Business & Cognitive Training for Puerto Rico’s SMBs

Commitment by The Cathexis Project

In 2019, The Cathexis Project committed to launch an 18-month pilot training program to strengthen the mental wellbeing and business skills of small business owners in Puerto Rico. Hurricanes Irma and Maria worsened an already dire economic situation in Puerto Rico, causing damage to every sector of the economy. The hurricanes also caused a psychological toll across the island, with notable increases in mental health issues since. There is immense pressure to rebuild the island's economy through entrepreneurship and investment in small business, but insufficient attention is being paid to the psychological needs of business owners who have often experienced both personal and businesses losses as a result of the hurricanes. To address this, The Cathexis Project will offer an innovative, blended curriculum of entrepreneurship education and mental health support to 240 small business owners on the island. Training will include business resiliency and elements of performance coaching while introducing mindfulness techniques to mitigate the effects of trauma.



Business & Cognitive Training for Puerto Rico’s SMBs



Est. Duration

1 Year

Estimated Total Value



Latin America & Caribbean



Commitment by

The Cathexis Project

Partner(s) of the Commitment Maker(s)

Inspira; Provoc

The Cathexis Project is committed to strengthening the Puerto Rican economy and the resilience of Puerto Rican communities by developing an innovative, blended curriculum of business skills training and mental health support specifically tailored to the needs of small business owners. By addressing the residual trauma caused by Hurricanes Irma & Maria, The Cathexis Project seeks to create an environment for psychological healing, innovation, and economic liberation. The Cathexis Project is partnering with experts in the fields of Behavioral Health, Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Performance Coaching, to initiate a pilot program that will address the business resiliency and mental well-being of small business owners.

Recently, the world’s top business leaders and companies have begun to recognize the importance of incorporating mindfulness techniques in the workplace, to create a culture that embraces the needs of today’s business professionals. However, leadership coaching remains inaccessible to the majority of professionals, especially those coming from underserved communities; and buzzwords like “self-care” and “mindfulness” are marketed as accessories to the rich and successful.

To counter this narrative and encourage a “performance mindset” amongst small business owners, The Cathexis Project will work with business leaders, leadership coaches, and cognitive science experts, to guide the development of a curriculum to be delivered over an 18-month pilot. Training will include direct interventions with local small business owners, equipping them with foundational knowledge in business management, financial literacy, workforce development, and leadership tools while introducing mindfulness techniques to mitigate the effects of trauma.

The Cathexis Project will partner with a local nonprofit organization to support small business owners in 50 communities across the island. Three full-time positions will be created to offer dedicated support in curriculum development, participant recruitment, logistics and project implementation. Additional part-time support and facilitation positions will be created and staffed by local hires.

Phase 1 (1-3 months): Comprehensive Needs Assessment, Intervention Plan, and Curriculum Development - May 2019 to July 2019

Phase 2 (12-14 months): Direct Interventions (one community per month, 1-2 workshops) – August 2019 to September 2020

Phase 3 (quarterly): Community Building Events – October 2019, and February, June, and October 2020

Phase 4 (1 month): Final Assessment and Report – November 2020


In 2017, Hurricane Irma passed by Puerto Rico, wiping out power for more than one million people. Less than two weeks later, Hurricane Maria made landfall, resulting in an estimated 2,975 deaths and causing upwards of $91 billion in damages.

The island’s economy was already in dire straits, and conditions have only been exacerbated. Debt continues to mount, small gains in agricultural production have been lost, and the tourism industry has been seriously impacted by both a decline in visitors to the island and environmental damage to prized ecological resources.

In addition to the economic damage, there are clear indicators of the psychological toll on the island. Population attrition is at an all-time high, particularly amongst skilled and highly skilled workers, resulting in an island-wide shortage of talent. There has been a 30% jump in the suicide rate since Hurricane Maria. It is estimated that nearly one person a day committed suicide in the two months following landfall, and that number continues to grow. These psychological challenges present an additional barrier to economic regrowth across sectors.

There is immense pressure to rebuild the island’s economy through entrepreneurial acceleration and investment in small business, however, there is insufficient attention being paid to the psychological needs of the individuals responsible for these businesses. Small businesses are the backbone of every economy - in Puerto Rico, they employ more than 80% of the entire private sector workforce. Small business owners are everyday people, committed to uplifting their communities and providing opportunity for their families. They are also disproportionately affected by disaster - often experiencing both personal and business losses of financial and property damage. In order for these professionals to be sound decision-makers and innovative managers tending to the needs of their businesses, employees, and constituents, it is imperative to address the traumatic experiences they have endured.

Partnership Opportunities

The Cathexis Project seeks financial support to fund a high-impact initiative through an initial 18-month pilot; with eyes on securing longer-term funding champions to establish and scale a deployable model for preparing communities in disaster prone areas worldwide. Furthermore, The Cathexis Project is seeking University partners to grow a mentoring network with business and mental health students, to provide learning opportunities, strengthening the skills of the next generation of entrepreneurs, coaches, and mental health workers. As part of this commitment, The Cathexis Project is offering its support to other organizations on the island of Puerto Rico who wish to implement mental health initiatives either internally (support for nonprofit/relief workers) or within specific communities; as well as leadership team development, change management and performance coaching services. The Cathexis Project and its partners can be formally engaged to facilitate workshops, provide experts for speaking engagements, and consultants to manage change efforts within your organization.

Progress Reports