[IMGCAP(1)]The Ernst & Young Americas Corporate Responsibility (CR) Fellows program recently afforded me the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to Chile for seven weeks to work with Latin American entrepreneurs. Within my first week, I got to know a fantastic company and an inspiring group of people, be interviewed on one of Latin America’s most popular tech sites, and meet the President of Chile! I knew if this was any indication, I was in for an incredible journey.
The CR Fellows program is a collaboration between Ernst & Young LLP and Endeavor, a not-for-profit organization that identifies and supports high-impact entrepreneurs in emerging economies. Since the start of the program many years ago, Ernst & Young has helped approximately 70 of the most promising entrepreneurs in Latin America succeed by dedicating a select handful of experienced professionals to provide skills-based consulting services at no charge to the business. In turn, participants like me receive hands-on business, language and leadership development skills in an emerging economy, all while gaining the invaluable experience of living and working in an entirely new culture.
When I arrived, my entrepreneurs were preparing to raise capital and expand market share so I was able to assist them by performing a company valuation, risk assessment, strategic analysis, product-pricing assessment and competitor analysis. I was also able to share some helpful tips on pitching to investors, human capital planning, and managing risk to enable their growth strategy.
Towards the end of the program, I had the chance to meet the broader Chilean entrepreneurial community through an Endeavor/Ernst & Young Knowledge Sharing Conference where I presented on the topic of Turning Risk into Results, discussing key global business risks, and why they matter to companies of all sizes and geographies.
However, it wasn’t all business. The CR Fellows experience allows for a true cultural immersion. I lived in a standard apartment, shopped at the local grocery store, rode public transportation every day and found my way around, despite my weak sense of direction and broken Spanish–thanks to the unforgettable kindness of locals.
The program also afforded me the opportunity to travel to some remarkable places including the driest desert in the world–the Atacama–and the southernmost city in the world in the Chilean Antarctic. Through work, play and travels, I made great friendships, learned just how small the world is, and discovered more similarities than differences. I also participated in the cultural exchange by sharing my background as a South Asian American and introducing authentic Indian food and an American-style Halloween to my new friends.
My goal as a Fellow was to leave my entrepreneurs with sustainable and adaptable solutions that help them realize their vision, but I too gained so much. Being a Fellow has made me more passionate about entrepreneurship and has strengthened my global mindset. As the world becomes more technology enabled, the impact of entrepreneurs becomes increasingly borderless and their role in community and economic development more vital.
Tamil Chellaiah is an advisory manager in Ernst & Young’s Louisville, Ky., office.