By Jewelle Saunders
2017 YLAI Fellow Andrea Puente Salazar has had her share of obstacles on her way to entrepreneurial success. By persisting through those obstacles, building strong relationships with like-minded individuals, and consistently increasing her knowledge, she has founded multiple successful ventures and is inspiring others in Bolivia to do the same.
To highlight Andrea’s hard work and perseverance, we asked her to answer the following questions and provide key advice to fellow YLAI Network members looking to make a difference in their community.
What are you passionate about?
I am most passionate about finding new ways to discover how technology can help people. Technology has the power to change people’s lives, and by determining how to effectively utilize it, I can help facilitate people bettering their lives. I also want to encourage and help people to be successful in doing what they love, and not just doing things only for money.
Can you tell us more about your businesses?
My two companies Kumi Solutions (a division of Zékiri) and Panal Fresh are both focused on providing ways to utilize technology to better people’s lives. Kumi Solutions is a software company dedicated to giving startups, small businesses, and owners ways to use their data to make strategic decisions, manage their businesses, and find opportunities to grow and optimize their processes. Panal Fresh is a web platform connecting farmers with food suppliers and markets in Latin America to provide access to fresh produce for consumers from their homes.
What obstacles did you face when creating your businesses?
After receiving my BA in computer science from the Universidad Católica San Pablo in Cochabamba, I continued working at the university, but I was uninterested in working in an office and just working for the money. I was more passionate about starting my own business and finding ways to help people, so I knew I had to venture off on my own.
Learning English on my own was a difficulty I really faced in the beginning, but I keep working at it and getting better. After applying for the YLAI Fellowship the first time, I got rejected. I spent the year improving my English and my business and I got accepted on my second application. I used all of the training YLAI provided to make connections and grow my network, study the U.S. market, and better my English skills. With all of the skills I learned and with my strong relationships, I was able to confidently take this back to Bolivia and strengthen my ventures.
Finding a mentor and finding the right business partner, Ricardo Clavijo (2018 YLAI Fellow!) were also important steps in getting the right business off the ground successfully for me. After every setback, I learned from my mistakes and from those experiences and brought that knowledge into my new venture. Before starting Zékiri, I had three failed attempts at different businesses, where I definitely learned throughout these experiences how to be a good leader and what mistakes I could learn from. I did not know about the industries I had entered in (for example, a fashion catalog) and I did not have the right partners. Building my confidence after these setbacks and persisting through to make the right businesses work with the right people was hard work but was worth it.
How have you adjusted your business platforms under adversity?
People in Bolivia are really resilient people. We have learned from a young age that we have to fight for what we want. When we face problems, we remain optimistic about finding solutions and fixing problems quickly.
With the global crisis this year, we had to adjust our platform and provide resources to our partners to persevere through the crisis. With Panal Fresh, we are focused on improving the digital literacy of the farmers we are working with; we have organized volunteers for fulfilling orders safely and under the right permissions; and we were able to train our team members with new tools to prepare them for their return to normal operations. We had to find new, creative ways to approach this challenge, and through this, we are also more prepared for any future challenges.
What advice do you have for YLAI Network members on overcoming obstacles?
Assume people are willing to help, and ask for help and support when you need it. Entrepreneurs are all often struggling with the same issues, and because of this, they are willing to help others overcome these challenges together. Collaboration is at the cornerstone of entrepreneurship in my experience, and you need to build a support system with wise and trusted voices to keep you motivated.
Pay attention to your mental health as well in order to build your resilience. You are here to build something that matters, so don’t lose hope for your goals when you face a setback, because they matter.
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.