Tag Archives: agora entrepreneur

ChurecaChic empowers women through fashion

“Agora has acted for us as a seal of approval to get other accelerators, organizations, and investors to be interested in us.”

Andrea Paltzer believes in the power of innovative fashion to drive hundreds of women into the formal economy. She spent much of her 20s working in various NGOs across Central and South America, dealing with children’s health, poverty, and education. Eventually, she arrived at a NGO focused on educational infrastructure in Nicaragua, and found herself enraptured with the question of how to help generations of adults without any formal education access stable careers.

It was around this time that she learned of La Chureca, a municipal and industrial landfill, more aptly described as the largest garbage dump in all of Central America, and home to a shockingly large, impoverished community. This community worked and played amongst the trash, making their living sorting through the scraps for bits of metal and plastic. Andrea’s heart was touched by the perseverance of these people, surviving in such terrible conditions, and she decided she had to help.

Andrea knew that their greatest challenge was not a lack of money, but a lack of the education required to make a living in the formal economy. Furthermore, as officially listed residents of La Chureca, these individuals carried a debilitating label, earning them only discrimination and scorn from potential employers. The solution, therefore, had to go beyond simple welfare payments. Andrea had to change the individuals. She thus launched the Earth Education Project (EEP), a job-skills education program specifically catered to La Chureca’s women, funded by a series of scholarships from its community recycling business.

The program enrolls women with neither formal education nor experience in the formal economy in a year of reading, writing, and computing classes. It extends beyond the cultivation of these hard skills, teaching self-esteem, conflict resolution, and household management to psychologically empower the women, allowing them to successfully hold onto employment once they enter the formal economy. Upon completion of the program, graduates are placed through organizational partners into steady jobs across the country.

Despite the EEP’s laudable mission and initial success, Andrea knew from experience that NGOs are hard to sustain. A steady source of income was necessary if she was to maintain the Project, and so she came up with an idea for how to generate profit. And, just like that, Chureca Chic was born.

Launched in 2013 as an independent fashion label and registered officially in 2015 as a social enterprise, Chureca Chic takes recycled materials from the dump and transforms them into beautiful pieces of unique jewelry. The company provides full-time employment to several EEP graduates, and its profits are funneled back into the Project to expand its scholarship program. Andrea’s greatest achievement, however, is that her company has empowered dozens of women, placing 150 graduates into formal jobs and employing seven women itself. Fany Guerrero, who used to work for $5 a month at a jewelry co-op, now makes $220 a month, running the production line at Chureca Chic and more confident in her abilities than ever before.

Hoping to expand her vision, Andrea applied to Agora’s Accelerator and was accepted to its 2016 class. Her company, just founded, was an exception, a couple years behind the rest of her social entrepreneurial peers. But with the help of a patient and committed consultant, Andrea bridged this divide. She reorganized her projects and financial statements and emerged from the Accelerator with a clear investor report, a strengthened growth strategy, and contacts for potential sources of funding and partnerships.

Today, Andrea is focused on increasing national sales and expanding throughout the region. She plans to incorporate recycled plastic and wood into Chureca Chic’s raw materials, diversifying her products and eventually reaching the European market. Andrea hopes to one day absorb all running costs of the Earth Education Project, and is well on her way to meeting that goal.

Andrea is inspired everyday by the women she sees transformed through the EEP and empowered by formal employment. She believes that persistence, resilience, and consistent innovation have transformed the idea of La Chureca from something detestable into something beautiful. Andrea runs her company on the values of commitment, responsibility, and honesty, and her team of women are changing the world, one recycled string of beads at a time.

Learn more about ChurecaChic at www.eartheducationproject.org.

Xinca discovers the potential of recycled materials

“Your social enterprise should be a part of you. It is always hard to separate the project from yourself, but use that to your advantage.”

