Change Yourself…Change The World.

How A National Business Plan Competition Changed Everything
August 18, 2012, 9:19 pm
Filed under: Paraguay, Pictures Post

The Jóvenes Empresarios del Paraguay  (JEP) business plan competition that my sector put on three weeks ago was absolutely incredible! I’ve been at such a loss of words about this life-changing experience that I didn’t even know what to write on my little corner of the blog-o-sphere.

All of our awesome youth who attended JEP.

But pushing right on through writer’s block, let’s start at the beginning: right at the commencement of my Peace Corps service, 2 fellow Peace Corps Volunteers and esteemed colleagues, Lindsay Jordan Fay and Maureen Stickel, co-founded Jóvenes Empresarios del Paraguay (Youth Entrepreneurs of Paraguay). Their vision was to hold a national business case competition for youth from all over Paraguay to get excited about entrepreneurship, which would motivate them to take our sector’s business course ‘Construye tus Sueños.’ Through this course they would create a business plan with a business that addressed a need in their community, and eventually compete in a national business plan competition for seed funding.

I helped Lindsay and Maureen put on the first JEP business case competition back in February, where I worked on the programming and content team. Bolstered by the success of our first national event, I took on the Project Manager role to co-lead a team of Volunteers and literally start a National Business Plan Competition from scratch. It was a huge challenge: and getting a place for the event secured, solicitations and meetings for sponsors and funding (both for the event and for the 5 millón prize money we planned to give away, or over $1,000 dollars), speakers, industry experts, judges, piecing together a business plan template, coordinating all of this with numerous Volunteers and the Peace Corps (and so much more) wasn’t even the hardest part!

It was all of us motivating and teaching Paraguayan youth to put together THIRTY PAGE business plans each, with their own ideas and expressed needs from their communities, to compete at this event. If that doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, think again. One of our biggest challenges as Peace Corps Volunteers in Paraguay are getting Paraguayans motivated and excited to go to even one meeting, let alone attend a course steeped in finance and numbers, and demonstrate creativity, vision, and belief in their own ideas by making their own business plans.

Yet, we still got 34 youth to this competition, and 18 business plans. That alone was a HUGE success!

Some of our hard-working youth taking notes at JEP.

But that doesn’t even compare to the amount of success that we experienced with this event. It was virtually flawless. For 2 1/2 days and 2 nights, we were able to pull off a phenomenal, sophisticated, and very effective competition. We had a speaker come to congratulate youth on their business plans and talk about the next steps to make their dreams a reality, a restaurant owner who talked about dealing with failure in business (one of my favorite quotes from him was “every failure is a step towards success”), and another one who stressed starting small, but dreaming big. We hosted 10 Paraguayan businesspeople to attend an industry lunch and talk to the youth about their business plans. We had industry experts from hotel and tourism, food and restaurant, chocolate, sales, social enterprise, and technology that inspired these kids to continue pushing forward with their businesses. We invited nine judges to help us determine the finalists, and winner of our competition. And let’s not forget our Sister G, G-39 (recently sworn-in Volunteers!) came to the event to put on an elevator pitch competition, including handing out prizes and certificates to all.

Marino, the owner of a Peruvian restaurant ‘Flor de la Canela,’ talking to youth about his experiences with failure, and how it ultimately led to great success.

A prominent hotel owner from Aregua, Paraguay chatting with youth on how to take their business plans to the next level.

Then came the actual competition, which was (hard to believe), even MORE incredible! All of these kids from all over Paraguay put on their suits and ties and presented to a panel of judges their businesses and why they were viable. Every single presentation blew me away.

My favorite PCV Vicky holding up one of her DIY signs so youth know how much time they have left for their presentations.

Finally, we announced our four finalist teams, and on the last day of the competition everyone (including a new panel of judges) came together to watch and determine who would win first prize of $1,000 to start their business. The competitors were a pizza restaurant from the East of Paraguay, a photography printing service from the middle of Paraguay, a machine to dispense wool for artesan-makers, and an organic lettuce growing business, both from the South of Paraguay.

‘Yankee Pizza’ giving their final presentation.

‘Distrilan,’ the business plan that wants to build a machine to dispense wool to artesan-makers in San Miguel, Misiones.

One of our finalists Carmen explaining her organic lettuce-growing business to a room full of youth, judges, and Volunteers. 

The four finalist teams of our business plan competition!

Our 1st place and grand-prize winner of over $1,000 went to Carmen Correa Benítez of Santa Rosa, Misiones. It’s only been three weeks since the competition, and she’s already started her organic lettuce-growing business with our prize money!

Carmen accepting her first place trophy, with raucous applause from the entire room!

Carmen with her proud Peace Corps Volunteer, Amy!

Overall, the event was truly spectacular. There were many moments during the competition where I teared up because I was so blown away with how it all came together: how a team of 7 Volunteers were able to plan this event and actually pull it off with the help of our bosses and the Peace Corps; how 17 Volunteers were able to teach the business course ‘Construye tus Sueños,’ work with their youth to write the business plans, and hold business plan competitions in their sites to determine who to bring to the competition; and to these incredible, incredible Paraguayan youth who spent countless hours preparing for this and for coming to JEP with open minds and such enthusiasm.

All of the Peace Corps Volunteers who put their hearts and souls into making this event happen.

The Jóvenes Empresarios del Paraguay business plan competition far exceeded my expectations and has been the most rewarding event of my service. I know for certain that we have changed lives through this, that real businesses have been started through this, and that JEP will continue to change lives to make a better Paraguay. For that, I am infinitely humbled, blessed, and proud.

12 Comments so far
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[…] still on a huge high after our successful Jóvenes Empresarios del Paraguay (JEP) national business plan competition. So to further celebrate the event (and also give all of you a little taste of the highlights) […]

Pingback by “We Will Change This Country” « Change Yourself…Change The World.

Bravo! Congratulations to all the organizers, and to all the participants of this exciting event! Special kudos to the Grand Prize Winner Carmen!!

Comment by Mama

Thanks Mama 🙂

Comment by brittanygoesglobal

[…] the pictures. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to be there during the actual party (I was at our JEP competition in Asunción), but here are some pictures of our exhibit all put-together and ready for the big […]

Pingback by ‘I See’ Progress: A Photography Exhibition in Caazapá « Change Yourself…Change The World.

[…] few days I moped around in a hotel in Asunción, half-heartedly running around to meetings for Jóvenes Empresarios del Paraguay. I threw myself a giant pity party, dreaming of Starbucks ( I don’t even drink coffee) and […]

Pingback by Adjusting Back to Paraguay « Change Yourself…Change The World.

[…] with the objective that the winners get seed funding to actually start their own businesses. I launched the first national business plan competition as Project Manager last year (then Jovenes E…, and so it’s a project I hold very close to my heart, and I really believe in it’s […]

Pingback by Never Give Up. | Change Yourself...Change The World.

First of all I would like to say terrific blog!
I had a quick question in which I’d like to ask if you do not mind.

I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your thoughts prior to writing.

I’ve had a tough time clearing my mind in getting my ideas out.
I truly do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally lost simply just trying to
figure out how to begin. Any ideas or tips? Thank you!

Comment by oral health facts

[…] to a friend today about one of the most infuriating experiences as Project Manager of ‘Youth Entrepreneurs of Paraguay,’ a Peace Corps initiative that I poured my heart and soul into for over a year during it’s […]

Pingback by I’ll Always Have Paraguay. | Change Yourself...Change The World.

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