Small Biz Powers Puerto Rico Hurricane Recovery
Short-term growth and long-term resilience with help from Creative Startups and the EDA
32 local companies and eight non-governmental organizations participated in the Innovation Challenge for Puerto Rican Creatives, created in collaboration between Creative Startups and the Economic Development Administration of the US Department of Commerce (EDA).
The Challenge was designed as a response to the need to equip creative entrepreneurs with the mentality and the tools to grow their projects. It was financed with economic recovery efforts supported by the EDA, through the Economic Recovery Support Function under DR-4339-PR, and in collaboration with the Puerto Rican entities ConPRmetidos, Bluetide, Wovenware, and the Titín Foundation.
"EDA's priority is to provide support through integrated economic development strategies, inclusively empowering new entrepreneurs, self-employed and non-profit organizations by promoting different tools," explained Juan Bauzá, representative of the EDA in Puerto Rico.
"This series of sessions represents an important investment in resources in the development of professional training to empower entities to be more effective," added the local coordinator of the Economic Recovery Support Function (E-RSF).
Out of the participating small businesses, three startups were selected as the winners of the Creative Startups Puerto Rico Pitch competition, the culminating event for the Challenge. The winners included La Jíbara Pizzeria Creativa, a pizzeria serving fresh and local ingredients in Culebra; Higuaca Adventours, an agency providing unique tourist experiences around the island; and West Five Collective, a film and design company.
"La Jíbara is a project of experience and service," explained Roberto Morales and Druso Daubón, creators of La Jíbara Pizzeria Creativa, the first place winners of the competition.
"In our restaurant, there will be an atmosphere similar to the stove that our ancestors lit but with a pizza oven and a modern twist, always with fresh local ingredients," they described. Morales and Daubón were among the 87% of the participants who said they had received meaningful help building their business and growing within new markets.
Awarded second place, Ashley Somoza of Higuaca Adventours said, "Our mission is to leave travelers with an unparalleled and atypical experience of the island of Puerto Rico, venturing into the undiscovered neighborhoods of the most fascinating cities for an authentic experience."
The company offers individualized, cultural immersion experiences, accessible through its site, higuacaadventours.com. Her team is also made up of Víctor Semprit and Justine Semprit.
The third place winner was West Five Collective, run by Carlos Vargas and Camila Cruz Vázquez, a group that helps companies and brands connect with their audience. You can see how their work elevates brand storytelling at westfivecollective.com.
Looking back on the Innovation Challenge, Alice Loy, CEO and co-founder of Creative Startups, said, "We are proud to see the great advances that both entrepreneurs and educators made during the program."
"We hope to continue to uplift visionaries dedicated to the blue economy and creativity and create lasting and sustainable resources," she concluded.
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About Creative Startups
Creative Startups is an unmatched leader at providing creative visionaries with the guidance they need to launch and grow their creative companies, from shaping early ideas to scaling globally. Their network of 400+ alumni companies span the globe, raising $301 million USD in venture capital, creating almost 900 jobs, and generating $100 million in new revenues. Their accelerator faculty teach at Stanford, Harvard, ArtCenter, RISD, and their 120+ global mentors are founders, executives, and investors with leading creative companies like Cirque Du Soleil, Disney, Embodied Labs, and Meow Wolf. While most accelerator programs focus solely on technological innovation, Creative Startup’s programming is based on the unique needs of creative entrepreneurs.