Nazareno El Hom believes in a future where trash dumps are converted into forces for social integration. Attracted to the autonomy of running one’s own business, Nazareno quickly became a connoisseur of entrepreneurial ventures. He opened restaurants in Costa Rica, bars in his native Mendoza, and even a bike shop. But this is not just the story of Nazareno. This is the story of three friends, Nazareno, Ezequiel, and Alejandro, who came together four years ago in search of something different. They wanted to found a company that followed a different logic, whose success was defined not only by its profitability but also by its social and environmental impact. Upon learning about the existence of social enterprises as an industry, the three knew where their futures had to lie.

With no idea what they wanted to do nor how they would do it, they turned their focus to the local community. They became aware of the immense waste coming out of the tire industry, and visits to the disposal sites revealed mound upon mound of unused tires. They learned of and quickly became incensed by the number of individuals and groups that were excluded from the formal economy, realizing that there was tremendous productive potential lying unharnessed. The solution to this set of problems lay clear before their eyes; they had to found a shoe store. But it would not be just any shoe store, it would be Xinca.

The shoes Xinca produces and sells are absolute trash, and they are incredibly proud of that. Each shoe is produced from recycled materials, with soles made out of recovered tires. The individuals and organizations they partner with to create the shoes come from the most marginalized sectors of society, and they thus provide work for the physically disabled, single mothers, and rural families. Through a partnership with the penitentiary of Mendoza, they are giving a second chance to over 30 inmates, providing them with the opportunity to become productive individuals within society and raising their quality of life.

21,805 shoes later, Xinca continues to create an incredible impact. They have incorporated waste into their production while maintaining their standard of quality, proving to society that there is value and potential in recycled materials. They have partnered with several social organizations and workshops to empower dozens of individuals excluded from the formal economy. And they have aligned themselves with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, structuring their company to promote gender equality and responsible consumption and production.

Hoping to move their social enterprise closer to investment but wary of accelerators taking equity, the Xinca team looked to Agora. Equipped with a readily-available consultant and a wide assortment of materials for strengthening their finances, the team was able to tackle oncoming challenges head-on. They emerged from the Accelerator with a network of support and an improved growth strategy, closer to investment than ever before.

Xinca today is changing lives. Suffering from a physical disability, Ramón had not been able to get a formal job for the last seven years. After being connected with Xinca, he began to work producing their merchandise. In his new creative space, Ramón is able to manage his own schedule and satisfy his economic needs. Nazareno is continuously inspired by stories like Ramón’s, by the proof that the work he is doing with his team is in fact making a difference. He believes firmly in the importance of internal alignment and the power of his partners to successfully push each other through difficult moments. The Xinca team thus runs their company on the knowledge that honesty starts with oneself and empathy is crucial for generating impact, and they are changing the world, one shoe at a time.

Learn more about Xinca at http://www.xinca.com.ar.

Meso assists Mayan artisans in Guatemala

 “We had an objective but no idea how to get there. Agora taught us how to order our priorities, re-analyze our strategies, and achieve our goals.”

Marisa Umaña believes in the power of artisanal design to empower women and bring economic opportunities and development to rural communities. A student of international commerce and policy, Marisa moved her professional life quite naturally into the field of economic development. After acquiring a Masters in Belgium, she returned to Guatemala, deciding to take a job as the Director of the Handcrafts Division for the Exporters’ Association. As the leader of a USAID-funded project, she threw her energy into fostering economic development in rural areas and connecting the women to clients in international markets. It was there that she met Diego and Gonzalo, who, wanting to create contemporary handmade products with traditional techniques, had founded the Mayan Store in 2010.

With a fondness for art and design, extensive travel experience, and unmistakably strong Guatemalan roots, Diego Olivero had decided to create a diverse handcrafted collection to highlight his cultural tradition. Fascinated by the intersection between business and social impact, Gonzalo Pertile had worked in both the public and private sectors and was driven to create local development.

