• The San Juan Daily Star

El Yunque Entrepreneurship ‘bootcamp’ launches in Las Piedras


The aim of workshops held at the Pasto Seco community center in Las Piedras is to promote companies in the municipality bordering El Yunque National Forest and contribute to the development of the economically disadvantaged community. (Photo Courtesy of Vitrina Solidaria/El Yunque National Forest)

By John McPhaul

jpmcphaul@gmail.com


The social entrepreneurship facilitator Vitrina Solidaria and El Yunque National Forest arrived in Las Piedras for the first time with the celebration of “El Yunque Emprende Bootcamp 4.0,” which aims to promote companies in that municipality and contribute to the development of a community with economic disadvantages.


Vitrina Solidaria Executive Director Raquel Skerrett Escalera said they chose to hold the business training project in the Pasto Seco community center because that community — which borders and accesses forest trails — has high poverty rates and its population is made up mainly of older adults.


The series of workshops — offered free of charge — was aimed at residents of Pasto Seco, and of the nine municipalities that border the forest: Las Piedras, Canóvanas, Río Grande, Luquillo, Fajardo, Ceiba, Naguabo, Humacao and Juncos. The requirement that the participants must meet is that the companies to be impacted be located in Las Piedras.


“At Vitrina Solidaria we focus on the acceleration and visibility of small and medium-sized solidarity companies,” Skerrett Escalera said. “We are happy to take the celebration of our fourth ‘bootcamp’ from El Yunque Emprende to Las Piedras, on the other side of the forest. We have 19 participants who want to establish or optimize their businesses. This is how they join those of us who believe and build a social and solidarity economy in our Puerto Rico.”


The forest supervisor of El Yunque National Forest, Keenan Adams, highlighted the impact that the Vitrina Solidaria initiative has on the community, by offering the entrepreneurs the opportunity to create sustainable projects and, at the same time, protect the area.


“These workshops give the residents of El Yunque tools to promote the economy, in an environment of solidarity and environmental awareness, in accordance with the Forest Management Plan,” Adams said. “We are showing that a balance between trade and nature protection is possible.”


Skerrett Escalera added that the Yunque Emprende Bootcamp seeks to give people tools to manage forest-related companies in areas such as sustainable community-based tourism, artisanal production alluding to the resources of the area, agroecology, gastronomy and initiatives for co-management of natural areas.


She said most of the participants in this year’s edition are women over 30 years of age or older who have not incubated an initiative before. Its focus is businesses related to hiking, healthy eating, agriculture and the creation of home gardens for people with functional diversity, among others.