Escrito el 5 octubre 2016 por entrepreneurship en emprender

Area 31 interviewed IE Alumni Claudio Schlegel, named Entrepreneur of the Year 2016 by EY Mexico. He told us his story and his life as an entrepreneur with Podemos Progresar:
How did everything start?
During 2009 Fernando Orta, Founder and CEO of Podemos Progresar, graduated from Dartmouth, turned down jobs in NYC as a private banker and traveled back to Mexico city with the dream of starting a different Microfinance focusing on helping the ignite the potential of the women at the bottom of the pyramid.
Fernando and myself had been friends since elementary school so we started hanging out again. He immediately told me about the idea and I fell in love with it so I gave Fernando my savings. With my money, help of family and his own personal assets Fernando ventured and started handing out loans at the back of his truck.
What is you business model?
An organization that would focus on igniting development at the bottom of the pyramid not only through credit but through a development platform that englobes education and training; health services; women empowerment and developing business opportunities such as micro franchises. We believe that the micro loan we hand out is only the fuel that allows the family to get going but will never allow them escape the poverty trap. When women get a loan from Podemos Progresar they get access to a growing platform of beneficial services and products.
Has the concept evolved since you started?
The core why the business was started has remained the same. We believe in the potential that the BoP has in Mexico and we also believe that we can create an organization that is an example for upcoming generations in Mexico and LatAm. What has changed and evolved is the different business lines we initially thought we could launch and control during the beginning; , the accelerated growth we believed we could achieve and the learning curve has been steeper than initially planned… 
What were some of the biggest lessons that has impacted the way that you work? What was the lesson, and what was it like before and after?
There have been a lot of lessons over the past six years and a half, but probably the most important lessons that we have encountered with over and over is that no matter the amount of planning, work, pressure, good results and/or mistakes we have to learn that the obstacle is the way, enjoy the journey and one day at a time. 
How did you develop key partnerships?
The only aspect that has mattered is trust in each other and having every morning the same goal, trying to be better than yesterday and working hard and smart. 
How did you get funded or what creative strategies did you use to execute on minimal cash flow?
We pretty much invest all income generated, we have government support through loans and funds destined to grow and expand the business. Finally we sold in 2014 equity to a investment fund based in NY.
What was your biggest mistake?
There is no mistake that we can consider to be big, otherwise we would not be standing and growing. But if we could start all over again I would say we would move slower, don’t put so much pressure on ourselves and the organization to achieve growth. 
Did you always think that you wanted to become an entrepeneur?
No, before starting my major and having my first real job I always pictured myself working for a big enterprise and belonging to something global. I don’t believe there is a right or a wrong decision (working for someone or starting your own venture), its a matter of doing what will bring you the biggest satisfaction. 
Your life as an entrepreneur in one word?
What are the most important features to have in order to become an entrepreneur?
Humble in our aspirations, gracious in our success and resilient in our failures. 
If you had one piece of advice for someone that is just starting what would it be?
Enjoy every day of the venture, it will never get easier and will never turn out as expected. It is important to have a clear why you are starting the business. 
Do you intend to expand soon?
We are expanding. We have growth over the past six years 100%+ each year in terms of number of clients, revenue and loan balance. 
Do you count with external founding? Do you believe that it is possible to start with little or no money?
It is possible to start with little money, we did it and I believe it is even a smarter choice. It will make you work smarter, understand the business and envieronment in more depth to allocate the small resources in the best way possible. We do have external founding private and from the Mexican government. 
What is the thing that motivates you the most about your project?
Understanding that each day there is something we will and need to learn, that no matter how much we work, study, learn, win or loose there will be more to be done. For us it is not anymore about a tangible value, a specific value or income that the company achieves (must admit though it motivates and it still is important), it is today about allowing to become better and enriching our environment through our WHY.
If you could time travel back to day one of your startup and have 15min with your former self to communicate any lessons you’ve acquired with the intention of saving yourself mistakes and heartache, what would you tell yourself?
There will always be pressure to perform, to achieve and to succeed. Success is a matter of perspectives but it doesn’t matter what that perspective is it will involve pressure and stress… Enjoy the ride, understand that ego will get in the way and everything that can go wrong will; but this doesn’t mean you will fail, be unsuccesful and not happy.  


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