The two partners were impressed with Marisa’s experience with the handcraft sector in Guatemala and invited her to join their project in 2016. The first, a natural in topics of innovation design, the second, fluent in the language of international development, and the last, an expert on coordinating local handcraft artisans, the team steadily expanded their business.

Over the years, they committed themselves to the preservation of Mayan cultural heritage. They partnered with wool weavers from the Momostenango municipality, women beaders in the Sololá department, and glassblowers in a recycling-based cooperative, providing artisans who had lived in conditions of extreme poverty with a sustainable income and access to the international market. They diversified their products beyond their renown woven rugs, expanding to chairs, glassware, and jewelry, and eventually changed their name to Meso, identifying their target market as Central America.

Despite knowing that they wanted to access investment, the Meso team had no idea how to become investment-ready. They struggled with creating a clear financial plan that would list their cost structures accurately, and did not know which direction to move in. So, in 2017, they applied to Agora’s Accelerator.

In the retreat and months of consulting that followed, they were shown how to achieve their objective. They emerged from the program with a re-analyzed growth strategy, invaluable investment contacts, and a stronger financial plan. With a company restructured in accordance with their goals, the team divided the work amongst themselves, relegating grants, design, and operative administration to the expert of each field.

The Meso team today continues moving steadily toward investment-readiness and expanding their network. Starting with three artisans in 2010, Meso now works with over 500 individuals, most of whom live in the northern highlands of Guatemala. They’ve focused their expansion on empowering women, moving female artisans into an agricultural group previously managed solely by men. In the process, they have brought an increased income and improved living conditions to all these families. Marisa has worked consistently to perfect effective communication with her artisans, many of whom have never been exposed to the need for quality control or deadlines nor understood finances. She happily reports that the process has become much smoother, and that she and her team have ambitious goals for growth. They plan to develop workshops where their artisans will be able to separate work from home in a space safe for dyeing and weaving, and thus reduce certain health risks.

Marisa believes that the diversity of her team has been the key to their success, each individual contributing a unique skill set to the company and inspiring the others to persevere. Despite the many challenges of working with rural Guatemalan artisans, Marisa is encouraged to continue driving social impact by her sense of responsibility to herself, her team, and society.

Marisa, Diego, and Gonzalo run their company on the values of teamwork, perseverance, and creativity, and they are changing the world, one beautiful wool-woven rug at a time.

Learn more about Meso at https://www.mesolifestyle.com

Indigo Impacto ensures access to safe drinking water

“As a social entrepreneur, you need to spend time on understanding the community you are impacting. You have to understand that market, and thoroughly understand their individual needs in order to best be able to help them.”

Israel Amezcua believes in the basic right of humans to access clean, affordable water. Throughout his life, Israel has always cultivated his natural entrepreneurial spirit, founding several ventures that sold products ranging from jewelry to organic coffee. But for the last decade, he dedicated his time to a civil association, working with safe water, management of natural resources, and rural development. Israel became increasingly drawn to the monumental importance and rising value of water. Faced with the quickly approaching effects of global warming, he knew that rural communities were most at risk and least capable of accessing clean, safe water.

Israel learned that, despite being one of the world’s largest consumers of freshwater per capita, Mexico still had over 20 million of its citizens living without access to clean water. This was causing a massive portion of the population to be extremely vulnerable to serious gastrointestinal diseases. Israel knew that something had to be done, and accordingly put his entrepreneurial spirit to work.

Working with Fermín, a friend from the same civil association, the two men decided that they wanted to empower these rural communities in the management of their own natural resource while simultaneously bringing them access to safe drinking water. Out of this idea, Indigo Impacto was born.

Conceived with a clear focus on these rural communities, Indigo Impacto builds on the existence of water purification kiosks in urban areas, adapting the models to more remote areas and using them to bring opportunity and autonomy to marginalized individuals. By selling the kiosk franchise for women to operate on their own, Indigo Impacto ensures a stable stream of income for individuals who were unlikely to ever own their own business. Additionally, the kiosks keep the price of safe water low and affordable for all of the community. They have even become a source of pride, proof that natural resources are being efficiently managed.

