Entrepreneurship Development Takes Center Stage this Graduation Season

Graduates from a TechnoServe entrepreneurship program share turning points they experienced in the program, their hopes for the future, and what they’ve been doing since graduating.

Graduation ceremony for entrepreneurs

Graduation season is a time to honor the accomplishments and hard work of students. This graduation season, we celebrate two young entrepreneurs in the CRECE tu Empresa program as their time in the program comes to an end and they venture out into new beginnings.

The CRECE program was designed to support young entrepreneurs in promoting the sustainable growth of their businesses. Thanks to the support of the Citi Foundation and its “Pathways to Progress” initiative, the program has been executed since 2015. It began in El Salvador and Guatemala and currently has a presence in five countries in the region: El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, and Costa Rica. As the program comes to a close next month, we celebrate the success of its graduates.

Isabel’s Journey: “The more I grow as a person, the more my business grows.”

Isabel Barco runs an artisan pastry business with customized desserts, catering services, and a pastry academy, showcasing her entrepreneurial spirit. She attended the CRECE program in Guatemala.

Graduation ceremony for entrepreneurs
Isabel, left, at the CRECE tu Empresa graduation ceremony in Guatemala on February 5, 2024.

Isabel joined CRECE as a skilled baker and teacher. Funding from other programs had allowed for growth, but she needed guidance to manage her business effectively.

“I grew so fast that I no longer knew where I was going with my business,” Isabel shared. “I knew I wanted to grow, but I didn’t know how. I learned that you have to know how to act at key moments and decision-making is vital for the proper functioning of the company.”

The program armed her with the knowledge and skills needed to manage the growth of her enterprise and helped her understand that her passion for baking must be lucrative.

“The program is so aptly named ‘grow’ because it literally made me grow and that caused my company to grow, and so we feed off each other. The more I grow as a person, the more my business grows.”

Since graduating from the CRECE program, Isabel has been applying the knowledge she acquired, setting new goals for herself, and continuing to look for more programs and studies related to business, which she is passionate about.

“I see a future with a little more clarity, dreaming but at the same time creating goals so that that dream comes true,” Isabel said. 

Adriana’s Success: Embracing the Process of Entrepreneurship Development

In El Salvador, industrial designer and artist Adriana Ponce celebrated her graduation from CRECE soon after Isabel.

Graduation ceremony for entrepreneurs
Adriana, second row from the bottom and third from the right, at the CRECE tu Empresa graduation ceremony in El Salvador on February 16, 2024.

Adriana was facing a series of challenges with her business when she joined CRECE. 

“I lowered my prices, almost begging for them to buy from me, thus devaluing my work…I didn’t set income goals for myself, which is important to be able to grow year after year,” Adriana shared. 

The CRECE program allowed her to learn the basics that a company must take into account to sustain itself, including creating a solid business growth plan.

“My advisor helped me a lot in realizing that everything is a process and there will always be setbacks and achievements,” Adriana explained. “It was an experience that helped me take a more concrete vision of what I want and diversify my market.”

She can now set prices for her art on her own terms. “I have learned to negotiate with agencies and create specific niches of people who do appreciate my art and do pay for it, meaning that now I decide whether to accept lowering the price or not based on my interests.” 

Now that she has graduated from the CRECE program, Adriana hopes to continue growing and open a store where she can reach a much larger audience and achieve more recognition in El Salvador. She has set clear objectives for her business growth. 

The CRECE program is coming to a close this June. Since 2015, the program has impacted more than 1,000 companies led by young people in the region, and 66% of these companies were led by women. The CRECE program supported the companies in achieving an average annual sales growth of 64% and helped to generate more than 500 jobs regionally.