By Emilia Rybak, a Princeton in Latin America Fellow
I was just about to leave my office to get lunch on September 19, 2017, when the building began to shake violently. Within a few seconds, panic began to set in as I realized this wasn’t a minor tremor like the one I had felt 12 days before.
I had been in Mexico City for just 4 weeks and had experienced the strongest earthquake to strike the city in 32 years. But rather than be deterred, I went out to volunteer alongside my neighbors and coworkers. I witnessed firsthand the proactive, do-it-ourselves attitude that every single chilango displayed, not leaving it to anyone else to pick up the pieces of their city. Out of this tragedy grew an especially strong connection to the city I’ve called home in the last several months.
Seeing the can-do attitude that permeates this culture has also made me even more confident in the work we do at Endeavor, identifying high-impact Mexican entrepreneurs with this innate drive and desire to see their country thrive, and providing them with mentorship, access, and knowledge they need to solve their business challenges and scale their solutions to other people and communities who could benefit from them.
At Endeavor Mexico we aim to drive economic, social, and cultural progress through selecting, accelerating, and supporting top High-Impact Entrepreneurs across the country. As a profile writer, I compose 10- to 15-page in-depth business analyses on each company that has been chosen to attend one of our Local Selection Panels, where they pitch their companies to Endeavor mentors who then vote on whether they should move on in the selection process to officially become an Endeavor Entrepreneur. And it’s no small feat to gain acceptance into our global network, consisting of 1,563 entrepreneurs who have generated over 700,000 jobs and $10 billion in revenues across both emerging and developed markets.*
Through my work here, I’ve had the privilege of analyzing and learning about business models across various industries, including FinTech, EdTech, Food & Beverage, Software as a Service, Logistics, and Telecommunications. I’ve helped prepare entrepreneurs for our selection panels by drafting up several analyses of key success factors, including their products and services, revenue sources, competitors, business processes, org charts, ownership structures, financial projections, and growth plans. I’ve supported entrepreneurs from all over Mexico throughout our rigorous selection process, from ages 25-57 years old, from college dropouts to MBAs grads, from one-man shows to founding teams of four, from companies selling physical consumer goods to 100% online businesses, from sizes ranging from 21 to 304 employees.
Despite their differences, these entrepreneurs share one important commonality: They are all creating jobs and economic opportunity for themselves, their communities, and the country as a whole through their ventures.
But let’s be clear: I don’t think it’s the most insightful to look at the tasks I’ve completed in my role. Perhaps the most important part of the job has been the intangibles — the lasting relationships I’ve developed with the entrepreneurs by helping them navigate our tough selection process.
I’ve worked very closely with each of my 19 entrepreneurs for periods of 1.5 to 3 months each. I’ve gotten to know them. I’ve worked hard to understand their backgrounds, achievements, and challenges in order to adequately tell their stories in the business profiles I write. I’ve understood their distinct personalities and work styles to figure out how to best collaborate with each of them. I’ve answered their late-night WhatsApp messages and emails and incorporated last-minute edits to their profiles (and naturally have sent a few myself). I’ve given feedback on how to improve their pitches and have helped them distill key insights about, and areas of opportunity within, their businesses based on feedback from our mentors.
It may sound silly and cheesy, but I’ve felt like a proud parent when my entrepreneurs have presented their pitches at our Local Selection Panels and passed with a 7-0 vote. In those moments, the hours of work immediately become worth it; I’m reminded that the best part of the job is empowering these entrepreneurs to present their businesses to a panel of tough critics, and adequately demonstrate not only the impact that their ventures currently have, but also the untapped potential that they could realize in the future through Endeavor’s support and services. I feel lucky to have had the privilege to serve as a key stepping stone to these entrepreneurs’ success.
Another part of the role that has been especially rewarding is seeing the diversity of the many “faces of impact” across our entrepreneurs. Working at Endeavor has opened my eyes to the wide range of levels of education, work experience, and skill sets that entrepreneurs possess — there is simply no one profile or set of characteristics that guarantees success or failure. To be an entrepreneur, you don’t need to be especially gifted or have had an expensive education, nor connections with CEOs nor an excessive amount of money.
From what I’ve seen, the only non-negotiable precursor for success as an entrepreneur is to be highly motivated, hardworking, and brave enough to take the road less traveled. To be a doer who takes action without thinking twice, whether that means helping to distribute medical supplies after an earthquake, or taking a risk and starting a business with just a vision and the will to make it work.
Being surrounded by this “doer” mentality has been such an inspiration in both my personal and professional life here. To both PiLA and Endeavor — thank you for this opportunity. Saying that my experience as a PiLA fellow has been enriching would simply be an understatement.
*Current as of time of writing