In March, a group of visitors from Argentina, Belarus, Chile, Czech Republic, Iraq, Israel, and Japan came to San Antonio and made visits to organizations where they focused on the essential role of non-governmental and grassroots organizations in supporting and empowering the development of women-owned business; exploring the social, economic, and political factors behind the development of private enterprise in the U.S.; and to discuss the societal barriers facing entrepreneurs, especially women and other disadvantaged groups.
Visitors met with leadership, faculty, and students from Business Careers High School, a public “magnet” high school that offers special classes on business etiquette, finance, entrepreneurial skills, and technology to help prepare students for careers in business. Visitors were also able to explore the unique special educational programs designed to inspire future business leaders. A chance to speak with students and faculty provided an opportunity to discuss participant experiences and to learn about the best practices of successful business leaders.
VentureLab, whose campus, after-school programs, and mentorship use the teaching power of entrepreneurship to introduce, inspire, and encourage young people to enter and be successful in technical, creative, and scientific fields met with visitors and provided them with a chance to tour the facility and participate in a practical business exercise. Venture Lab’s staff shared their passion for encouraging and empowering young women in technical and entrepreneurial fields and created an open and engaging environment for visitors to discuss their own backgrounds and experiences.
Visitors also toured Geekdom, a collaborative working space where entrepreneurs, technology experts, developers, and makers work together to design innovative technology start-ups. They met with Geekdom representatives to learn about their role in attracting & growing entrepreneurial & tech talent to San Antonio. They also discussed accelerator programs and shared their own experience in the field as well as asked questions about developing similar programs at home. Visitors then toured the facility and learned about the new start-up companies and programs that are housed there, including 3-Day Startup, Geekbus, the Geekdom Fund, SA New Tech, and Open Cloud Technologies.
The visitors also had the chance to participate in a roundtable discussion session where they met representatives from several San Antonio women’s business organizations including, the Free Trade Alliance San Antonio, the San Antonio Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and San Antonio’s Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Representatives provided an overview of their work and participated in a practical discussion on the challenges and opportunities facing women in business and entrepreneurship, particularly those faced by minority and underserved women. Visitors also broke out into groups and were provided an opportunity to experience a more personalize mentorship discussion which allowed for them to exchange ideas, experiences, brainstorm solutions, and to network.
At Stepping Stoned Pediatric Clinic, a rehabilitation facility for children with speech and learning disabilities and feeding challenges, the clinic’s founder and director, Ms. Yadira Medina-Torres, met with visitors and exposed them to yet another way in which a woman has been successful in creating an organization using entrepreneurial skills and support services. She shared her personal experience and motivations behind creating the clinic. She also shared the challenges and successes she encountered on her endeavor to create the clinic, the ways in which local entrepreneurial support mechanisms helped her achieve her goals, and shared her advice on ways to develop and sustain a successful business.
Visitors met with representatives from Haven for Hope where they learned about the comprehensive services and care provided to people in Bexar County experiencing homelessness. They also learned about Haven for Hope’s the extensive partnerships with governmental, non-profit and faith-based agencies which help make everything possible. Visitors toured campus and learned about the multitude of services and programs offered. They also participated in a learning session where they focused on financial sustainability and independence of those who come through Haven for Hope, including education, job training, employment readiness & identification, and financial management & budgeting skills. Visitors also participated in a community service project where they sorted and packed hygiene kits for those experiencing homelessness at Haven for Hope and throughout the city.
Representatives from Mission Road Ministries, a faith-based non-profit organization that provides services to adults and children with intellectual and other disabilities to help them reach independence and community inclusion, met with visitors and provided lunch. Visitors learned about the Unicorn Center, which helps people with intellectual development disabilities develop job and life skills and find employment opportunities. Visitors toured the facility, met with clients, and saw workshop and learning environments. Visitors also had an opportunity to see products being produced and learned about the many different ways Unicorn Center provides services to its clients.