Peruvian President Boluarte recently presented her national plan for education as one of several recent educational reforms in Peru aimed at supporting students to enter both the traditional and entrepreneurial workforce.
Peru, which ranks fourth in Latin America for entrepreneurial activity and eighth worldwide, is hoping to harness the country’s entrepreneurial spirit through these reforms. But despite investment and efforts from higher education institutions to comply with legislation that amplifies local entrepreneurship, the lack of support has left entrepreneurs struggling to access business services, mentorship, and financing to launch their initiatives.
A startup incubator at Daniel Alcides Carrión National University (UNDAC) in Cerro de Pasco, Peru is filling this gap by providing critical support to entrepreneurs in the region. Working alongside public and private partners, UNDAC is striving to make a difference for its students in the Pasco Province, a longstanding mining region in the central highlands of Peru.
In 2022, UNDAC launched the Pasco Innovation and Entrepreneurship Challenge in collaboration with Nexa Resources, Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología (UTEC) Ventures and Palladium. While Nexa Resources, a mining company that’s worked in the region for decades, co-financed the incubator, UTEC Ventures provided mentorship and business development trainings and Palladium engaged stakeholders from both the private and public sectors.
Partnering for Long-Term Success
“The partnership that we’ve cultivated between UNDAC, UTEC, Nexa, and Palladium is unique because it unites the public and private sector to boost youth achievement outside of the mining value chain in a region where mining is the biggest game in town,” explains Erin Leyson, a manager on Palladium’s Natural Capital team. “These strategic alliances enable the local institution, UNDAC, to lead the effort, helping to ensure the Incubator’s staying power in the region. By getting behind local leaders, mining companies and other private investors create more sustainable impacts with their investments.”
This focus on locally led initiatives was an UNDAC priority from the start. The Incubator supports enterprises that catalyse solutions to local problems with missions and products that align with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, such as poverty reduction and natural resource conservation. The winners from the challenge in 2022 showcase this emphasis on local solutions to local development problems through their focus on health, education, and small business support.
“The big challenge for startups is receiving support and guidance, which serves as the necessary push to transform an innovative idea into a profitable and sustainable business,” explains José Gamarra Tong, Palladium’s Project Team Lead in Peru. The Incubator facilitates this process by working with entrepreneurs in a six-week boot camp where selected teams participate in workshops, business development sessions, one-on-one mentorships and a Demo Day when teams present their work to a panel of judges to win seed capital.
"With the second challenge, we saw two successes: an increase in the number of proposals submitted to the Incubator and the diversity of startups ranging from a technological to an environmental focus,” Gamarra adds.
Whether presenting business models on zero carbon tourism in sustainable cabins or innovations in 3D designs for high school students, the participating startups in this year’s challenge underscore the importance of bolstering businesses that are not only innovative and scalable but that also create a positive impact throughout Pasco.
This Year’s Winners
This year’s first place winner, Bodega 3R, promotes recycling with an innovative model: by collaborating with local stores, the startup allows individuals to exchange the recyclable material they collect for basic goods and food essentials.
The judges awarded second place to Sudor del Sol, a group that locally produces artisanal mead from materials grown in the Pasco region. Yaku Maky, a project that works in collaboration with families who raise alpacas in the Pucayacu area to produce, process, and weave alpaca fibre, won third-place.
All three projects won seed capital to continue building their business models and will continue to receive mentorship and guidance alongside past winners.
"With each new edition of the DIE Pasco Challenge, we learn more about innovative and exciting ideas in the community,” Leyson explains. “This year's winners show us that there is so much economic activity and ambition outside of the mining sector and that with the right mentorship and financing, we can support youth-driven enterprises to leave a lasting mark on Pasco."
As UNDAC maintains its support to local entrepreneurs through the Incubator, stakeholders are hopeful that the opportunities available to Peruvians in the Pasco region will continue to expand and ensure that winning startups are connected to more resources and funds that will help their initiatives thrive.
Despite the obstacles that Peruvian entrepreneurs still face when launching their startups, the success of UNDAC’s Incubator underscores the untapped potential of local entrepreneurship in catalysing sustainable economic growth and the importance of advancing localised approaches to generate enduring impact within mining communities like that of Cerro de Pasco.
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