INCAE and MasterCard reward three Central American women entrepreneurs

23 de July 2018
Wilberth Gutiérrez

INCAE and MasterCard announced the three winners of the first edition of the 2018 LEADS Mujer Program. LEADS Mujer started as an alliance between INCAE and MasterCard to strengthen entrepreneurial skills of Central American women and reward the efforts of women entrepreneurs from Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, and El Salvador. It is intended to promote leadership, entrepreneurship, and empowerment of women in Central America.

The award ceremony was held on June 29 at the Real Intercontinental Hotel in San José, Costa Rica.  First prize (US$ 7,500) went to Mónica Porras Picado, from Nicaragua, whose company, ECOVIDA, engages in producing hibiscus flower products. Hope Home, a private school and nursery owned by Andrea Meoño Marín from Costa Rica and serving low-income mothers ranked second and was awarded US$ 5,000. Ximena Esquivel Joyería (owned by Ximena Esquivel from Costa Rica), engaged in designing handmade jewelry, ranked third and received US$ 2,500.

"I am very excited for this new project that will come true thanks to INCAE and MasterCard. As a result of this experience I made new friends and I have gained incredible knowledge," said Ms. Porras from ECOVIDA.  Ms. Meoño from Hope Home thinks this was a life-changing experience. "I am very grateful for this," she said. "What INCAE and MasterCard have done will be multiplied in a large number of families and children." According to Ms. Esquivel, "This experience, which strengthened my firm’s foundation, is a unique event that will change the course for my company."

Two more participants, Zarhay Arroyo García from Notes Peak (Costa Rica), and Heidemarie Bonilla de Cienfuegos, from B100 Architects (El Salvador,) will receive a 50% scholarship from INCAE to participate in the Women Executive Leadership Program to be offered in Miami on November 26.

"MasterCard decided to carry out this project as it understands women entrepreneurs in Central America are facing significant challenges. Through financial and technological tools we want to help them grow their businesses. The result is extremely enriching since women entrepreneurs devoted themselves to their tasks and submitted projects with significant potential to help strengthen Central America’s economy. Combined with their determination and our support, that paves the road to success," said Gabriel Balzaretti, MasterCard General Manager for Central America.

Factors considered in choosing the finalists included performance throughout the program, feasibility, innovation, creation of jobs and impact of their ventures. As part of the process, finalists submitted their projects to a panel of representatives of Costa Rica’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. These included Founding Partner of Investmaster Roberto Ponce; Founding Partner of Carao Ventures Adrián García; Adriana Chavarría from Viva Idea; PROCOMER’s Staff Manager Micaela Mazzei Abba, and Luz Gómez from MasterCard’s Latin America and the Caribbean Center for Inclusive Growth, who chose the winners.

"We are witnessing the outcome of a strategic alliance with MasterCard which began more than eighteen months ago and the result of several months of intense work by extraordinary women. Through their example, they established a new model for women entrepreneurs in the region. The work of the five finalists confirms the results of our research, showing that innovative strategies, mastery of finance, and application of digital transformations are key to help women entrepreneurs grow and consolidate their businesses. These concepts, which are the foundation of the program offered by INCAE and sponsored by MasterCard, together with the mentoring process provided by our faculty, allowed them to complete ambitious business plans. These will help them grow their businesses and impact economic development in their countries," said Dr. Camelia Ilie-Cardoza, Dean of INCAE and Chair of the Center for Collaborative and Women’s Leadership.

In addition to these awards, the three winners will be part of INCAE's Lifelong Learning program. This will give them a chance to participate in monthly online seminars on different topics related to interesting trends. Also, one of the projects will be chosen to be documented as a success story and to be used as a guide to best practices at INCAE.