Remarks of the Ambassador Jean Manes at the Entrepreneurs of the North Triangle “EmprendeTN” Event

Saturday, September 23, 9:30 AM, IENS-CCSA

*** This translation is provided as a courtesy. Only the original Spanish-language version should be considered authoritative.

First of all, I want to extend a warm welcome to all those who are with us today from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

This morning we launch the Entrepreneurs Conference of the Northern Triangle “EmprendeTN” (StartUp Northern Triangle). At this event, members of the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative, known as YLAI, can exchange experiences and knowledge while seeking mentors, potential business partners and build themselves a network of contacts.

YLAI exists because we see in you unlimited potential. We see in the youth of the Americas a thirst for opportunities to demonstrate that they can change their communities, their countries, even the world.

The motto of YLAI says very clearly: Do not wait for change. Create it.

No words describe more accurately this generation of entrepreneurs dedicated to becoming change-makers for themselves and their communities. And this is the momentum this region needs.

Especially because entrepreneurship has become a business model that promotes industries and generates jobs at a global level and that transforms the engine of the economy: the small and medium enterprises.

In El Salvador alone, small and medium-sized enterprises generated approximately $90 million dollars in 2016. They also represent about 99% of the country’s business sector and generate 67.6% of total employment. 99% of businesses in this country are owned by people like you.

In my country SMEs represent 99.7% of companies and 48% of employees in the United States work for these companies. There is no sustainable economic growth model without robust support for this sector. This is because there is no other sector which can create jobs and respond to constantly fluctuating market conditions the way SMEs do. You represent the present and future potential of your countries. Be proud because the steps you are taking now, regardless of how small they may feel, is marking the way forward for your economy.

The importance that SMEs carry was more than evident at the June conference in Miami, where the three countries of the Northern Triangle and the U.S. Vice-President reached a unanimous consensus on the need to resolve the bureaucratic obstacles, or as we call it the “tramitología”, that stands in the way of small and medium-sized enterprises.

Each government left the conference with concrete actions and commitments to achieve this goal. I invite you to approach your governments and find out what they are doing to create those conditions and to eliminate bureaucracy – the main obstacle for almost any company.

This is the role of governments, to provide optimum and favorable conditions so that you can focus on being creative and innovative, because the future of emerging economies like the countries of this region are you and people like you. 

I grew up in a small family business and therefore I have a little knowledge about the sacrifices and the hard work that you are going through now. Every day after school and on weekends I would work at our store in a mall, sometimes I slept in the stockroom. I know how difficult and tiring it can be to work seven days a week without stopping.

But, it was an experience that has left me with many valuable lessons that I want to share with you.

One: Look beyond the local market. Think big. Your customer is the world and if there is a buyer in Mozambique then sell in Mozambique. They days where the only accessible market is your own country are over.

My point is: the world is yours. You just have to find your niche.

Two: As you are already doing, continue to use technology as an opportunity multiplier. You are all millennials. I have two millennials. I have two daughters and that’s why I am on social media, because they are teaching me how to use that tool. You are technological natives and you know firsthand how the internet eliminates borders.

I am not going to expand on this point because you are going to have digital marketing experts talk about this reality. The virtual world is a market in itself.

Three: remember that the modern consumer does not buy a product. They buy a story.

Especially in my country and in Europe, and the biggest markets in the world, you will not compete on the basis of cost, you will win followers and customers because your products have something that captures their imagination and emotions and matches their values.

Last night some of you met Violeta Martínez, the creator of Vaiza. And every time I use her purse there is always someone who asks me about it. This is a great opportunity because at that time I tell them about how this venture supports local artisans, how they use traditional techniques that were disappearing. It is an opportunity to tell their story.

In the same way, each of you has a passion that has shaped your product or service. A little bit of your ideas and dreams will go with the person who decides to purchase something from you.

I have two objects hanging in my office as my inspiration: this keychain and this pair of socks. Those who work with me at the Embassy know this is true!

This keychain represents to me a young woman starting her business, helping other women out of poverty, using recycled materials. It represents that it is possible to start a business of their own and do the right thing by helping others.

These socks are made with recycled plastic bottles and represent the new economy. It is possible to be successful and ecologically conscious in the textile industry, using innovation and technology.

This is done here in El Salvador now. Did you know that?

Take a moment to answer this question yourself: what is the story that you want to tell with your company? And how is it that what you produce will convey this story?

The last advice I have for you is: never, never, never, never give up.

The journey is difficult and you may fail, your plans may not turn out as you thought. Do not be discouraged, because that’s the way it is with all entrepreneurs. Be firm on your goal and seek inspiration from your colleagues and peers who are on the same path as you.

During the rest of the day, you will listen to creative, inspiring talks and receive practical advice from other entrepreneurs like you. I’m sure you’ll come out with new ideas, new partners, mentors, and even friends.

And to kick off this exchange, I am very happy to leave you with trainer and entrepreneur Patrick J. McGinnis. A venture capitalist and private investor, founder of Dirigo Advisor, who has already gone through what you are going through now, and has a lot to offer. Learn from his experience and take inspiration from all the people here present

And above all, dream big and be the change you want to see in the world.

Many thanks.

*** This translation is provided as a courtesy. Only the original Spanish-language version should be considered authoritative.