Global Network

Revamp Your Entrepreneurship Program and Gain a Partner for Your Mission

The Los Angeles Community Development Corporation, Bethel LA, was one of the first organizations to train in the Centro Entrepreneurship Methodology, and implement our Entrepreneurship Suite.  

Bethel LA began using Centro's entrepreneurship resources in 2015, so they have been true trailblazers and early adopters of our entrepreneurship tools. For us, they are a case-study example of how we are helping others realize their mission, while supporting our goal of empowering small business entrepreneurs everywhere.

To share Bethel LA's experience, we interviewed their Co-founder and Entrepreneurship Program Lead, Frank Stokes. 

We hope these short five questions and answers help you understand what Centro's Entrepreneurship Suite accomplishes for other organizations or independent business coaches who train and work with small business entrepreneurs. 

1. What did your programs look like before implementing the Entrepreneurship Suite? 

In 2014, my colleague Moses McCutcheon Jr Ed.D. and I were working together with West Los Angeles College, providing workforce development programs every year. The programs were eight weeks long and 20 hours per week.

After working together for a while, we decided to collaborate in a bigger capacity and decided to launch the Bethel Los Angeles Community Development Corporation. Shortly after, we realized our programs were too long, and that we wanted something more community oriented. So in order to generate the high impact we were aiming for, we decided to scale down our programs. A year later, conversations with Claudia Viek, former Executive Director of the California Association for Micro Enterprise Opportunity (CAMEO), facilitated our partnership with Centro Community Partners, and that was when we trained on how to implement the curriculum and methodology in Centro’s Entrepreneurship Suite.

In addition to our training, Centro provided Business Plan Bootcamps for our community - altogether, a great experience that helped us adapt Centro’s format to out own programs. Today, we continue to lead four cohorts of small business entrepreneurs every year but in a completely different way.

2. What is your reach in terms of number of entrepreneurs and what efficiencies has the Entrepreneurship Suite provided for you so far?

During its first year, Bethel LA trained 29 entrepreneurs. Three years in, we are close to doubling the number of entrepreneurs we train per year, and we have decrease the cost of training in an 86%. That is something we could have never accomplished alone or in such a short period of time.

3. What is the biggest value you get from using Centro’s Entrepreneurship Suite?

The main value is the simplicity and user-friendliness of the Centro Business Planning App. This alone has helped us serve the community a lot - it particularly helps us get rid of many of the barriers our entrepreneurs face when they have an idea, and want to launch a new business.

I know people who have attempted once, twice, even three times to write a business plan and they have never been able to finish, until now! They often tell me “this is the first time I’ve ever had a real business plan done!”

Also, we were always on the lookout for new ways to introduce new concepts to our program. With the app, we receive updates automatically - which is a huge benefit.

The other great value is how the app connects our entrepreneurs with Kiva loans. This gives extra confidence to our community as they realize there is a real pathway to get access to capital.

4. What is the biggest advantage of using Centro’s entrepreneurship resources?

To be able to help entrepreneurs with business integration, launching, expansion and capital formation - all in one. With Centro’s Entrepreneurship Suite we are seeing our mission come true. It really works!

5. What do entrepreneurs say about your program, now that you are using Centro’s entrepreneurship resources?

Their main comment is: “This is worth a lot more than what I paid!” We are excited that not only entrepreneurs experience the benefits of a streamlined entrepreneurship program that works, but it is also an excellent service that is affordable.

We are really happy to advocate for Centro, the Business Planning App, and the entrepreneurship methodology overall. We feel encouraged with this partnership and we hope to keep doing great things together.

We thank Frank Stokes for his strong partnership. We too hope we keep supporting more small business entrepreneurs together! 

CENTRO'S ENTREPRENEURSHIP SUITE AT-A-GLANCE

  • An entrepreneurship methodology and compendium of resources created to support aspiring and current small business owners who lack business education or experience. 
  • Designed for business coaches and organizations who lead or want to launch entrepreneurship programs for their constituency.
  • Includes lesson plans supported by the Centro Business Planning App, resources for trainers and learning tools for entrepreneurs. 
  • Available in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian.