In addition to the purification kiosk franchise, Indigo Impacto sells simple systems that collect and purify rainwater for individual households. With these diverse services, Israel and Fermín are changing lives. Maricela, a resident of the rural Francisco Sarabia community in Chiapas, is a single mother who used to make a living cleaning houses. Introduced to the purification kiosks, she formed a group with four other women, installed a model, and began to run her brand new business. She now makes an income stable enough for her to spend time at home with her children and address their daily needs.

Inspired by Agora’s Latin American vision and focus, Israel applied to the Accelerator program in 2017. In the months that followed the initial retreat, Israel was guided by an invaluable consultant, readily available for support and consistently connecting him with new individuals and organizations that could push his business further. Indigo Impacto today is stronger than ever before, with a clearer pitch, message, and mission that have drawn in several interested investors.

Despite the rapid expansion of his company, Israel’s thirst for creating impact has not been quenched. He envisions Indigo Impacto operating in ten states throughout Mexico, installing between 300 and 500 kiosks to be operated by women, and selling 100,000 household purification systems. Israel runs his company driven by the need to create a better future for his family, and he is changing the world, one drop of clean water at a time.

Learn more about Indigo Impacto at http://indigoimpacto.mx.

D&E Green Enterprises promotes clean cookstoves in Haiti

“For my fellow social entrepreneurs, never fall in love with your solution. Fall in love with the problem.”

Duquesne Fednard believes that homegrown entrepreneurs need to fall in love with the problems facing Haiti, relying upon themselves rather than foreign aid to push their country into the future. Duquesne was born in a small Haitian town to a mother who had only a 3rd grade education and a father who could neither read nor write. Despite their own limitations, Duquesne’s parents instilled in him the value of taking initiative and the understanding that education would be his ticket to prosperity. Raised in a town that, even now, has no electricity or running water, little Duquesne housed an entrepreneurial fire whose brazen flames endure to this day.

At the age of 9, Duquesne was left alone to proctor his class’ exams. While his teacher desperately tried to woo the attractive teacher next door, the young entrepreneur seized upon this opportunity. Within weeks he had a full-blown business running, making sure students who wanted to cheat had to pay him, or risk the wrath of their lovesick teacher. By the end of the year, Duquesne had made enough money to buy himself a few toys.

At 16, Duquesne opened a print shop, his first formal business on the island, but he craved foreign exposure and experience. And so, he sold his print shop and moved to the United States, spending the next fourteen years on the fast track. He worked in a consulting firm, pursued a graduate degree, became an investment banker on the famed Wall Street, and even worked for Mayor Bloomberg. But his heart remained firmly tethered to Haiti.

He began to conduct market research on the existing organizations operating in Haiti and realized that his country had become overrun by NGOs, many of which had the best intentions  but were only creating greater problems. The deluge of foreign aid not only made Haitians increasingly dependent, but also destroyed many of their jobs. Duquesne knew he had to provide a local solution to a local problem that could be implemented by the local community.

Armed with the knowledge that 95% of Haitians still use charcoal as their primary fuel for cooking, Duquesne identified the energy market as an easy entry-point. He hoped to address both the environmental damage caused by this reliance as well as the social disparity that saw 80% of the population living below the poverty line. The solution became D&E Green Enterprises. Bringing affordable, reliable and clean energy to these impoverished communities, D&E manufactures and sells energy-efficient cook-stoves and integrates its customers into a financing scheme that helps generate savings.

Duquesne excitedly designed his prototype in 2009 and turned all his savings into a new factory with equipment that would manufacture the cook-stoves. But in January of 2010, disaster struck. A 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti, taking the lives of 220,000 Haitians and the homes of another 1.5 million. Duquesne’s factory and all the new equipment inside were reduced to a heap of rubble. When Duquesne finally managed to visit the site, he noticed that a 39 year old who had been trained to work at his factory was visiting its remains every day. The factory was supposed to provide him with his first formal job, and despite the fact that this dream of an improved life lay in ruins before him, the man continued to show up at the site, desperately searching for a sense of normalcy.

