their operating expenses and growth initiatives. On the final day, we help them pull all their work together into an executive summary and elevator pitch.
While three days isn’t sufficient for a deep dive into everything we cover, it provides the entrepreneurs with the fundamentals and a leg up in developing or growing their social enterprise. The format is very hands-on, so Cecilia and I have the opportunity to work directly with each of the entrepreneurs and get to know their businesses.
Entrepreneurs Inspiring Hope
Our mentors unanimously agree that we get more from the entrepreneurs than we give. This was definitely true in Oaxaco where these early-stage entrepreneurs inspired hope for our collective future. Social entrepreneurship is always impact first, with the idea that “the more I grow, the more I can help change the world.” The 23 entrepreneurs at the Oaxaca Boost have already begun to change the world; our Boost focuses on helping them grow so they can create even greater impact.
This year’s participants represent a wide range of enterprises in smallholder farming, ecotourism, youth education in technology, women’s economic empowerment, organic coffee, sustainable textiles, and health care.
Several of the enterprises work with local artisans to provide them with dignified livelihoods, maintain artistic traditions, and support their communities. For example, Khadi Oaxaca employs local women to create beautiful organic textiles and promotes sustainable trade. Navil Mx empowers artisan women, providing living wage employment and maintaining embroidery traditions in their clothing lines. And Madda Studio creates bespoke, handcrafted textiles and rugs for the luxury interiors market while maintaining a commitment to sourcing sustainable materials and providing stable employment to local communities.
Früvethy is a really interesting example of an enterprise working with smallholder farmers. One of the challenges for these farmers is that everyone’s crops are harvested at the same time, creating a glut in the market. Früvethy is working with local farmers to dry their fruit to produce and market natural, nutritious snacks without added sugar to provide farmers with sustainable revenue and also address Mexico’s obesity and diabetes epidemics.
Hotel Corazón is a small, eco-friendly boutique hotel that invests its profits into education for local teenagers from marginalized communities. In Oaxaca, only 35% of youth finish secondary school, primarily for economic reasons. Hotel Corazón provides scholarships and hotel internships to help Oaxacan youth finish school, improve their job prospects, and build a better future.
One of the most advanced enterprises from the Oaxaca Boost is Médica Santa Carmen, a renal health network focused on providing accessible, effective, and dignified treatment for people with kidney disease. Currently operating eight clinics around Mexico serving thousands of patients, their goal is to expand to serve millions over the next several years.
Spreading the Word
Following the Boost, our team had the honor of speaking at Connectandor Emprendedores en Oaxaca, a local conference on entrepreneurship. Now in its second year, roughly 6,000 people registered for the conference, doubling the attendance from 2018. The fact that our talk on “Social Entrepreneurship and Impact Capital” was standing room only, with approximately 300 attendees, speaks to the growing commitment to social entrepreneurship and social justice in Mexico.
You can also watch my interview with CC2MÉXICO at the conference. Part of our discussion revolved around the role of young people in Mexico. What’s truly impressive is that younger Mexicans see themselves as part of a community and want to help create environments where everyone thrives. It’s inspiring to see young people taking the initiative. To anyone contemplating social entrepreneurship, it’s okay to make mistakes along the way; that’s part of learning. But get started, do something, and make a difference.