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Establishing a business is without a doubt one of the most rewarding experiences anyone can have, but it is also one of the most difficult journeys someone can go through. That was the main reason for creating Centro para Emprendedores, to celebrate every accomplishment of entrepreneurs and business owners in Puerto Rico, but also to be there when they need support and guidance.

Fernando García, Executive Director

Centro para Emprendedores (CPE) is a 501(c)3 organization founded in 2012 with a clear mission of providing education and tools everyone needs to develop a sustainable and scalable business in the island. At the beginning, the main services were “Emprendiendo en Puerto Rico” (a basic course) and the Startup Weekend events, which is a boot camp to validate a business opportunity. By 2021, the organization has impacted more than 6,200 participants and provided 1,241 mentoring sessions. In total, 2,475 people have participated in one or more of the educational programs and 950 established businesses have received support.

“One of our biggest distinctives as an organization is that we focus on each individual. We are very aware of the reality of every business owner; and all the CPE team is eager to go out and identify people who need our support instead of wait until they reach us. Another important fact is that all the CPE team promotes the entrepreneurial ecosystem programs, it is not just about us, it is about our participants”, mentioned Fernando García, CPE executive director.

Frome left to right Teresa Gonzalez, CPE co-founder, Jorge Muñiz, Finance Director and Nerma Albertorio Co-founder and Executive Director at that time in one of the first events in 2012

As of today, Centro para Emprendedores runs three educational programs:

  • Emprendiendo in Puerto Rico: that consists of nine sessions of all the topics related to developing a business, such as: identifying a business opportunity, legal aspects and permits, marketing, accounting, human resources and financing alternatives.
  • Start Online: This program was created during the pandemic after all the calls and messages received by participants regarding support and guidance to optimize their online presence in order to keep their businesses running. Start Online consists of six workshops related to digital marketing, social media and online sales. It also includes technical assistance in which the participants receive a landing page or an online store totally configure by Centro para Emprendedores personnel.
  • Núcleo: This program is the newest addition and is a business pre-accelerator created to assist small business owners during early stages of development, between three months and three years of operation. Núcleo consists of fourteen workshops aimed to promote business scalability in topics such as: product development and pricing, global markets, marketing and much more. Besides the education component, one of the highlights of this program is the one on one coaching that all the participants receive by a business analyst during a six months period.
Startup Weekend 2018

Besides the educational component, Centro para Emprendedores has been recognized as a leader organization regarding business support after all the natural disasters that has happened in Puerto Rico with hurricanes Irma and María (2017) and then during a series of earthquakes (2020). After all this situations, Centro para Emprendedores in alliance with Foundation for Puerto Rico created Negocios S.O.S which translates as S.O.S for Businesses, a program that support business owners with a cash grant that went from $500 to $3,000 depending on the business needs and the delivery of a work plan in order for them to pass that obstacle the best way possible. With that program Centro para Emprendedores assist more than 205 businesses around the island and deliver more than $500,000 in cash grants.

Centro para Emprendedores team, picture taken in the 10th anniversary

These situations and all these years have led the organization to a drastic growth and a lot of learnings. One of the main concepts that is almost the organization’s slogan is that as an entrepreneur or business owner you have to be always listening to your audience, flexible and able to adapt at the fastest way possible. Applying that concept is what has allowed this growth within the organization. The organization started with three employees and as of today they have sixteen employees.

With all that in mind, Centro para Emprendedores will be here for long. Within all the organizations of the entrepreneurial ecosystem and all the programs that are established we still have a lack of available spaces if we compare with all the applications we received. For example, in Puerto Rico there are only two business pre-accelerator programs and within the two, an estimate of more than 400 business owners apply; and of that total only 80 participants per cohort can receive support. That is just one example to demonstrate that in Puerto Rico there is a lot of motivation and interest to develop businesses, but there are not enough programs to support them.

One of the team’s first visits to Rio Piedras to make business assessments

Now, with a better and clear vision of how the future looks like, Centro para Emprendedores is ready to keep their good work, but also to step into other tasks such as public policy. “With all these experiences we have a lot to say, a lot to move forward. As an entity we have seen the importance of normalizing the request of support or guidance while creating a business. It is ok to fail, it is ok to start over as long as you apply what you have learned”, mentioned Fernando.

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