It was at this moment that Duquesne remembered that his project was bigger than himself. Beyond the destruction of his dream and the loss of all his savings, his business had been a beacon of hope for all those involved. And so, picking himself up by the bootstraps, Duquesne got back to work. Over the next three years, his workers manufactured the cook-stoves manually, working in flimsy tents as hurricanes came and went. By 2014, the factory was rebuilt and his company was back on track.

Knowing that he needed capital to scale  his business was raising money, Duquesne applied to Agora’s Accelerator in 2017. His initial expectations were far surpassed. He gained access to a wonderful community and support system of fellow social entrepreneurs and was given the tools to get him closer to investment. Over the course of the past four months, a dedicated and perfectly-matched consultant helped him stay focused, maintain the structure of his business, and clearly define his priorities and responsibilities.

D&E today has sold over 125,000 cookstoves, directly impacting 600,000 lives. It has created over 60 full-time jobs and empowered over 100 local distributors. Duquesne hopes that, five years from now, there will be millions of low-income individuals on his savings-by-consumption platform, and D&E will be operating in three countries.

In the many ups and downs of his entrepreneurial journey, Duquesne has learned that, as a social entrepreneur, one must fall in love with the problem and not the solution. Believing himself incredibly blessed to be able to help others, Duquesne runs his company with humility, openness, and resilience, changing the world, one cook-stove at a time.  

Learn more about D&E Green Enterprises at http://www.dandegreen.com/.

 

Develop Link makes Guatemalan healthcare more efficient

“Being able to leverage Agora’s well-known name within this community allowed us to successfully acquire funding.”

Catherine Flatley believes in unlocking the potential of existing healthcare systems to provide more efficient care for Latin Americans. She was first introduced to the world of healthcare as an intern for PricewaterhouseCoopers. Immersed in the industry, she became increasingly fascinated by the communications problems that existed in the developing world and the opportunities to fix them. But she wanted to know more about the problem.

Catherine spoke to over 300 doctors who had participated in mission trips around the world, and realized that many encountered the same difficulties arising from their inability to coordinate patient care. As a healthcare consultant, she had worked with several pharmaceutical firms who were interested in entering emerging markets but struggled with the lack of data necessary to expand.

She was blown away by the extent of the problem and motivated to solve it. A decisive resignation and move to Guatemala later, Develop Link was born.

As a referral platform for doctors in Latin America, Develop Link helps healthcare providers search for specialists and labs, share information, and consult each other. The data collected through the platform is subsequently organized and sold to pharmaceutical companies and insurance providers hoping to expand within the Latin American region. Catherine emphasizes that Develop Link is not trying to reinvent the wheel. It simply serves as the link bringing together all the existing institutions to facilitate more efficient care.

Wanting to improve her company’s potential for growth and scaling, Catherine participated in several Accelerators, including Points of Light CivicX, Impact Engine, and the Fellow Irish Social Hub. However, she lacked both direct access to the Latin American network and consulting that would instruct her specifically on the Latin American market. So she applied to Agora’s Accelerator.

Through the four-month program, Catherine refined her launch strategy, strengthened the value proposition she would deliver to pharmaceutical firm clients, and connected with invaluable investor networks. The SOCAP experience, facilitated by Agora, introduced her to her very first client in Mexico.

Since the Accelerator, Develop Link has steadily progressed, entering Mexico by virtue of demand and planning to enter Costa Rica. Catherine has recently closed two contracts with investors and is on her way to closing her third, motivated every day by the number of doctors, NGOs, government organizations, and private companies all trying to provide better healthcare in Latin America with a clear need to better communicate.