Other organizations who have implemented Centro's Entrepreneurship Suite include Mandela MarketPlace, West Angeles Community Development Corporation, Vermont Slauson, Mi Casa, Inland Empire, GlassRoots, BOCNET, Stockton Impact Corps, and the Mexican Heritage Center & Gallery.

Vodafone Americas Foundation Supports Technology for Small Businesses Entrepreneurs

Vodafone, one of the world’s largest telecommunications companies is advancing social change at a global scale by supporting partners using technology to resolve shared problems, improve lives and transform entire communities.

We are thrilled to announce that the Vodafone Americas Foundation has endorsed our approach to socioeconomic change through entrepreneurship for all with our first multi-year grant.

Centro originally applied for the Vodafone Wireless Innovation Project competition in February 2016, and while our application was not selected, they felt we might be more suitable for their partnership programs so we were invited to meet and discuss possible grant opportunities. We want to give special thanks to June Sugiyama, Director of Vodafone Americas Foundation for inviting us to introduce our organization firsthand and providing the grant to help us  continue our mobile development work supporting small business entrepreneurs. 

Centro will use the $100,000 grant for programming focused on supporting the growth of low-to-moderate income youth, women and minority owned micro enterprises, and the development and engineering of our Business Planning App, which is the foundation of our Basic Entrepreneurship Education Suite. More specifically, we will use the funds to:

  • Facilitate access to capital: We will design functionality that will help entrepreneurs understand their capital needs, improve their credit, create robust business plans and increase savings to successfully access micro-loans.

  • Improve data collection: We will develop features within the app to capture valuable data points such as age, gender, location, income level and education that will help us learn more about our app users. In order to further improve the effectiveness of the app and provide impact details to partners and funders, we also plan to start measuring data in the following areas: demographics, economics, social, psychological, general e-learning.

  • Develop new mobile app activities: We are engineering new app activities that will be added to our Business Planning Tool including financial projections and marketing.

We’re excited to count Vodafone Americas Foundation among our list of stewards. We are deeply grateful for their support of our vision, and the next steps they will enable us to take in the years to come.

Making Small Business Entrepreneurship Accessible to All in Brazil

Fernando Gameleira, Centro's Representative in Brazil and some of the small business entrepreneurs he has trained in Rio de Janeiro.

Fernando Gameleira, Centro's Representative in Brazil and some of the small business entrepreneurs he has trained in Rio de Janeiro.

Author: Fernando Gameleira

Last summer, I met Naldo Peliks in my home city, Rio de Janeiro. He introduced himself as Centro Community Partners (Centro), Chief of Operations and spoke with great candor and genuine enthusiasm about the mobile app they had developed to help aspiring and current small business owners write business plans. As someone who has worked almost exclusively in the field of entrepreneurship development for decades, he definitely had my ears.

Brazil is the largest country in South America and some say we are entrepreneurial by nature. A significant number of the country's 200 million habitants are constantly developing entrepreneurial activities, both formally and informally. We also speak Portuguese, which makes the country particularly unique in the region.

Centro wanted help testing their Basic Entrepreneurship Program in Brazil, and taking the first steps to officially partner with organizations working with small business entrepreneurs. I of course said yes, and in a matter of a week of meetings with other local consultants and small business specialists, Centro began working with:

  • Sebrae – the largest Brazilian non-profit organization that supports entrepreneurs through more than 700 branches across the country, and
  • CDL Niterói – the chamber that represents retail entrepreneurs in Niterói, the city across the Guanabara Bay of the state of Rio de Janeiro.

The pilot group started with 12 people, most of whom were local women working with handcrafted goods and services. As an entrepreneur myself and behavioral trainer – I was in charge of this first pilot workshop, and was left in awe with the immediate impact the entrepreneurs conveyed:

This workshop was a true turning point in my life. I had just been let go of my engineering job and I was so grateful for the supportive and stimulating environment I found in class. All the participants had different backgrounds and life stories, however, we shared a common objective: to learn how to create and build something from scratch. A short two months after finishing my business plan, I created my company “Sommos Consulting” and now feel closer to making my dream and objectives come true.
— Maria Jose Feres

Another woman in the pilot program who had lived in New York for more than two decades before returning to Brazil and opening her own vegan food business, said:

It is very difficult for a creative person to engage with the financial part of a business. But, someone has to do, and as a business owner, I understood no one is better suited than me. Now, I’m finding out how to finally monetize my vegan food business, and save more animals. It is a long and laborious process, but when you aim to save lives, everything becomes just a few steps away.
— Rosana Ferraz

Some entrepreneurs shared how attending the workshop helped them change their minds or course-correct the direction of their business. This happened to Lucia, a journalist who decided to become a creative chocolatier: 

When I started the workshop all I had in mind was to write my business plan to launch “Chocolate de Reis.” But after a few classes and going through the Business Planning App’s intuitive method, I was able to reflect on my previous experience as a scientific journalist. Writing my Mission, Vision and Values helped me understand why “Chocolate de Reis” exists and helped me view my business as a creative business, no matter what I develop. The app also helped me realize the complexities of finance, production and marketing analysis. Without the app and the workshop, I’m sure I would have never understood such concepts.
— Lucia Torres

Leila, an English Teacher and a Tour Guide decided to focus her new tourism business, “Conhecendo Mais,” on the cultural traits of low income communities in Rio de Janeiro. Here is a little bit of her business outlook after the workshop: 

I decided to attend the workshop and write my business plan mostly because I wanted to make more money. After the eighth meeting, I understood how everything in business is connected. I changed so many aspects of my company - from the way I get in touch with my costumers, to the way I price my services, to adding more products and services to my portfolio.
— Leila Gravano

Lastly, one of the most enthusiastic participants was Sandra, the owner of Amazonia Rio Consulting. She said that sharing experiences with the other participants and the instructor made a real difference for her - the ability to help others was an inspiration to consolidate the support network that resulted from the workshop.

I’m very grateful to Sebrae and Centro Community Partners for investing in us. I’m sure we will all give back to our community by being better and more successful entrepreneurs and by not losing focus on the sustainability of our businesses.
— Sandra Barbosa

I am personally thrilled to have found Centro as well, and can't wait to consolidate our nationwide partnership to use the Basic Entrepreneurship Education Suite across Brazil.

Business Clubs for Youth in Moldova Using Centro's Business Planning App

Oleg, one of our partner entrepreneurship trainers at our new affiliate organization in Moldova, Kingdom Paradigm.

Oleg, one of our partner entrepreneurship trainers at our new affiliate organization in Moldova, Kingdom Paradigm.

Last week Centro launched its first Basic Entrepreneurship Training pilot in Moldova! We are partnering with Kingdom Paradigm, a local social enterprise working to empower small business entrepreneurs and facilitating both personal and community transformation.

The first phase of this pilot project is to create a business club for youth (ages 16-18) who are interested in becoming entrepreneurs. The pilot is using Centro’s Basic Entrepreneurship Training program and Business Planning App (available today in Russian) to provide an 8-week course on-site. During the program participants will develop a basic business plan, conduct an MVP test to validate their business concept and present their business ideas to Kingdom Paradigm.

The goal of the program is to teach participants the skills needed to start a business and to identify two business concepts for Kingdom Paradigm to invest in and help launch.

Business Clubs for Youth

After the pilot is completed, Kingdom Paradigm's intention is to establish other business clubs at several local schools and colleges that offer ongoing business workshops. At these clubs, Centro's Business Planning App will also be used to help more young people test their business concepts, develop their business models and start more small businesses in the country.

Tailored Advanced Business Training

The second phase of the pilot also includes working with Kingdom Paradigm’s existing clients who have already received investments but could benefit from reviewing their business objectives and practices. In this case, a tailored version of Centro’s Entrepreneurship Readiness Program will provide advanced entrepreneurship training and mentoring to established small business owners who want to improve their business skills, and create plans to grow their businesses.

Centro will create the advanced training curriculum, train Kingdom Paradigm’s trainers on how to implement it, and provide oversight and support to its trainers as they conduct their first program.

Cross-Cultural Leader: DJ Healy

Before joining Centro, DJ worked in Eastern Europe for 5 years as a Peace Corps volunteer and English teacher. Realizing the immense potential for entrepreneurs in this part of the world, and after investing almost a decade developing relationships with local organizations and entrepreneurs, DJ has provided Centro with the stepping stones to help the country’s young and burgeoning entrepreneurs.

We look forward to continue providing them with the tools and skills they need to start and grow their own businesses, in their own language.

