Puerto Rico: Our Story
This entire journey began early 2018 when Achintya and Arthur craved doing more for communities in need. This was just months after the Puerto Rican hurricanes and the Puerto Rican debt crisis was making headlines. Immediately, Achintya had an idea! Business BootCamp can help communities in Puerto Rico. After a meeting with his counterpart, Arthur Sciacca, they decided to start looking for opportunities to help. Achintya stumbled upon Community Collaborations International (CCI), which is a non-profit organization that plans alternate break activities and other service projects. Initially, Achintya and Arthur envisioned having one Business BootCamp workshop, and then for the rest of the days helping Puerto Rico through nature projects, but after we explained to the director of CCI things took a different direction. Arthur and Achintya explained to him what Business BootCamp was and our Core Four Curriculum, and he fell in love right away. He told them that Finance and Small Business education was a major need in Puerto Rico, and he can see this scaling to 2 teaching workshops and 2 small Business Consulting workshops. Business BootCamp was still extremely small, but Achintya and Arthur were sure that Business BootCamp could deliver, and that is exactly what the entire Business BootCamp team did!
Day 1: Travel
This first day was our travel day where we got ready for this very exciting trip!
Business BootCamp team excursion to a local beach for bonding and tanning while waiting for our AirBnB to be ready.
Day 2: It All Begins
Today we took a tour of the nature reserve where we would be doing our volunteering. Touring the Cabezas de San Juan nature reserve was an amazing experience. This nature is a cornerstone to the Fajardo community, the region where we are. We also saw the devastation that the hurricane raged on the forest and the local community. Through this tour we learned about their tree project, in which they hoped to plant hundreds of trees in order to revitalize the forests. Next, we began our first Business BootCamp class. We began the class by asking every students backgrounds. The class consisted of middle school students, small business owners in the tourism industry, non-profit leaders, and even teachers from local schools. We were able to tailor the classes better to each student's individual background. Then we engaged through a series of PowerPoints and activities in order to reinforce the learning. It was a great class, where one student even told us that she began to feel ready to open her own business after our class. We covered topics such as Marketing, Finance, Management, Career Readiness, Technology in Business, and How to Start a Business. Through this package we addressed some of the largest issues in the Puerto Rico economy, including the lack of a start-up culture, as well as a lack of technology in business to streamline the business model.
The view from the Cabezas de San Juan nature reserve where we did volunteer work throughout the trip.
A video of our students loving the Business BootCamp Experience!
Day 3: Service Continues
Today we went to a local community center and engaged in some clean up and repair of the area. That community center was being prepared to host youth classes, adult night classes, and other non-profits. They were hoping to create a more service oriented culture in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. Through this we made a real impact in benefitting other nonprofits like us. Knowing that we were helping the local community for years to come made this an extremely rewarding experience. Then we went again to our Business BootCamp classes at the El Portalito community center with another group of around 10 students from all different backgrounds.
The Business BootCamp team cleaning up a local community centers so non-profits could begin working out of the location to help the Fajardo Community
Our students telling us how much they love Business BootCamp in Spanish!!
Day 4: Helping the Forests, Planting One Tree at a Time
Today we spent the entire day in the Cabezas de San Juan nature reserve. Here we performed a variety of tasks like finding seeds to plant, preparing soil bags to help finish their tree project, and other necessary tasks. This was in order to revitalize the forests after the hurricane and reclaim the previous biodiversity. It was a humbling experience once again, knowing that through our actions we are leaving an impact in Puerto Rico that will remain decades after.
The Business BootCamp team hard at work creating tree pods to plant. These were bags filled with a soil/fertilizer mix with seedlings, which were then transported in order to be planted in the forest.
The team in front of their finished product! After 6 long hours of work in the heat the team together had finished 1000+ bags of soil!! Thats a 1000+ trees!!
Day 5: Helping Small Businesses Continue
Next, we engaged in another Business BootCamp workshop, but in a different format. For this, our team split up into various groups and we performed small business consulting with various businesses. One business we assisted was a tourism adventure company that focused on education based tourism, and they had begun to see stagnating sales. They worked with us to build a comprehensive marketing plan with a emphasis on social media marketing. Their goal was to target the youth demographic, which is what we focused on. The reason they were losing out was because their social media presence was essentially 0, which we worked with them to improve. We then worked with their website to improve the SEO ratings, as well as the user interface. We were able to merge our knowledge with the business's needs and through that help the business grow. It was amazing knowing that through our help, we assisted a small business into achieving more growth, which in the end is beneficial for the local economy. We also helped students in college with a better understanding of personal finance as well as finance as a career choice. We counseled with these sophomores in college who were deciding what major to declare. Their college advisor told them to attend a finance workshop, and they chose to attend ours. We talked to them about the pros and cons about a finance major and other possible careers that stem from this. We merged this with a entrepreneurship base and how they can go on to start their own business.
The team in front of the El Portalito Community Center in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. This community center is operated by the Forest Service and Department of Agriculture.
Day 6: Last Day of Business BootCamp Workshops
Today we went to the nature reserve again in order to plant trees. Once again this was extremely profound noticing the long term impact of our actions in Puerto Rico. We then held another another small business consulting workshop, this time with a start-up business. They needed help creating a business plan with all the necessary components. We helped them create a business plan as well as create a plan in order to obtain funding. We walked through every step of creating a new business with the owners and gave other tips for a successful business. We helped them establish a growth plan over the next few years and the necessary steps in order to execute this strategy. They were really impressed and took our business cards in order to keep in contact as they moved on with this growth plan. After this we went to top of the El Yunque Rain Forest in order to see the amazing view as a team!
The Business BootCamp team on top of the El Yunque Forest Observatory admiring the amazing view together. It was startling to see how much the hurricanes had impacted the trees in the rainforest, but we also began to feel extremely honored to be part of the tree restoration project.
The Business BootCamp team with another volunteer group after 6 long hours planting trees in order to reinvigorate the Puerto Rican forests.
Day 7: Saying Goodbye to Puerto Rico
Today we traveled home after a extremely successful trip in Puerto Rico. This was a great experience with a lot of great impacts. We were able to help the local economy, which Puerto Rico desperately needs especially after the hurricanes. It ws humbling knowing how much we were able to actually help the local communtiy through just taking a week out of our schedules. Through this we were able to achieve our mission statement in Puerto Rico of "Educating and Inspiring a Interest in Business Studies for All Ages." We helped young middle schoolers become more interested in business studies, but also helped college students help choose finance as their future career. Our amazing partnership with the CCI and US Forest Service allowed us to improve our own program, as well as leave a lasting impact on the Puerto Rican economy and environment. We can't wait till next year to do this trip again, and even expand to more locations that need us!
Saying goodbye to our humble abode and Puerto Rico during this trip. Drinking some fresh coconut water before leaving this amazing ecosystem. Can't wait until our next service project out here!