She believes that the ability to be flexible and adjust existing plans to new circumstances has been key to expanding her company, and hopes to continue working towards halting the Latin American ‘Brain Drain,’ in which talented and promising individuals leave their native country to pursue a professional career elsewhere. Her company’s potential for expansion and promise for physicians and patients everywhere keep talented employees like Shaili Zappa, her director for Guatemala, working locally.  Develop Link, run on teamwork and collaboration, is thus changing the world, one patient at a time.

Learn more about Develop Link at http://www.developlink.org.

Cruz Campo empowers rural women in Peru

“If you have a dream, pursue it. Nothing in this world is impossible. I made my company from zero, with no knowledge of business management to guide me, but I learned along the way.”

Rosa Cruz believes in sharing the benefits of the native Peruvian tubers, yacon and aguaymanto, with the rest of the world. Born into a family of farmers, Rosa Cruz always had a special place in her heart for the rural community. And though she was familiar with the Peruvian yacon from a young age, any thoughts of it remained relegated to her rural childhood as she progressed through university. Upon graduating with a degree in chemical engineering, however, her attention was suddenly drawn back to this tuber, so under-researched and under-cultivated, yet brimming with invaluable health benefits. Hoping to bring its benefits to the diabetic community and beyond, Rosa effectively became one of the first individuals to study the yacon.

Over the course of the following decade, Rosa collected seeds, conducted research, expanded her study to include the aguaymanto tuber, organized a farmers’ association, and, eventually, began large-scale organic cultivation. From this, Cruz Campo was born.

Dedicated to bettering the environment through promoting biodiversity, organic cultivation, and environmental conservation, Cruz Campo brings healthy alternative products to its customers, a higher quality of life to its employees, and exposure to a larger market for its farmers.

Hoping to both expand her company and expose herself to the world of international entrepreneurship, Rosa applied to the Accelerator and was accepted. She left her native soil for the first time to go to the opening retreat in Nicaragua, where she found inspiring speakers and a group of burgeoning female entrepreneurs. Over the course of the next four months, Agora’s consulting allowed her to drastically improve productivity and management. But, above all, the Agora Accelerator connected her with Kiva, a microfinancing platform that enables individuals to give and receive loans, through which she was able to receive a $35,000 loan in a week. This loan has allowed her to invest in more raw materials and purchase a new piece of land, on which she hopes to build a secondary processing plant.

Strategically placed to give the greatest number of rural women easy access to a steady job, avoid raw materials losses incurred during transportation, and facilitate direct contact with producers, this plant will allow Rosa to continue creating the incredible impact she makes with Cruz Campo.

Rosa’s company has empowered many rural women. Cruz Campo has given life to a supportive community of single mothers who have fallen victim to domestic violence while also providing them a consistent income and the opportunity to educate their children.

She hopes to continue addressing the Sustainable Development Goal of ‘Decent Work and Economic Growth’ and to acquire the funding necessary to develop another industrial plant closer to other areas of cultivation, exporting beyond the confines of Peru’s borders to the greater world. Fueled by honesty, fairness, and perseverance, Cruz Campo is changing the world, one yacon plant at a time.

Learn more about Cruz Campo at http://www.cruzcampoperu.com.

Cocotech transforms coastal Colombian communities

“Agora teaches you not only the financial components, but also the personal and emotional components necessary for success.”

Germán Mejia believes in the incredible potential of the coconut shell to be the vehicle of prosperity for coastal Colombian communities.

For nearly twenty years, Germán devoted his energy to cultivating his homeland’s most famous export, beautiful flowers.  During these two decades in horticulture, he had the opportunity to explore the hydroponic cultivation of flowers with coconut fiber substrates and realized that the shell of this fruit had an incredible potential for improving the cultivation of vegetables like tomatoes, ornamental plants, vertical orchid gardens, and ‘green’ roofs.

Excited by the many uses and benefits of coconut fibers and substrate, Germán remembered the family trips to the Caribbean coast in his boyhood and the innumerable coconuts he had seen strewn across the department of Córdoba. He had not returned to the region in decades and decided to give it a visit. What he saw opened his eyes to the monumental opportunity awaiting him.

