Four new entrepreneurs from the port city of Avellaneda, in the greater Buenos Aires area, are currently being mentored by Shell managers from the nearby Dock Sud refinery. The volunteer mentors, which include chemical engineers, an environmental specialist, and the head of security, will use their extensive business and management expertise to guide the entrepreneurs through the first twelve months of their start-up journey.

The Desafío Joven programme, which is run in partnership with Fundación Impulsar, focuses on supporting would be entrepreneurs, aged over 18 years old, living in the Dock Sud fenceline community in Avellaneda. Over 60 people applied for the current programme, and 48 were selected to receive 48 hours-worth of enterprise training. This enables the candidates to research and develop a business plan and to benefit from valuable networking opportunities with other entrepreneurs. At the end of the training, the entrepreneurs pitch their business plans to experts from Shell and Fondación Impulsar, and the best plans receive a start-up loan of up to US $1,700 along with 12 months support from a Shell mentor.

One of the new entrepreneurs to receive mentoring support from the Desafío Joven programme is Andrés Soto, who is starting a cooperative specialising in the supply of housing construction materials. He has received a US $1,500 loan from Fundación Impulsar to purchase machinery and tools and is being mentored by Eduardo Bibacovich, Head of Security and Environment at Shell’s Dock Sud refinery.

Commenting on the role Desafío Joven has played in the development of his business, Andrés says, “My project is a work cooperative which focuses on construction. It all started in 2001, based on the need to generate work. We brought together friends and locals who were unemployed and we started to do courses and developed ourselves in order to create a work cooperative. Today we make floor tiles, perimeter fences and anything relating to construction. We continued with the work, and in 2014 we finally set up the cooperative.

“The training that we did with Desafío Joven helped us a lot, especially in terms of organising ourselves and managing the enquiries and the purchasing of materials. We also received financial support from Fondación Impulsar, which enabled us to obtain credit to buy the raw materials and moulds that we need to provide our services.”

The other entrepreneurs involved in the mentoring programme are: Rosa Susana Fernandez, who runs a community centre which provides education and health support to children and a venue for parties and social events. Her mentor is Noemí Ojeda, a Chemical Engineer and Lean Manager from Shell; Ricardo Aníbal Giménez, a supplier of blacksmith services. He is being mentored by Shell environmental specialist, Juan Galimberti; and, hairdresser, Raquel Mendoza, who’s Shell mentor is Juliàn Manuele, a new business development specialist.

Highlighting the importance of mentoring within the programme, Natalia Velàzquez of Fondación Impulsar, said, “It’s very challenging for the entrepreneurs once they have produced and presented their business plans to continue to develop their projects alone. For this reason, we match them with a mentor; an experienced business manager from Shell who volunteers their time to guide and advise the entrepreneurs at an early stage in their business’ journey. The management experience, knowledge and insight that the entrepreneurs can derive from their mentors is invaluable in enabling them to start-up successfully and to achieve longer-term sustainability.

“We provide a platform to discuss ideas and find solutions. We’re not only giving them technical support, but are also building an opportunity to network with other entrepreneurs and professionals.

“Mentoring provides a valuable opportunity for Shell staff and entrepreneurs to create a mutually beneficial learning experience which enhances the entrepreneur, Shell and the community.”