Agora Partnerships


JUAN JOSÉ ROESEL RENIZ

What attracted you to the fellowship program?

I saw the fellowship program as the perfect opportunity to get a closer look at the challenges and opportunities that lie within social entrepreneurship and impact investing, and to get invaluable field experience working closely with impact-oriented entrepreneurs in LatAm. There’s no better way to get a grasp of social entrepreneurship and its complex dynamics than going to the “line of battle” with the entrepreneurs and get to work with them to help address their most pressing challenges.

What is the biggest value you gained from being a fellow?

Without a doubt, everything you learn in the field, given the diversity and breadth of clients you’re assigned as a Fellow. It was also very valuable to be able to be based in Mexico City thanks to the Fellowship, which granted me with the chance of meeting very interesting people and organizations within the impact investing industry.

What did you learn that you didn’t expect to learn?

I learned that being a social entrepreneur goes beyond wanting to solve a complex social or environmental problem through market-based solutions. The entrepreneur must also have the will and determination to fit into the culture and environment it is looking to impact, learn to speak the local language, connect with local people and understand the problem space from their perspective, rather than from its own. We cannot pretend to solve problems that we don’t fully understand, or even worse, that we don’t really connect with.

What advice would you give to a future fellow?

I would suggest adjusting the scope and reach of the consultancy to the entrepreneur’s actual needs and expectations, which involves adapting to the dynamics and timing of his/her business and his/her availability to work on the acceleration process. Each company and each entrepreneur is a world on its own, which suggests that we as Fellows shouldn’t use a “one size fits all” approach. I would also suggest to lay down a 12-to-18 month plan of action if possible, so the entrepreneur and his/her team can keep on executing the actions and initiatives that come out of the consultancy even after the Agora program is officially over.

How has your experience as a fellow contributed to your current job?

On the one hand, the Fellowship program gave me the chance to be based in Mexico City, and thanks to that I was able to make valuable connections at a personal and professional level. And on the other, the learning I obtained through consulting my companies has provided me with a solid foundation to keep building my career and to share that knowledge with other organizations within the impact ecosystem in LatAm.

OWEN HENKEL

What attracted you to the fellowship program?

I had experience volunteering in Latin America and in business consulting experience in the US, but the opportunity to combine my professional skills while working in my second language was what really got me excited.

What is the biggest value you gained from being a fellow?

I learned a tremendous amount about the country specific business challenges (and opportunities) in a variety of Latin American countries, while simultaneously being plugged into the social entrepreneurship ecosystem. At the end of the fellowship I had industry and country expertise that employers valued, as well as a greatly expanded professional network to seek out new opportunities.

What did you learn that you didn’t expect to learn?

My work as a fellow underscored the importance of developing an interpersonal relationship of trust, and even friendship, with the entrepreneurs I was consulting with. In many cases visiting them, meeting their family, and breaking bread with them was a crucial turning point in our professional relationship.

What advice would you give to a future fellow?

I would have 3 main pieces of advice:
1) don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
2) have a bias toward action, don’t wait around to hear back from an entrepreneur because you are afraid of being too pushy.
3) expect about 30% of things you do to not go according to plan.

How has your experience as a fellow contributed to your current job?

I joined Agora’s fellowship program in the gap between completing business school and returning full-time to a big three consulting firm. As the months progressed, I slowly came to the realization that “these were my people” and that working in the social entrepreneurship space really was the professional calling I had been looking for. As part of my work as a consultant I was introducing my companies to various impact investing funds, and ended up deciding to join my current company rather than return to consulting.

BECKY BAILEY

What attracted you to the fellowship program?

 

  1. Getting to live and experience what it is like abroad and a lot of the conditions that many social entrepreneurs are actually operating under.
  2. The opportunity to get exposure to a wide variety of social entrepreneurs across industries and across geographies.
  3. Being able to really use the analytic rigor – both from a financial and a general business perspective – that I had learned in business school and professionally in a way that I felt good about.

What is the biggest value you gained from being a fellow?

Living in a developing country in the conditions under which most entrepreneurs are operating teaches you in a way that you would never learn if you were not immersed in that type of culture. You get to really empathize and understand the realities of running a business in this culture in a way that you wouldn’t otherwise. It’s an intangible experience and you have to live it in order to really get it.

What did you learn that you didn’t expect to learn?

The power of the community in not only social entrepreneurship, but specifically social entrepreneurship in Latin America. I really felt that I was a member of a family and there is this entire movement of really powerful people, and if you can just give them access and tools you can actually have a part in changing the world. I really didn’t expect this to be the case. I didn’t expect that to be as big and as profound and as encouraging as it was.

What advice would you give to a future fellow?

Dive in head-first – with your companies but also with the organization and with whatever geography you are placed in. It will go by quickly and and if you just dive in, you will learn more each day then you will ever realize. After the experience is over, you will be reaping those benefits for days and months and years to come.

How has your experience as a fellow contributed to your current job?

Nisolo is a former client of mine and I worked for Agora as their consultant and created the financial model for Nisolo as well as many other Agora companies. This allowed me to be able to sink through the finance piece for social enterprise a lot more thoroughly than I would have without that type of exposure. Coming from a strict finance background would make it difficult to think through all of the challenges faced by a social enterprise and the challenges of operating in latin america, so I am able to deal with that in a financial way that I wouldn’t have if I had just come straight from my former job. On the operational side – again having worked and operated in a country similar to where Nisolo operates now – I can really understand the dynamics and the difficulties that we have in production and in retention of staff and a lot of the things that impact our operations on a day-to-day basis because I was dealing with them myself and was helping other entrepreneurs other than myself while living and working in Nicaragua.

CALVIN SHABB

What attracted you to the fellowship program?

The fellowship is and was one of the best opportunities to work on ‘the front lines’ of impact investing in Latin America. Personally, I wanted to live and work outside the U.S. and I had been to Nicaragua before. I had just finished up an internship at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and was really eager to get out and gain some field experience.

What is the biggest value you gained from being a fellow?

The most valuable part of the fellowship for me was working directly with small business owners in Central America. I forged some strong connections with the leadership at my portfolio companies and with co-workers at Agora while I was there.

What did you learn that you didn’t expect to learn?

The resources and commitment it takes to launch an impact-oriented venture in Central America. Taking an idea and building a business out of that is an amazing process to me, and the leaders with whom I worked with were incredibly driven folks.

What advice would you give to a future fellow?

Think about it and then do it. Weigh your options, do research, do some soul-searching and figure out if this is what you want to do. Then do a quick assessment of your people skills. If you’re 51% decided to go then make it happen and throw all your effort into getting the job done.

What are you doing now?

I work at a software company in Seattle. Probably not a typical career track following an experience like Agora, but I wanted to try out a new industry and a new city in the U.S.

How has your experience as a fellow contributed to your current job? 

To be honest there are some surprising similarities working for a start-up non-profit and a startup tech company. It has been described as an awkward teenager still a little unsure of his/her footing. I still draw on skills I developed at Agora and I will never forget my time there.

Washington DC

Impact Hub DC
419 7th St NW,
3rd Floor
Washington, DC 20004
Tel: 202-580-8776

Managua

Residencial Altamira D'Este,
del Banpro 1 cuadra abajo, No. 82
Managua, Nicaragua
Tel: 505-2270-2700
US VoIP: 202-558-6962

Mexico City

Av. Insurgentes Sur 318
Roma Norte,
06700 Cd de México, CDMX
Mexico

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