To avoid snakes nesting, the local communities were disposing of the coconut shells by throwing them on the beach or burning them completely, a practice that was severely polluting the air. Germán’s raw material, shockingly abundant, was thus not only being discarded but also contributing to the environmental degradation of the region. Moreover, these communities were living in abject poverty, the worst residing in homes of cracked plastic, with no access to clean water or electricity, and no sanitary bathroom or a functional area for cooking. Seeing the conditions for the first time through adult eyes, Germán was appalled. The man who, as a child, had told his mother at least once a week that he wanted to become a doctor and help people, was moved to action. And thus, Cocotech was born.

Cocotech buys coconut shells from these impoverished coastal communities, recycling them and transforming them into substrates for use in agriculture and horticulture. It thus simultaneously reduces the environmental contamination of the region and brings employment and additional income to families in desperate need of resources.

Since its conception in 2012, Cocotech has consistently progressed, entering the competitive market for coconut fiber substrates, and gaining a share substantial enough to break even. It has developed a buffering agent to treat the coconut shells and added coconut chips to its production line, further expanding its opportunities. In 2016, Cocotech became a finalist for Innpulsa, a Colombian entrepreneurial competition, and won first prize for sustainability with Corporacion Ventures, receiving national recognition for its incredible work.

Ambitious and ready to expand, Germán applied to Agora’s Accelerator program on the recommendation of an important potential client. The Accelerator provided him with invaluable materials, a methodology for growth, months of support from a consultant who was consistently well-prepared and committed to his company’s development, and the opportunity to present himself before investors and credit lenders in the hope of acquiring financing.

Newly equipped, Germán’s company today is poised for rapid growth. Germán hopes to continue expanding the plan of benefits for Cocotech’s employees that has thus far improved his workers’ education, health, living situation, and even their diet. In five years, he wants to acquire a major American client and develop a partnership with weavers who make artisanal products with coconut fibers, further unlocking the infinite possibilities of this little fruit.

Germán has brought hope and opportunity to an area that has remained virtually unchanged for the last 45 years. Within a population trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty and underdevelopment, he is changing lives. He runs his company with the sense of responsibility and empathy that have so guided his life, and he is changing the world, one coconut at a time.

Learn more about Cocotech at cocotech.com.co.

Advanced Biocontrollers assists farmers in Nicaragua

“Agora teaches you not only the financial components necessary for success, but also the personal and emotional components.”

Demetrio Diaz believes in the necessity for both a balance between conventional and organic agriculture and an increased environmental consciousness among farmers. Demetrio’s fascination with organic agribusiness has guided his adult life, leading him to enroll in Masters courses in Agribusiness. Upon completion of his classes, his awareness of the pervasive use of chemical contaminants drove him to create a venture producing organic fertilizers and developing biopesticides for Panamanian farmers. But he wanted to do more, dreaming of a company dedicated to providing farmers all throughout the region with eco-friendly products. These products would adapt to each producer’s needs, reduce the chemical contamination of the environment, and, eventually, change the industry.

In 2014, he was ready to actualize his dream. Demetrio pulled together a multidisciplinary team of chemists, biologists, and businessmen dedicated to this mission of improving agricultural production with eco-friendly biopesticides. Thus was born Advanced Biocontrollers.

Working with a system of direct distributors to personally communicate with farmers, Advanced Biocontrollers addresses the problem at its source. These distributors are tasked with bringing the eco-friendly products to the countryside and instructing the farmers in the need for and use of these tools. Combining traditional and biologically-enhanced agriculture, Advanced Biocontrollers thus raises the environmental consciousness of its customers, empowering them with tools to increase agricultural efficiency while simultaneously improving their health and that of the environment.

