In March 2021, Youth Business International (YBI) and the ENEL Group launched an SOS Mentoring programme to help struggling young entrepreneurs in Chile, Colombia, Peru and Spain to harness their resilience and resourcefulness and keep their business afloat during the ongoing economic crisis caused by COVID-19.
Over several months, ENEL volunteer mentors offered their time, skills, and expertise to support young business owners to adapt their business model, manage finances and navigate lockdown restrictions. They received ongoing support by YBI and our members Acción Emprendedora in Chile, Corporación Minuto de Dios in Colombia, Perspektiva in Peru, and Youth Business Spain.
Meet four entrepreneurs and four ENEL volunteer mentors from the programme and find out why they decided to participate.
Ana Maria Prados Guzman is the entrepreneur behind Let Me Sea, a small business based in Madrid which works to highlight the importance and diversity of oceanic life and how to preserve it. Let Me Sea sells cups, bags, backpacks, and toiletries made from recycled materials such as plastic waste, and with informative illustrations about the ocean on them. Ana says her goal is to “contribute to a common good and leave a positive impact on the planet” by using her drawings and products to educate people on the importance of protecting the ocean.
Ana started her business during the COVID-19 pandemic. She says the confinement allowed her creativity to skyrocket and she finally had time to turn her business idea into reality. However, starting a business from scratch, she encountered many unfamiliar challenges around issues such as patenting, trademarking, branding, or buying domain names.
Ana joined YBI’s and ENEL Group’s SOS Mentoring programme to improve her advertising and marketing skills and increase the sustainability of her business with support from her mentor. One of her main goals is to set up a physical location for her business and have her products featured in educational centres and events.
Ana is supported through YBI member Youth Business Spain’s local branch Fundacion Tomillo.
Rossella Napolano is a Project Execution Manager with ENEL Green Power. She decided to join the programme as a volunteer mentor because she “believes in the power to share… exchange experiences, passions, and leave a positive impact on other people, breaking all barriers.”
Rosella aims to create a tangible difference by giving mentees motivation and emotional support alongside the usual sharing of experience and expertise. She firmly believes that the mentor-mentee relationship goes both ways and that both learn from each other.
Evelin Rodriguez Martinez is an entrepreneur and mother of two who runs a baking business called Jov Cakes with the support of her sister.
Prior to the pandemic, Evelin’s home-run business was doing well, but the restrictions imposed after COVID-19 hit heightened the costs of production and hindered sales, leading to larger net losses. Evelin had to reduce her stock and sales due to the lack of supplies and, unfortunately, she also lost four family members as a result of the virus.
However, Evelin continued to adapt her business, updating the necessary security parameters despite having to invest even more money to do so. She continues to run her business from home in order to keep costs low.
Evelin joined the SOS Mentoring programme to gain more confidence as an entrepreneur and run her business with a more positive attitude and less anxiety, with support from an ENEL volunteer mentor.
Evelin is supported by YBI member in Peru, Perspektiva.
Lorenzo Martiriggiano decided to become an ENEL volunteer mentor to put his “technical and human skills at the service of a person in a less fortunate situation” as well as to step outside of his day-to-day life and experiences. Following Perspektiva’s mentor training, he created a structured plan to help his mentee achieve their personal goals. He believes the experience is also helping him to better understand the new needs and opportunities of the post-pandemic market.
Luz Dary Orozco’s business, Blancegos, is a women’s clothing shop which sells attire for both casual and formal occasions. Luz runs her business with her mother’s support and is currently looking into opportunities to sell her clothing online.
Luz has a passion for the art of design and tailoring, greatly enjoying the process of making clothes. Prior to the pandemic, Luz’s business was doing well, accruing more customers and sales despite not yet having a chance to digitise the business. However, the pandemic affected her both physically and psychologically, with her profits returning to zero and the news of the pandemic making her fear going outside at all. The reduction in profit even caused her to lose health insurance for her and her 70-year-old mother.
With support from YBI member in Colombia Corporación Minuto de Dios, Luz adapted her business and started producing face masks, allowing her to continue to make enough money to keep her business going through the pandemic.
Luz has joined to SOS Mentoring programme to get support from her mentor in positioning and consolidating her business in the new post-pandemic market as well as to gain more confidence and knowledge in different subject areas of entrepreneurship.
Nathaly Soto is an Internal Communications Specialist at ENEL Group. Despite never mentoring before, she is “always looking for a way to contribute something to the world”. Nathaly decided to become a volunteer mentor because she wants to support a young person to fulfil their dreams. She thinks it is important to listen to her mentee, learn from each other and tackle problems together.
Carolina Vergara started her business Espazcio after undertaking several years of training in practices which improve emotional health and becoming a certified yoga instructor. Carolina defines her personal wellness business as “a community where, without distinction of age, gender, and interests, you can find a place to connect with yourself, balance that inner world and make good friends.”
Carolina started her business to help people ease stress and anxiety – an important cause, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her main service offering was in-person yoga classes which she had to take online when COVID-19 hit.
With her ENEL volunteer mentor, Carolina has worked on improving her business model to achieve her long-term goals. She is currently concentrating on her mentor’s advice to turn her disparate clients into a community. She believes that it is programmes like this which allow entrepreneurs to “move faster and safer on this path.”
Carolina is supported by YBI member in Chile Acción Emprendedora.
María Elizabeth López is an Industrial Civil Engineer at ENEL Group. She is passionate about teamwork, tolerance, resilience, and innovation as the pillars of success which she wishes to pass along to her mentee. María was motivated to become a volunteer mentor to help young entrepreneurs through the unique problems and challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.