Teaching Entrepreneurship in Colombia Using Centro’s Business Planning App

For the past two years, Centro has been partnering with numerous organizations throughout Colombia, such as Impact Hub Medellín, the Universidad Javeriana de Cali and the Ministry of Development of Envigado, with the goal to reach small business entrepreneurs where they are, and provide them with more guidance to launch or grow their ventures.  As a result, hundreds of entrepreneurs from Bogotá, Cali, Tuluá, La Ceja, Medellín, and other cities around the country have taken part in quality business planning and leadership development programs led by local Centro-trained facilitators.

This month, through a partnership with the Municipality of La Ceja, Antioquia, a group of eight women graduated from our entrepreneurship program at Casa de la Mujer. For eight weeks, they worked on their business plans using Centro’s Business Planning App guided by Estefania Cardona y Johanna Trejos, two local facilitators who built on the content we provided with additional marketing, finance and motivational workshops.

By the end of the program, the women were so pleased that they took it upon themselves to start recruiting other women for the next intake of the entrepreneurship program, and plan a surprise celebratory meal for their facilitators.

We share this with joy and a warm heart because this is an example of how a small group, once empowered, can take concrete steps to bring about social and economic changes and build community around them.     

Want to Learn More About Centro's Work in LATAM?

We'd love to chat and find more ways to partner with organizations in the region. Please contact Elena Restrepo at elena@centrocommunity.org.

Setting Up Women for Success in Peru through Microenterprises

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In June 2015, Centro traveled to Peru to conduct a Basic Business Training Program for women entrepreneurs. In a month, we trained 53 women in basic entrepreneurship, financial literacy and leadership skills. But our highest achievement was made possible through the use of Centro's signature Business Planning App in the classroom.

The Business Planning App helps us build a breakthrough bridge other local and international organizations working with micro-entrepreneurs haven't been able to tackle successfully - and that is connecting technology, real opportunity and the sense of possibility in women who just a few hours before hesitated themselves using a smartphone, and doubted their potential despite their inherent talent and learned skills.

View how we did it and help us repeat

Our goals in peru 

  • Train 100 more women in 2016 in basic entrepreneurship
  • Empower them with the support to create or retain their microenterprises
  • Measure and track their household income and savings rates

We have committed to set them up for success by preparing them to become self-sustaining entrepreneurs as they build together thriving and prosperous communities for their families.

How you can support

Please make a donation to help us replicate and build on this life-changing experience for low-income women in Peru. Your gift will contribute to:

  • Pay for the transportation costs of the women from their local towns
  • Prepare and print for every entrepreneur the material in the curriculum
  • Pay for the tablets we will loan the entrepreneurs and internet access
  • Subsidize our trainer fees and diet 
  • Sponsor one-on-one business advising for the entrepreneurs

Every dollar you contribute counts and will help us reach our goals.

Opening Doors for Small Business Owners in Brazil

Naldo Peliks, Centro's Chief Operation Officer presenting to partner organizations how our  Business Planning App  can increase the success rate of small business owners.

Naldo Peliks, Centro's Chief Operation Officer presenting to partner organizations how our Business Planning App can increase the success rate of small business owners.

The last few months produced an incredible number of new experiences and exciting partnerships for Centro. Our time spent in Eastern Europe, then Peru and Colombia resulted in a great deal of learning about entrepreneurship development in diverse cultures - all which we can't wait to apply here at home. But before we shift our focus to the Bay Area again, we'd like to introduce you to our three new partners in Brazil!

  • SEBRAE, the Small Business Association (SBA) of Brazil with over 700 locations throughout the country
  • EixoRio, institute within Rio de Janeiro's secretary for culture which helps strengthen social entrepreneurs and street artists
  • CDL Niterói, t he largest association of store owners in Niterói, the town across the bay from Rio

A generous grant from eBay Foundation allowed us to share our new basic entrepreneurship curriculum with them. They will use it assisted by our signature Business Planning App, now available in Portuguese, to further their commitment to social change through successful small business owners.

We welcome these organizations to our Global Network of Affiliates with a great deal of excitement because by the end of 2015, we will have trained more than 100 underserved entrepreneurs in Brazil through these partnerships – now, that’s a reason to celebrate with a caipirinha!

