This article isn’t about Superman, Batgirl, the Green Lantern, or Catwoman. It’s not even about contemporary icons like Pokémon, Dexter, Harry Potter, or Moana. No, instead, it’s about real men and women who travel long distances, take risks, and dare to change the rules of the game. It’s about the entrepreneurs behind SMEs in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), our heroes and heroines.
Hard work, risk-taking, and perseverance are in their DNA. They create jobs, innovation, and economic growth. But they also fail repeatedly before they find success. SMEs in Latin America and the Caribbean need our help to grow.
Why does the Inter-American Development Bank think of the entrepreneurs behind SMEs as heroes and heroines?
Because, like the IDB, SMEs improve lives.
They are real drivers for progress in their countries because they get resources moving and make these economies grow. They innovate, they bring new technologies and ideas onto the market, they create jobs, and they distribute wealth.
SMEs are a fundamental part of our productive ecosystem. They account for 99% of the companies in LAC and generate 67% of employment in the region. However, every company in LAC is up against the same problems: there are no connections with markets, financing is limited, and it’s hard to make reliable contacts.
The IDB can’t turn its back on these companies, so it has created the free, online ConnectAmericas.com platform. This social business network is designed to help businesspeople in the region trade with one another quickly and easily.
The platform has grown exponentially since it was launched, especially over the last year: 110,000 companies from 56 industries in 166 countries or territories have now signed up.
ConnectAmericas.com users have reported that they have closed deals worth a total of US$160 million. Users have also said that they have generated business prospects worth around US$3.3 billion through the contacts they have made on the platform.
Heroes and Heroines
At ConnectAmericas.com, we have our own heroes and heroines. Luis Felipe Medina runs Alimentos Valdivia, a family business that makes typical Ecuadorian preserves. The company incurred serious losses during the 2016 earthquake. “We’re now finishing the repair work and restocking our sales outlets. Through the ConnectAmericas online platform we’ve started selling our products to Grupo Britt, a new client that’s really important to us right now as we get back on our feet,” Luis Felipe says. Britt is a Costa Rican company with outlets in major airports throughout the region.
Ana Morán exports food and beverages from Montevideo, Uruguay. She found out about the ConnectAmericas platform at the LAC Flavors event and was excited about the possibilities it opened up for her. She set up a profile and responded to a business opportunity published by Grupo Britt. “It meant a lot to us to know that products made by local SMEs are now on international display. ConnectAmericas is helping us grow our business,” says Ana, who works at International Business Alliances.
Adolfino Pereira Neto runs Próton Sistemas, a business management and logistics software company based in Salvador de Bahía, Brazil. “As soon as I signed up on ConnectAmericas.com, I started talking to other companies in the region in Spanish. That’s how our relationship with Soportec in Costa Rica and Panama began. I trained them to use our software remotely and then we signed a contract for them to sell our products. The great advantage of the platform is that it allows us to do business without having to spend money on traveling,” Adolfino says.
ConnectAmericas for Women
Some 49% of the platform’s users are women. In 2016, with support from Google, the IDB launched ConnectAmericas for Women, a new business services website for women business owners and entrepreneurs from Latin America and the Caribbean.
“On ConnectAmericas for Women, there are key tools for growing your business, such as business opportunities, courses, webinars, live events, and business rounds. Women know how to create start-ups and generate employment, too,” says Rachelle Olortegui, who founded the Peruvian company EcoInca, which exports Andean grains like kiwicha and quinoa.
Through the business rounds that ConnectAmericas.com organizes, Rachelle was able to connect with international buyers in the United States and Europe and she now exports to these markets.
We want to hear more success stories from people like Ana, Luis Felipe, Adolfino, and Rachelle. It’s time to connect. Why not become part of ConnectAmericas and connect your business with the world?