Social Entrepreneurship

ALLPA: "Start Thinking Like An Entrepreneur."

“We entered the textile and jewelry industry by chance,” Says Maria del Carmen De la Fuente of herself and her co-founder Nelly Canepa at ALLPA – a seller of Peruvian textiles and jewelry. “At the time, we were working for an NGO; training local artisans on how to increase the quality of their products and to sell their products to the regional and global markets.”

Maria loved learning the stories of these local artisans and understanding the production process and meaning behind each craft. “The problem was that the artisans needed to stop thinking like artisans and start thinking like entrepreneurs if they were going to make a living for their families.”

That’s when Maria and Nelly started ALLPA. “We partner with local artisans and sell their goods to The States, Canada and Europe. One of our largest customers in the US is the Ten Thousand Villages stores based out of Lancaster, PA.”  

ALLPA prides itself on transparency, excellent service, fair trade, sustainability and good stories. “So long as we maintain those key aspects, ALLPA grows.”

Through their partnership with local artisans, ALLPA provides training to ensure their products have excellent quality, but also to ensure that their artisans know how to run their small businesses efficiently and safely. “In the beginning our classes were simple, like how to pack the products. But it soon developed into teaching them how to improve their technical skills, and how to manage their books and industrial safety techniques.” To ensure their products were high quality and that their artisans were working in a safe and sustainable manner, “we needed to adapt big industry standards to the local artisan markets.”

A worker at ALLPA creating a beautiful, woven rug. 

A worker at ALLPA creating a beautiful, woven rug. 

At the end of the day however, “we never know exactly what will sell. Each year we develop 500 new products. We will sell 100 and the rest will stay in our showroom. Yet, over the years, we have learned how to smell what will sell and to develop the kind of quality products the world is looking for.”

Accion Emprendedora: Entrepreneurship and democracy are linked?

non profit entrepreneur

“When you promote entrepreneurship as a public policy in the developing world, you aren’t just promoting poverty elimination, you are promoting three core values fundamental to democracy,” explains Anibal Pinto, the founder of Accion Emprendedora, a nonprofit based in Santiago, Chile. “You promote freedom, individual responsibility and a space for creativity. There is no country where entrepreneurship spreads that democracy doesn’t also spread. They are LINKED. No question about it.”

Accion Emprendedora is a non-profit organization focused on improving Chilean society by supporting low-income entrepreneurs, specifically smaller enterprises. How does Accion Emprendedora accomplish their mission? By providing education, money and mentorship programs for low-income entrepreneurs and wanna-be entrepreneurs, they help build sustainable, small enterprises in Chile and ultimately work to alleviate poverty. So far Anibal states they’ve helped 4,000+ entrepreneurs in Chile, and with each entrepreneur employing about 1.7 people, Anibal is assured that they are making a difference in Chile’s local economy and society.

Accion Emprendedora started after Anibal volunteered and provided a class to low income entrepreneurs. “I was originally a lawyer and then spent several years in the financial services program. I was making a lot of money but wasn’t adding value to my life. I needed something new,” That’s when one of his friends recommended teaching a business class to low income entrepreneurs. “I realized that the hour I spent with these entrepreneurs was more valued here than my work as a lawyer.”

After four years of “marvelous loneliness” during the initial start up phase, Anibal received a 1 million USD grant in 2006. Since then, Anibal is proud to say that they are a self-sustaining organization, which brings in income through their consulting programs with larger companies.

“I don’t have a favorite entrepreneur,” admits Anibal when we asked. “But the first five entrepreneurs that joined our program are extremely special to me.” Three of those early entrepreneurs were bakers, one was a plumber and the last created children’s toys.  

“80% of the entrepreneurs that come to us already have a business and also, about 80% are women. They are typically entrepreneurs out of necessity – because there are few to no other options available to them.”

non profit entrepreneur

Best Energy: Providing the energy of the future

emprendedor chile

“About 65% of homes in the center of Chile have limited or no access to hot water,” says Martin Vender Acevedo, CEO and Co-Founder of Best Energy, a B Corp start up in Santiago, Chile. “This year, we plan to tackle 3.3% of homes, installing solar panels in low income housing.” By installing solar panels, low-income communities are able to increase their overall health and gain extra cash through the sale of solar energy to the government. “The cool thing about being in this business is that we benefit the community in so many ways. At Best Energy, we measure the success of our company in the number of low-income housing installations, the amount of CO2 retained because of the use of solar energy over traditional means, and savings provided to low-income communities. We are truly making a difference.”

Today, Best Energy has installed solar panels on 3,000 houses with about 60-70% of their income coming from public housing. Each house saves 1 ton of CO2, and their revenue goals are directly linked to the tons of CO2 saved. By 2020, Best Energy hopes to have 50,000 clients, ultimately leading to 250,000 tons of CO2 retained and 65,500,000 USD in savings for low-income communities.

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So if Best Energy is working with low-income communities, where exactly does the revenue come from? “The Chilean Government has incentive programs for low income communities which we utilize to create our installations,” explains Martin. For new houses, the government pays Best Energy to install the Project through developers. “These projects make up 60% of our revenues.” The rest of their revenues are from old houses in low-income communities. “For this type, the government pays us directly for each house we install a solar collector,” says Martin.

“My job as an entrepreneur and leader is to discuss the mission with my employees and customers. When my employees understand the impact each action makes on the community, it makes their jobs worthwhile,” says Martin. “They think I’m crazy because I don’t speak about money. For me, it’s all about the mission.” Martin grew up in a business-oriented family, and is an avid pilot and professional sailor. His B Corp score was 84 points in 2013 and scaled to 113 points during his recertification this year.