My YLAI Experience

ABOUT YLAI

On September 2018, I had the privilege of being selected as a participant for the 2018 YLAI Cohort. YLAI, meaning Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative is a program funded by the US-Department of State and Implemented by Meridian International Center in Washington, DC. The objective of YLAI is to develop lasting and meaningful relations between young entrepreneurs and US-based enterprises. 250 young business and social entrepreneurs from Latin American and the Caribbean are selected each year to participate in the exchange program. The program consists of:

  1. A 3-day Opening Ceremony in Detroit structured like:
    1. Where remarkable Government personnel and local business persons gave speeches and remarks on the importance of entrepreneurship and international alliances.
    2. 1-hour seminars on small business finance, digital marketing, sales, funding, etc.
    3. Networking activities such as coffee time and mixers.
    4. Outings to dinner and knowing the city.
  2. A 4-weeks fellowship in one of 13 cities across the States for participants to:
    1. Collaborate with a US enterprise with a business activity like that of the fellow, on a 9-5 schedule.
    2. Participate on Friday mornings group empowerment meetings and outings to get to know the city’s most impactful business activities, companies and the methods that lead them to those positions.
    3. On hands training for effective pitching according to the time available for the pitch.
    4. Free weekends to enjoy the city and its surrounding.
  3. A 3-day Closing Ceremony in Washington, DC. consisting of:
    1. Speeches from remarkable US-Government staff
    2. Symposiums and Q&A time about the benefits of being a US-Dept of State Exchange Alumni.
    3. Briefings on the benefits of stablishing international alliances.
    4. Closing dinner and toast at the US-Department of State

On the lasts days while en DC, I took a walk and got to know amazing places. Historical monuments full of worth and history. These are my favorite shots.

MY BACKGROUND

Born and raised in Nicaragua, with a college degree on Business Administration and professional experience on Human Resources. Worked for 2 companies with significant international presence. After 2 years of being employed by private companies I got laid off from my second job on 2014, a tremendous hit on my self-esteem. This made me question my professional and soft skills.

On 2016 I decided to invest a little money on fashion jewelry to sell it wholesale. Business was good so I decided to invest in beauty products to sell them wholesale as well. Business grew significantly, so I started to import the products from USA and my business named was changed from “Distributor” to “Importer and Distributor”. As of January 2017, I launched the first collection of makeup brushes, eyeshadow palettes, lipsticks and eyeliners under my own brand “P&M”. This was a hit and although I had a hard time establishing the brand through social media, the brand was rapidly accepted as the “Nicaraguan beauty brand”. Sales were good, this made room for the second, third, fourth, fifth and up to 8 different collections of makeup brushes. I’m currently remodeling my business model to create a network of exclusive distributors per region. On December 2018, aware on the importance of supporting our local talent I launched my first product made by Nicaraguan artisans: A 5-oils based brush washing soap. On January 2019 I launched my ecommerce site on the US.

MY LEARNING

            While in San Diego: Technical skills

The fellowship allowed me to learn the do’s and don’ts on ecommerce. My host is a successful business owner of “La Matera” who has mastered the art of selling a product through the emotions created on each social media post. During my time with him I learned about:

  • Branding (positioning and awareness)
  • Marketing
  • Shipping methods
  • Working with objectives and time spans
  • Successful social media marketing
  • Customer relationship (follow up)
  • Processing orders though Shipstation software
  • Sourcing from suppliers different from China

With my colleagues with whom I was assigned to San Diego I learned about:

  • Fundraising
  • Storytelling
  • Ecommerce on amazon
  • Importance on having a professional website
  • Pitching

And about San Diego…

THE RESULT                             

      On my Business

I realized many important things were missing in my business. Immediately after my return I bought my domain and set up my business website, my business email address (and for my team), my US ecommerce site (with the platform Shopify and a Fulfillment Center in Utah), a social media calendar, my personal blog and two short-course certificates on Udemy platform. Currently I’m taking Certificate course on Facebook Ads and a Certificate course on The Basics of Digital Marketing through Google Digital Garage.

On my Community

During both the Opening and Closing ceremonies, I realized how many young people are working some way or another with their local talents to boost their entrepreneurial skills and therefore their businesses. This made me understand that although my business may be doing great, some other’s might not and there was a lot I could do to change this. As soon as I came back, I reached to Embassy and organized a set of conferences for female entrepreneurs from different parts of the country. With the support of the Embassy we managed to hold a beautiful event where 40 entrepreneurs were impacted and learned several skills and insights on Emotional Intelligence, Resilience and Personal Brand on Social Media.

I’m currently organizing my second set of conferences for artisans from Masaya with insights on Financial Literacy and Product Branding.

THE MOST VALUABLE LESSONS

From the people I was surrounded with in SD, I learned valuable lessons. This is my tribute to them:

Abraham: From Colombia, from him I learned to always have your heart on your goal. The effort and sacrifices taken when nobody’s sees give you the highest reward.

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Alex: From El Salvador, from him I learned to stay grounded even if the sea seems quite stormy. What was meant to diminish you, will turn out for your good.

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Alice: From Paraguay, from her I learned to have a joyful sight on any circumstances. Forever positive and optimistic, things get figured out eventually.

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Bia: From Brazil, from her I learned to stand for what you believe, always.

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Chadia: From Saint Lucia, from her I learned to pour your heart on the task you love. Everything comes to a perfect order eventually.

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Clara: From Venezuela, from her I learned to impact people’s life in a positive way with the knowledge you have; hard circumstances? Yes. But do not abandon those you love.

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Daniel: From Mexico, from him I learned to speak loud and clear on your beliefs. The joyful spirit balances the seriousness of work. Always enjoying the ride.

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David: From Bolivia, from him I learned that family comes first. A kind heart always receives the biggest blessings.

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Nick: From Peru, from him I learned that the easy, measured and safe pace gets you where life needs you to be.

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Raquel: From El Salvador, from her I learned to pursue your dreams but with colors, always with colors so bright you light up the hearts of those around you.

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Rodrigo: From Guatemala, from him I learned to quit on what’s your draining you in order to pursue the dream that will fulfill you.

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Rondell: From Trinidad and Tobago, from him I learned that pain is a part of life. Wanted or not. How you decide to endure it defines the roughness or the warmness of the path of your life.

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Said: From Suriname, from him I learned to always remember one’s worth. And to never settle for less than you deserved.

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These people were my true inspiration. My deepest learnings came from them. And I will forever be thankful.

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These are some of the memories we shared.

 

 

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3 Comentarios Agrega el tuyo

  1. Maytteh dice:

    Muchas felicidades Kenia. Me siento muy orgullosa de ti y todos tus logros. Al igual que tu, sueño en grande y pienso que me falta muchísimo por aprender. Me gustaría que me regalaras el Link donde puedo aplicar para la próxima convocatoria de YLAI. Saludes amiga y fuerte abrazo!

    Me gusta

    1. Kenia Peña dice:

      Amiga hermosa, muchas gracias. Apenas se abra la convocatoria te dejo saber para que apliques con todos los poderes, un gran abrazo.

      Me gusta

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