Stephanie Oliveira of ‘Host a Future’, Thiago Lopes of ‘American Insight’, and Rodrigo Biajoni of ‘Trustme’ beat off competition from some 4,000 applicants from throughout Latin America to win three of only 250 places on the Professional Fellows Programme run by the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI).

President Obama launched the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) to build linkages between young leaders across the continent, and the programme enables young entrepreneurs and civil society leaders to take part in a wide range of learning and development opportunities such as workshops, discussion forums, lectures, networking events and placements to equip them with the training, tools, networks and resources they need to transform their societies and contribute more fully to economic development and good governance in the hemisphere. YLAI hopes to generate US $1 billion for emerging business and social entrepreneurs by the end of 2017 by helping fellows attract new investments and in-kind resources for their ventures each year.

In order to win their place on the programme, each of the three entrepreneurs had to submit their business plan, undergo a rigorous online interview process, and submit a video pitch.

Each of the entrepreneurs report that the programme has enabled them to gain a global perspective on their business models and to develop new networks to give them an international outlook and lasting partnerships for future collaborations.

Stephanie Oliveira’s business, ‘Host a Future’, provides an online platform whereby students can secure accommodation close to their University by using their expertise and knowledge to provide a learning and development experience for their host, as payment of rent. Skills that the student can teach their hosts range from improving their ICT literacy to teaching them a foreign language.

Culturally, Brazilians are not used to opening up their homes to people, according to Stephanie, who sees building an audience of receptive hosts quickly as her biggest business challenge.

Commenting on the benefit of the programme for her business Stephanie said, “YLAI enabled me to both share and learn from others’ experiences, giving me new ideas and strategies to promote the business in the best way to achieve our target.

“Being part of such a diverse group was an honour and a once in a lifetime experience to exchange cultural, economic and social points of view with some of the most innovative minds on the continent.

“The opportunity to be inside a US company, understanding their processes, challenges, successes and how they became scalable was particularly useful.”

Thiago Lopes, whose business 'American Insight' provides English language training, hoped that YLAI would help him with his vision to scale up his business through adopting an online platform and franchising model.

As a result of the programme, Thiago has secured agreements with Microsoft for the development of an online learning platform and has a partnership agreement with a school in San Diego to provide online tutors.

Thiago said, “YLAI enabled me to improve my leadership abilities and the technical aspects of my business model. I have also developed a partnership that will enable me to take the online aspect of my business forward.

“I would like to thank Shell Iniciativa Empreendedora for giving me such a good grounding in the entrepreneurial skills to take advantage of the YLAI opportunity.”

Rodrigo Biajoni belives YLAI will have a beneficial effect on his start-up, 'Trustme'; a branding agency focused on business, brand repositioning and new ventures.

Said Rodrigo, “The programme has definitely changed the way my enterprise will develop going forward. During the four weeks, I was surrounded by a young, but very experienced team learning about public engagement campaigns and hearing their experiences with non-profit organisations and with politicians. One of the highlights was to hear the experiences of the founders, who were behind President Obama’s campaigns.

“I was pleasantly shocked by the amount, and quality, of enterprise events happening in Chicago. To be part of that energy gave me the opportunity to make significant contacts for the development of my business.”

Stephanie summed up the feeling of all three entrepreneurs about the impact of YLAI saying, “Being part of this fellowship at this stage of my business development is a great honour and responsibility. It’s a once in a lifetime experience to connect with so many young entrepreneurs from Latin America and the Caribbean. It an amazing opportunity to strengthen business ties across the continent.”

Leo Filardi from Shell Iniciativa Jovem said, “The participation of entrepreneurs from Shell LiveWIRE Brazil is very important because it gives them an opportunity to expand their networks and horizons in order to open new market opportunities internationally.

“For Shell LiveWIRE Brazil it enhances our visibility, and provides an opportunity for the development of new partnerships and technologies aligned to the interests of entrepreneurs who are part of the programme.”

Two of the entrepreneurs have been selected for special duties during next week’s Global Entrepreneurship Week. Stephanie has been selected for the World Bank Youth Summit 2016. The two-day conference, which will be held in Washington DC and livestreamed globally, will debate: Innovation and Technology in Education; Skills for the New Economy; Gender Equality in Education; Education in Crisis Zones.

Also, Thiago, will lead a discussion forum on Education and Innovation for YLAI Fellows in Washington DC next week. He was also nominated to represent Brazil at an APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) forum to be held in Lima, Peru on the 14th of November.