COMMITMENT TO ACTION

MicroMentor: Entrepreneurial Growth Through Mentorship

Commitment by Mercy Corps

In 2019, Mercy Corps and its partners committed to expand its small business mentorship program, MicroMentor, to the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), Puerto Rico, Sint Maarteen, and the Dominican Republic. MicroMentor is an online platform that connects entrepreneurs with business mentors. One challenge faced by business leaders in the Caribbean is the lack of support to grow their capacity, including the ability to be resilient to crises and generate additional employment opportunities. Through this commitment, Mercy Corps will support 1,000 small businesses and engage 250 local and global volunteer mentors by offering open access to mentoring through the proven online platform. Additionally, Mercy Corps will provide innovative access to financial capital through entrepreneurial contests which will award a total of $100,000 to 40 ventures. To ensure sustainability, they will also partner with five local organizations that will integrate mentoring into their ongoing services.



Overview
Summary

Commitment

MicroMentor: Entrepreneurial Growth Through Mentorship

Launched

2019

Est. Duration

1 Year

Estimated Total Value

$600,000

Region

Latin America & Caribbean

Countries

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC; PUERTO RICO; VIRGIN ISLANDS, U.S.

Commitment by

Mercy Corps

Partner(s) of the Commitment Maker(s)

Bacardi Limited
Details

For over a decade Mercy Corps has supported small businesses around the world through MicroMentor, an online mentoring platform with 60,000 users in 198 countries. In 2019, Mercy Corps and its partners commit to expand MicroMentor to the Caribbean, starting in USVI and Sint Maarten, and then in Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic. They will implement a model focused on building the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Caribbean that will strengthen and improve the resilience of disaster-affected businesses. Mercy Corps will provide financial capital to innovative ventures while rolling out their proven mentoring platform to ensure long-term and sustainable impact.

Mercy Corps aims to support 1,000 small businesses in all industries (500 in USVI and Sint Marteen, and 500 in Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic), and engage 250 local and global volunteer mentors. They will do this by creating open access to mentoring through a proven online platform. Additionally, they will provide innovative access to financial capital through entrepreneurial contests in USVI and Sint Maarten, which will provide a total of $100,000 to a total of 40 ventures. To ensure sustainability, they will also partner with 5 local organizations in the Caribbean that will integrate mentoring into their ongoing services.

Mercy Corps recognizes the local challenges, such as the recent transitions in government and the fact that the entrepreneurial ecosystem is still new in these territories. However, they will acknowledge these challenges in their design and implementation to ensure its success. Based on their historical evaluation of MicroMentor, they aim to measure the success of the program by: job creation, income increase, business survival rate, and the development of knowledge and skills among entrepreneurs who received mentoring compared to those who did not.

Q2 – 2019
Program Set up
Hire two local consultants to support activities in USVI and Sint Marteen
Design Innovation contest to support 40 innovative entrepreneurs with $100,000 USD in total for awards in the range of 1500 – 5000 USD in USVI and Sint Marteen
Launch Innovation contest in both territories
Launch MicroMentor online platform in USVI and Sint Marteen
Reconnect with strategic stakeholders met during the assessment and define collaboration

Q3 -2019
Innovation Contest in USVI and Sint Marteen
Contest recruitment continues to reach 150 participants in both territories
Select and invite local judges for contest
Preselection of entrepreneurs that will participate in competition
Pitches & Award ceremony takes place
Awards for innovative entrepreneurs who won the contest are delivered


MicroMentor user recruitment
Sign MOU with 2 partnerships in USVI and Sint Marteen
Partners receive induction on MicroMentor methodology and technology
Mentor and entrepreneur recruitment for MicroMentor platform continues through a digital marketing strategy
MicroMentor offers dedicated support to users to ensure entrepreneurs and mentors connections

Q4 – 2019
Explore partnerships in Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic
Support partnerships to engage their mentor or entrepreneur network into MicroMentor platform
Mentor and entrepreneur recruitment for MicroMentor platform continues through a digital marketing strategy
MicroMentor offers dedicated support to users to ensure entrepreneurs and mentors connections

Q1 -2020
Sign MOU with 3 more partnerships in the Caribbean (USVI, Sint Marteen, Puerto Rico or Dominican Republic).
Partners receive induction on MicroMentor methodology and technology
Mentor and entrepreneur recruitment for MicroMentor platform continues through a digital marketing strategy
MicroMentor offers dedicated support to users to ensure entrepreneurs and mentors connections

Q2 -2020
Support partnerships to engage their mentor or entrepreneur network into MicroMentor platform
Mentor and entrepreneur recruitment for MicroMentor platform continues through a digital marketing strategy
MicroMentor offers dedicated support to users to ensure entrepreneurs and mentors connections
Perform impact evaluation to measure business outcomes: Conduct analysis and comparative report between baseline and final line with participating entrepreneurs.

Background

Nearly two years after hurricanes Irma and María devastated the US Virgin Islands, Sint Maarten, and nearby islands, the damage and need for reconstruction is still painfully noticeable. The disaster caused tremendous economic disruption, impacting the tourism industry, the main engine of the economy, and small businesses, which represent the greatest creators of jobs and contributors to development.

One year after the storms, Mercy Corps’ small business initiative, MicroMentor, carried out an assessment to understand the status and needs of small businesses and found the following:

(1) The economy of both USVI and Sint Maarten depends almost 100% on tourism. Economic diversification, through innovation and identification of new products and markets, is key to mitigate this reality.

(2) Although the tourism industry was the most affected in USVI & Sint Maarten by the storms, businesses oriented to the local market also suffered the effects of economic disruption. The population was forced to reduce its expenses and focus primarily on the reconstruction of their homes and reacquisition of goods.

(3) There are some early stage micro businesses that operated before the hurricane and emerged after the crisis. These businesses do not have the knowledge or resources necessary to continue or grow. The development of skills and knowledge through access to critical business resources in the form of mentoring, as well as the possibility of accessing financial assistance, could spur growth and help them sustain themselves.

Disasters accentuate the fragility of small businesses. One of the challenges facing small businesses is the lack of skills in the management of their companies and networks, which allow them not only to be more resilient to the crisis, but also the opportunity to grow and generate more employment opportunities and economic development.

Partnership Opportunities

Mercy Corps is seeking additional financial resources to close the funding gap of $193,087 to achieve their impact not only in USVI and Sint Maarten but expanding to Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. In addition, Mercy Corps is seeking local partners serving entrepreneurs and willing to integrate and offer this opportunity to their networks, such as Economic Development Authorities and Chambers of Commerce, among others. They are also seeking existing examples, experiences, and best practices in integrating services through partnership models to promote scale in the region to help inform their design and implementation. Finally, Mercy Corps is also seeking individuals willing to serve as mentors for participating small businesses. Through this initiative, Mercy Corps will understand the impact of mentoring for small businesses and their communities and offer best practices to partners to support entrepreneurs across the Caribbean. Partners can also access mentoring support for their small business networks. In USVI and Sint Maarten partners will also have the opportunity to bring their networks to participate in the innovation contest for small businesses. Mercy Corps also seeks to offer partners, such as Bacardi, an opportunity for employees to help drive impact for small businesses through volunteering by playing a role as mentors or judges.

Progress Reports