New Projects in Peru and Colombia Supporting Small Business Owners

Arturo A. Noriega, Centro's Founder & Executive Director with some of our new partners in Colombia.

Arturo A. Noriega, Centro's Founder & Executive Director with some of our new partners in Colombia.

The most beautiful and imposing mountains welcomed us the minute we stepped off the plane in Peru. The scenery escorted us throughout our trip, as did the energy and enthusiasm of the small business entrepreneurs we trained through Asociación Solidaridad Países Emergentes (ASPEm) and Asociación Laboral para el Desarrollo (ADEC). By using Centro's Business Planning app and Basic Entrepreneurship Program curriculum to support the small business entrepreneurs in their communities, both of these organizations joined our Global Network of Affiliates.

Together with ASPEm, in a span of a little over 3 weeks, we trained 50 women entrepreneurs - many of whom have had very limited access to technology in their lives.

Celestina - dressmaker.jpg
My hometown is so remote that I did not grow up using much technology. I was afraid of using the app, but I wanted to try because I know how important it is in the business world.
— Celestina, dressmaking business owner

 

Celestina was brave enough to ask for help, she faced her fears, stuck with the class, and graduated with a robust business plan. She exclaimed, “I feel proud that I figured out the technology, and I’m excited to see how this will help me in the future.” So are we!

Then we tucked away some alpaca sweaters in our suitcase (just in case it ever gets below 60° in the Bay Area) and we headed to Colombia. With barely enough time to even finish our arepa and café, we jumped into teaching classes at Impact Hub Medellin where we taught 8 workshops to Colombian social entrepreneurs developing businesses to generate greater good in their communities.

Centro’s app will help me help more artists with disabilities.
— Nel, developing a work-space for artists with disabilities

We bring home their inspired lives, and a renewed commitment to continue working with these new partners and allies in Latin America.

Stay tuned for our last stop in Brazil, as we seek more organizations through which we can support many more underserved entrepreneurs in the region.

Searching for Partners in Eastern Europe to Support Local Talent

DJ Healy, Centro's Entrepreneurship Program Manager with aspiring small business entrepreneurs in Moldova.

DJ Healy, Centro's Entrepreneurship Program Manager with aspiring small business entrepreneurs in Moldova.

Bună!

We’re excited to share some highlights from projects in Eastern Europe where Centro is collaborating as an educational ally for low-income entrepreneurs. Our journey this summer began in Ukraine, a country bursting with people with creativity and potential! Here, we connected with a foreign language school Closer to the Dream where we coached 9 brilliant students through the process of developing the vision, mission and values of their future small businesses. 

This class was a good chance for me to make the time to structure my thoughts about my values. Too often, we don’t make time for that.
— Oksana, an aspiring entrepreneur

After stocking up on some vareniki (yummy local dumplings), we left to Moldova where we shared the Centro Business Planning app in Russian and English with some incredible NGOs. During a two-day workshop, the Center for Entrepreneurial Education and Business  used our app as their basic entrepreneurship curriculum to guide 6 current and future entrepreneurs through the process of developing their business plans.

This app was so useful and easy to use. The class helped me have a more realistic understanding of my business!
— Mihai, who dreams of opening an online retail store

While we lay the foundation of our Global Network of Affiliates, we continue to be inspired by the entrepreneurs who are fiercely determined to open their business against all odds. We are also so grateful for your continuous support throughout the journey as we venture to Colombia, Peru and Brazil in the next couple of months.

Stay tuned for more!

eBay Foundation Gives Us $75,000 Macro Grant for Microenterprise

eBay_Foundation_Logo.jpg

We are thrilled to announce that eBay Foundation has given us a very generous $75,000 grant to refine and share our Basic Entrepreneurship Program with underserved entrepreneurs in Brazil and throughout the US. Through eBay Foundation’s support, Tunnel Lab has already begun using our entrepreneur training tools to help Brazilian youth uplift their communities.

As we expand our global reach, we will work shoulder to shoulder with eBay Foundation and our partners to ensure that our Business Planning app and training curriculum provide a culturally appropriate answer to each community’s expressed needs.

We are so grateful to eBay Foundation for their steadfast commitment to community and international development. Thank you!