International entrepreneurs use Michiana as tool for business ventures

As part of an international exchange program, 14 “fellows” are being hosted by organizations across Michiana, including some right here in South Bend. The goal is for them to learn more about entrepreneurship.

“Work on your business organization, what do you wanna be, work on your goals, long-term, short-term goals… and just go for it,” said Paola Prieto, a Fellow of the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative.

In 2015, President Obama launched the ‘Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative’ to give young entrepreneurs from other countries the chance to learn, expand, and network in the US.

“I own a non-profit back home in Venezuela. It’s called enterprising youth. We empower young people’s ideas and entrepreneurial adventures. Especially the ones aimed towards technological innovations and sustainable development. We encourage them to start their own entrepreneurial adventures and we do that through education,” said Prieto.

Fourteen fellows are in Michiana.

Prieto is visiting from Venezuela where she says paving a way for yourself is tough.

“Definitely in Venezuela given the current situation that we’re facing it’s actually a challenge to be an entrepreneur – it takes a lot of resilience and a lot of strength and courage to just go into the venture,” said Prieto.

So she spent her first day focusing on how to get capital.

“In terms of an entrepreneur, how it works, the fundraising, the non-profit stuff it’s great to seek input on how to seek funds here. In Venezuela you don’t get a lot of that and it was great to have input on that,” said Prieto.

Her mentor, Sam Centellas – the Executive Director of La Casa de Amistad - says the benefit goes both ways.

“We wanna get ideas from the fellows who are here because they’re all social entrepreneurs where they’re from. And we wanna be able to provide them ideas on things that we do. So it’s an even exchange of information,” said Centellas.

And Prieto agrees.

“Thanks to this program we are collaborating and getting better and improving our way of life and getting where we want to be,” said Prieto.

She also had a message for young entrepreneurs:

“If you want to be an entrepreneur just go for it. I mean if you think you have a great idea just seek more input, research and make contacts, network,” said Prieto.

For more information on the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative, click here.

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