One man’s mission to renew Ecuadorian communities after a natural disaster

By Jewelle Saunders

2016 YLAI Fellow Marco Mendieta is working hard to develop the small business community of Ecuador and regenerate the economy following the devastating earthquake of 2016. He is the founder of Misión Ecuador, created to benefit entrepreneurs and owners of small and medium businesses in the country, starting in the province of Manabí after the earthquake of April 16, 2016.

To celebrate Marco’s achievements and his ongoing resilience in the face of adversity, we asked him a few questions about his experiences and his advice to network members looking to build their own resilience.

What factors led you to create Misión Ecuador and what is its mission?

Before YLAI, I co-founded Megamobilier, which manufactures and sells furniture for hair salons and spas, hospitals, universities, schools, and restaurants, and helped create more than 3,000 micro-businesses in Ecuador. After participating in the YLAI Fellowship, an earthquake devastated my country. Seeing that my fellow entrepreneurs were adjusting small businesses out of necessity to withstand the devastation, I wanted to help entrepreneurs grow their own ventures and expand them.

With the support of the U.S. Ecuadorian embassy and consulate, Misión Ecuador was created and 100 Ecuadorian entrepreneurs and small-business owners were selected and awarded scholarships. In 2019, the program was expanded in each of Ecuador’s provinces, providing “mini master’s degrees” in entrepreneurship, innovation, and leadership. Misión Ecuador entrepreneurs receive entrepreneurial knowledge and tools and through the program are encouraged to be leaders in their communities. With this program, we are creating leaders in the economic regeneration of their provinces.

We are planning the next editions of the expanded programs and currently planning online programs for even more entrepreneurs in Ecuador, and we are shifting to an increased digital presence for the time being. We are providing lessons and tools online, particularly on encouraging others to increase their own digital literacy to expand their customer base online.

What are you passionate about?

Helping people. It is never about the money that I make in the projects I work on, but the contribution to the community and to society overall. When we first expanded Misión Ecuador, we really began to see how lives were being changed by this program, by providing them resources and knowledge they previously would not have had, and that was fulfilling for me and made me want to expand further.  I want to be a changemaker and catalyst of change in my country and I want to inspire others to serve their communities as well.

In addition to Megamobilier and Misión Ecuador, I also am studying to get my master’s degree in political economy at King’s College London, and I have received the Chevening Scholarship by the [British Foreign and Commonwealth Office] and am continuing to learn new ways on how best to help people.

How do you approach challenges?

Resilience is the key term of my life and my approach to getting Misión Ecuador started, where I had to knock on a lot of doors and get a lot of rejections.

Ecuadorian people are resilient people. All entrepreneurs also need to be resilient. Before YLAI, my family faced a challenge where we lost everything, and we gave ourselves two days to mourn our losses. After those two days, we started working and got back on our feet to find success in the next few years.

When the global pandemic started in early 2020, rather than stopping selling, we adjusted in new ways to the circumstances and started focusing on manufacturing items like at-home gym equipment. You have to get creative and innovative while adapting to any challenge.

I had applied to the Chevening Scholarship three times before I got accepted. Continuing to persevere following rejections and challenges has been essential to my growth.

What advice would you give to Network members about perseverance?

There is no success without resilience. There is no magical code to become successful. In my experience, you can knock on 100 doors, 99 can stay closed, but you need to keep persevering in order to get that one door to open. Having a tough skin when people say no, continuing to learn how to make yourself stronger, and not giving up are my keys to success.

Also, remember you are only human. You do not need to be at 100% every day, especially when there is a large setback. You can take some time to look for new resources and take time to develop your ideas, and find that you will bounce back stronger having done so.

 

The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author or interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of the YLAI Network or the U.S. government.

Este artículo está disponible en español.