On November 2nd - November 6th, 2019, SACIV welcomed eight international visitors from Russia for an IVLP project entitled “Entrepreneurship 101." This group of young and enthusiastic entrepreneurs were invited by the Department of State from different parts of Russia to experience the latest trends in small business and start-up development in the US. The most important component of this program was to interact with those small business community members to share experiences.
The IVLP group arrived on Saturday evening and on Sunday, started with a tour to the San Antonio Missions, where they learned about the significant role which these places play in the history and culture of our community. In the evening, our guests were welcomed in the homes of the SACIV members where they had heart-filled conversations about differences and similarities of living in the US and in Russia.
On Monday morning, the IVLP group headed to the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) where they met with a representative of the Institute for Economic Development, which ecompasses a variety of centers and programs that facilitate economic, community, and business development at the local, regional and national levels, including the Small Business Development Center. Our guests had a two-hour training session on topics such as financial management, marketing, leadership skills, and developing effective communication skills.
Later that day, the Russian delegation met with the founder and director of Stepping Stones Pediatric Feeding and Speech Therapy Clinic. The participants of this program learned about the challenges and success she faced while developing a business. They also discussed the local entrepreneurial support mechanisms which helped her achieve goals and her advice on ways to develop and sustain a successful health care business in San Antonio.
TIP#1: have a plan for your dream and structure your day accordingly.
In the afternoon, this delegation headed back downtown to meet with a family-run business, BethanyEastPR. The group learned about various sides of public relations and marketing expertise. The founding couple has managed to help small and minority businesses with less know-how follow their footsteps. The participants asked many questions about new and growing small businesses in San Antonio, as Russian small businesses have just started exploring different ways of incorporating public relations, branding & design, social media management, and event management. The presenters shared their experiences and perspectives on helping San Antonio small, medium, and large businesses increase their bottom-line while making their voices heard.
TIP#2: experiment with ways you communicate to your customers. They will tell you what they like and what they don’t like.
On Tuesday afternoon, the delegation met with representatives of LiftFund, which provides credit and services to small businesses and entrepreneurs who do not have access to loans from commercial sources and offers leadership and innovation to the microlending industry. This meeting provided the visitors with information about the “giving back” component, in which alumni of LiftFund’s programs, who have established successful small businesses, shared how their participation with LiftFund positively impacted their business growth and how they now mentors others.
TIP#3: community is a strong power which is built out on everyone's involvement.
In the afternoon, the group had an interactive final meeting with a member of SACIV and the founder of the Alamo Travel Group (ATG). She discussed challenges and successes of a woman business owner and shared her insight into how women can be successful entrepreneurs, as well as the importance of helping others succeed. This final San Antonio meeting also served as an informal synthesis session and an opportunity for participants to pose questions based on their visit.
TIP#4: never stop learning and asking questions to grow.
Overall, this Russian delegation found the visit to San Antonio very interactive and enjoyed open conversations, sharing experiences, and learning life-long lessons of building businesses. The visitors were particularly amazed with the diligence and hard-working ethics of every entrepreneur they met during their meetings and this experience made a significant impact on the visitors. We greatly appreciate each partner, organization, and representative of San Antonio’s community for their collaboration and partnership in our furthering our mission.