14 Young Entrepreneurs from Latin America and the Caribbean are placed in Portland. They are part of the 248 fellows participating in the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Professional Fellows Program, which brings entrepreneurs and civil society leaders to the United States for a five-week program.
This U.S. Department of State-sponsored program empowers these young entrepreneurs to strengthen their capacity to launch and advance their entrepreneurial ideas and to effectively contribute to social and economic development in their communities.
It is close to the beach, near the mountains, has millions of trees and especially hundreds of cafes and craft breweries. It could not have been more perfect, even when the weather at this time of year is crazy – it can rain literally for 24 hours without stopping. The city and all its inhabitants are wonderful.
Portland is frequently recognized as one of the most environmentally conscious cities in the world. It is known for its high walkability, large community of bicyclists, farm-to-table dining, expansive network of public transportation options, and variety of public parks. The climate is perfect for growing roses, and Portland has been called the “City of Roses” for over a century.
Technology is a major component of the city’s economy, with more than 1,200 technology companies existing within the metro area. This high density of technology companies has led to the nickname Silicon Forest, a reference to the abundance of trees in the region and to the Silicon Valley in the Northern California region.
A NON-STOP SCHEDULE FOR YLAIers
Our first week, the City of Roses offered more than we could imagine. We had a welcome dinner at one of the best jazz restaurants in the world, which was carefully planned by our amazing host, Amy Barss from the World Affairs Council of Oregon. After a great, and of course rainy, Sunday, we started Monday having a session about how the public transportation system in Portland works. Then we had lunch at a place called Pine Street Market, an exciting food hall and culinary themed marketplace located in Downtown Portland. Then we visited Nike’s headquarters where one of the first employees of the company told us the history of Nike. Finally, we had the opportunity to buy in the store with a special employees discount (We went crazy!). It is important to mention that Portland is home to the North American headquarters of Nike, Adidas, Columbia Sportswear and Hi-Tech Sports.
On Tuesday, we met our fellowship host, and everything was perfect again. Each fellowship placement has been planned with so much dedication; we can learn, network, and also work on our project, which is more than we had expected. After our first day, we had a fantastic dinner, and we were able to meet more people who could help us develop our own business or organization. The rest of the week we had some sunny days and we could walk around the city. On Friday we had our Entrepreneurship Institute Session, and we discussed our business mission and core values. After that we met another Amy who runs Hatch Innovation, an incredible co-working space and business incubator space. We closed the week brainstorming how to build an entrepreneurial culture in the US and in our countries.
KEEP PORTLAND WEIRD: WE FELL IN LOVE
This slogan could not be more accurate. Portland promotes individuality, expressionism, local art, as well as atypical lifestyle choices and leisure activities. You can see (and admire) how people are free to wear what they want, color their hair, and choose who they want to be or what they want to do. They have a weird business like Voodoo Doughnut or event like the World Naked Bike Ride. It is an incredible place where you can breathe an air of collaboration and sustainability as well as empathy and respect for others – just what the world needs to fix our global problems.