Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development: A Project for the Western Hemisphere

Small businesses are often the bedrock of local economies, driven by the entrepreneurial spirit of their founders and leaders. For this group of 14 inspiring entrepreneurs, academics, business innovators and non-profit professionals from across Latin American and Spain, their International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) aimed to create connections between the visitors and American counterparts. The project was designed to show themes both big and small, from how the federal government supports policies, grants, and resources that aid small business owners, to how a multi-generational family business persists, and succeeds, despite hardships. Through meetings with governmental, educational, public, and private sector resources, the group was connected with various actors that support emerging entrepreneurs, including business incubators, small businesses, nonprofits, academic institutions, and local government entities.

Visitors stop at Watson's Chocolates in Buffalo, New York to meet with the current owners of this family-owned small business.

Project Objectives

  • Highlight the economic, political, and social factors that influence and encourage the development of small businesses, entrepreneurship, and innovation in the United States;
  • Demonstrate the impact of U.S. small businesses on the local, regional, national, and global economies;
  • Illustrate the role of governmental, non-governmental, public-private partnerships, universities, corporations, and grassroots organizations in fostering and supporting business creation and growth; and
  • Examine trends in small businesses concepts, financing, management, operations, and marketing.

Project Design

Over the course of their 3-week program, visitors made stops in the following destinations, where meetings were focused on specific aspects of larger project themes.

Washington, DC: Time in Washington provided key context on the institutions, values and structures that contribute to America's business ecosystem. Meetings with the Small Business Administration and local incubators illustrated how the government works with civil society to foster business growth. Themes also centered on the freedom of responsibility entrepreneurs have to make positive impacts with their enterprises.

Buffalo, New York: A stop in Buffalo allowed visitors their first interactions with small business owners: exchanges that demonstrated the importance of community and confidence. It also allowed visitors to see the role of academic institutions in preparing entrepreneurs with the mentorship and skill sets needed to succeed. A special thanks for Meridian's local implementing partner, the International Institute of Buffalo.

Denver and Colorado Springs, Colorado: Colorado illustrated key examples of how entrepreneurship can work for everyone. From targeted financing, mentorship, and culturally-sensitive business models, visitors engaged with entrepreneurs and business professionals of diverse backgrounds who aim to make small business ownership accessible and attainable for all. A special thanks for Meridian's local implementing partners, WorldDenver and the Colorado Springs World Affairs Council.

Miami, Florida: As America's gateway to Latin America, Miami provided visitors with key information and contacts on internationalization and financing. Meetings with the Global Chamber of Miami and CIC International Soft Landing promoted thinking around expanding one's business to new countries and regions, and the considerations that must be made to do so. A special thanks for Meridian's local implementing partner, Global Ties Miami.


Visitors connected with 42+ American small business professionals.

Visitors planned 10+ actionable goals to improve entrepreneurship and small business development in their countries.

Visitors partook in 12+ cultural activities across 4 cities.
















Key Takeaways

In concluding their 3-week program, visitors left inspired and energized.

“We live in a context of exclusion. We must push ourselves to be ourselves, to reconcile with the history we inherited, then apply it to what we do. I will bring with me this idea as a little motor, and that will push me to serve others.” - Marco Antonio Nanculeo Raguileo, Chile

"We have created a network – now it’s up to us to generate change." - Marcia Lizbeth Perez Albuja, Ecuador

Next Steps

Equipped with a new network and knowledge, visitors aim to undertake the following steps post-program:

  • Facilitate academic exchanges, including visiting professorships, between home universities.
  • Standardize key business processes across the region to improve the ability to work and promote businesses internationally.
  • Coordinate future publications and research for business journals.
  • Host business roundtables with colleagues and other local contacts.
  • Develop specialized finance institutions to serve as community financing centers for emerging businesses.
  • Establish co-working spaces in his community to create more intentional opportunity for collaboration and economic revitalization.


Project summary

Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development: A Project for the Western Hemisphere
Number of Visitors: 14
Regions: Western Hemisphere
Countries: Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Spain, Venezuela
Impact Areas: Entrepreneurship, Business and Trade
Program Areas: Global Leadership