In my role as Program Director, I recently had the pleasure of welcoming Building Markets’ CEO, Radha Rajkotia, to Colombia to kick-off the first Building Markets in Latin America. As a native Colombian, I know what an impact this work will bring to the community. As we prepare to launch the Find-Build-Connect model in the region, we are seeking out the advice and support of other organizations and institutions with similar goals to ours. Local partnerships are integral to our success.
Across the kick-off week, I took Radha on a tour of Bogotá, the capital city of Colombia, where we met with a variety of local partners. These include private sector organizations like Civico, which connects small businesses to consumers by crowdsourcing local data to build a digital ecosystem of opportunity or the union, National Federation of Merchants, representing business people and promoting commerce throughout Colombia. Other organizations, like non-profit Fedesarrollo, offered us insight and research on economic and social policy issues throughout Colombia. In our meeting with digital analytics company Agata, we learned how innovative and informed solutions can help transform Bogotá by improving quality of life. Another important new connection, Corferias has a deep interest in supporting entrepreneurship success throughout Latin America.
Close partnerships with the public sector at the neighborhood, municipal and state levels is also critical to the success of Building Markets’ model in Colombia. For example, we met with Invest in Bogota, a public-private initiative between the Chamber of Commerce and the city government helping to facilitate international investments into Bogotá. Another day in the Bronx district, we met with representatives from the mayor’s office to discuss the power of small business to revitalize the neighborhood.
Sharing my passion for helping entrepreneurs grow has been more rewarding than I could have imagined. In an important step for Building Markets and personal joy for me, we were honored to meet the Vice President of Colombia, Francia Merquez, and Former Vice President of Colombia, Mara Lucia Ramirez, to discuss the challenges and opportunities for small businesses across the country. Recognizing the importance of women’s inclusion in small business solutions, we also had the opportunity to sit down with the Sub Secretary of Gender, Diana Parra. I’m also in talks with the Secretary of Social Integration, Margarita Barraquer, and had the chance to meet with her team during this week to further discuss how our mission and goals in Colombia align.
As I showed Radha around the city, we reflected on the diverse sectors represented in the city’s marketplace. We visited textile companies, shoe manufacturers, and clothing designers to get a feel for the daily tasks and struggles of an entrepreneur in Bogotá. All of the small businesses we visited have less than 35 employees each, many either owned by Venezuelan entrepreneurs or employing Venezuelan migrants in some capacity. They bring such value to their community.
This week was a significant and educational experience for us. We ended by hosting an informative talk with over 20 local public and private entities, sharing more about Building Markets’ plans to help entrepreneurs in Colombia. The feeling of excitement in the room was truly palpable and seeing the passion which each of these entities bring to their work of championing entrepreneurship has only emboldened me and the work we have ahead. We can’t wait to build our network of small businesses, begin training, and find the market connections that will help them grow. I am confident that small businesses can play a transformative role in communities, and I am excited to witness the positive impact that Building Markets will make here in Colombia.
Are you interested in partnering with Building Markets in Colombia? Email me at: [email protected] to connect!
Building Markets Program Director, Latin America