Eager to develop his business, Demetrio applied and was accepted into Agora’s 2016 Accelerator Class. Through the retreat, consulting, and investor roundtables, Demetrio acquired a stronger and clearer business plan, a partner with both financial and operational expertise, and invaluable contacts with interested investors.

This newfound competence and financing allowed Demetrio to rapidly expand into neighboring nations. Nicaraguan peanut farmers were among the first to benefit. Combatting a blight of white mushrooms that was resulting in an annual crop loss of up to 40%, these farmers had been using a standard biopesticide harmful to both themselves and the environment and largely ineffective. After being introduced to Advanced Biocontrollers’ biopesticides, they changed tactics. The results were remarkable.

Those who treated their land with Demetrio’s biopesticides reported successfully harvesting 100% of their crops. At the same time, they reduced their own risk of exposure to harmful chemicals and the environmental contamination from chemical runoff.

Working everyday through the innovative techniques of nanotechnology and applied biotechnology, Demetrio has created a successful business out of a simple dream. His team is blazing trails and opening doors, researching new ways to better equip the agricultural industry and empowering an ambitious 20-year-old whose monthly salary has risen from $500 to $1200.

Demetrio is motivated every day by both his family and customers, and by the gratitude of his customers, whose lives and agricultural practices are being changed for the better. In five years, he hopes to be operating out of ten countries in the region and offer 15 different products to his clients, and he is well on his way to reaching this goal.

Demetrio runs Advanced Biocontrollers on a stubborn belief in his dreams and the irrefutable need to help others, and it is changing the world, one field at a time.

Learn more about Advanced Biocontrollers at http://www.abiocontrollers.com.

GPSGAY improves the lives of Latin American LGBT communities

“Before Agora, we knew that we were causing impact but had no idea how to track it. The Accelerator taught us how to measure and explain the impact we were having on the LGBTQ community.”

Magdalena Rodríguez believes in the power of social inclusion to change the lives of the LGBTQ community.  With a background in web design, Magdalena launched her career in the tech world, founding a web design and development company in Uruguay with her wife in 2006. Growing increasingly dissatisfied with the lack of change she was making in a tech agency, Magdalena began to search for new ideas of social impact. She wanted to add value to the LGBTQ community she was a part of, and make a difference to the individuals who were still frequently excluded from society.

Upon reviewing the many applications and platforms already available to the LGBTQ community, Magdalena realized that there was something missing. Many were focused solely on finding a sexual partner, and those that did provide valuable information and consulting services to individuals did not take advantage of the community’s potential as a unique market. Thus was born the idea for GPSGAY.

As the largest and most comprehensive platform for the LGBTQ community in Latin America, GPSGAY is simultaneously a safe space where individuals can solicit advice, support, and consulting services, a medium through which companies and organizations can engage with the community, a source for relevant content including upcoming events, news, and health information, and a marketplace for products including healthcare, travel, and entertainment.

Looking for impact investors who would help take GPSGAY to the next level, Magdalena applied to Agora’s Accelerator and was accepted to its 2016 Class. The retreat and months of consulting that followed brought invaluable benefits. Magdalena and her team learned to better measure the impact they were creating, developed a stronger business plan that catered to addressing the health and self-esteem of individuals users, and connected with impact investors in a market less familiar with LGBTQ startups.

Following the Accelerator, Magdalena has secured $300,000 from a Swiss investor, strengthened GPSGAY’s internal system to better organize its sales, and made the decision to set up offices in the U.S. With plans to further expand the networks of support and information and strengthen self-esteem, GPSGAY is poised to continue its rapid expansion.

With GPSGAY, Magdalena hopes for nothing more than to make the world a little bit brighter for the LGBTQ community. She hopes that participation in this platform can make her users happier and more confident, and shares that the grateful messages they receive from the community are her greatest source of motivation and inspiration.

GPSGAY is run on its founders’ honesty, accountability, and respect, and it is changing the world, one user at a time.

Learn more about GPSGAY at gpsgay.com.