YLAI entrepreneurs presented their businesses to a panel in Washington on Nov. 11 | nnbw.com

YLAI entrepreneurs presented their businesses to a panel in Washington on Nov. 11

Sally Roberts
The 2016 YLAI fellows gather and wait for the business pitch winners to be announced.
Sally Roberts/NNBW |

A contingent of young business people from throughout Latin America converged on Washington, D.C. the week of the presidential election. Rather than observing American politics, the entrepreneurs were there to continue an education in American business practices through the Young Leaders of Americas Initiative (YLAI) Professional Fellows Program.

The international fellows had spent the previous four weeks in 18 U.S. cities, including 14 fellows from 10 countries in the Reno/Sparks program, working with business leaders to fine-tune their business models.

On Nov. 4, they pitched their businesses to a panel of community business leaders. The 18 winners of the pitch contests in the host cities again presented their businesses to a panel in Washington on Nov. 11.

Cristina González from Columbia won the Reno business pitch contest with her translation business, ConEmpathy.

During her pitch, González pointed out translation mistakes by major companies that had unintended meanings. For instance, she said, Coors is slang for diarrhea in some areas. Such mistakes cost businesses.

“If you’re doing it cheap, you’re doing it wrong,” she said of the need for quality translations.

González explained how her translators work to exceed international standards and ensure they correctly translate technical vocabulary and special vocabulary.

YLAI program coordinator Stacy Kinion said in an email to NNBW that the Washington event well.

“Cristina didn’t win or place, though she was offered a contract by the Department of State after they heard the pitch, which is even better!” Kinion wrote.

Other winners in the Reno pitch competition, which was held at the UNR Innevation Center Powered by Switch were:

Tied for 2nd Place:

Vicente Mejia, of Clearpath Coffee in Columbia, which is empowering coffee farmers to have the knowledge to be coffee professionals in control of their own market.

Leandro Luque, with at4you Assistive Technologies for You in Brazil, which provides technologies for the sight impaired to get the information others see on graphics during meetings, etc., in a format they can understand.

3rd Place

Ystallonne Alves — with AGROMARRA In Brazil, which is providing a digital platform for ranchers in northeastern Brazil to better track such things as the ancestry and health of their livestock.

About 4,000 Central and South American entrepreneurs applied for the YLAI 2016 program. YLAI accepted 250 fellows to come to the U.S. and work with professionals in similar businesses and learn more about marketing, product development, quality control, and more.

Andrea Almeida, of Ecuador, owns Ethnisnacks, which uses nutritious crops long used by indigenous communities in her country to produce healthy snack products.

She told the judges that she works with agricultural communities on quality control, trains them to meet organic standards and provides organic seeds.

The networking with business leaders proved invaluable, she said during a break at the Reno competition.

“We just meet a lot of people,” said Almeida, who hopes to begin selling her product in the U.S. “You meet people you don’t even think could help you, but they may have family or friends that can help you.”

The YLAI fellows also developed close connections with each other.

“We didn’t know each other,” Almeida said. “Now we’re family.”