FIU welcomes Cuban entrepreneurs for first-of-its-kind summer program

By Ceylin Arias, staff writer


The FIU community welcomed 15 Cuban entrepreneurs on Monday, May 30, as part of InCubando@FIU, a program established to boost independent business and innovation in Cuba.

According to Sebastian Arcos, assistant director of the FIU Cuban Research Institute, the summer program was designed over two years ago, after a change of policy with Cuba was implemented by President Barack Obama in December 2014.

The participants will spend six weeks at the Modesto Maidique Campus while living in student dorms.

While there, they will be attending the College of Business to take a variety of Spanish courses taught by the College of Business faculty in areas such as accounting, marketing and sales, finance, etc.

They will be provided with basic training to sharpen and strengthen their entrepreneurial skills, in hopes that they will be able to further grow and build their businesses back in the island.

“The program serves several purposes: one, to provide training to Cuban entrepreneurs who have grown up in an environment where there are no private enterprises, so they do not have any training on how to run a business and, in turn, do what they do based on instincts,” says Arcos.

InCubando@FIU is funded through both StartUp Cuba, a Miami organization dedicated to connecting with and empowering Cuban youth on and off the island, and a project of Roots of Hope, as well as through private donations.

Arcos said, “This is the perfect example of the benefits of public-private partnership because we, FIU, are a public site, a public university and we are working with private partners. This is the beauty of a public-private partnership model.”

Apart from taking business classes, FIU’s English Language Institute will be providing English intensive courses for the participants throughout the six-week period.

The group will also have the opportunity to experience Miami life by visiting local businesses and partnering with mentors.

“Secondly, it [the summer program] will serve the purpose of making the FIU brand known in Cuba which fits the long term plan the University has which also includes being of important resource for higher education in the island,” said Arcos.

The students were selected from a pool of more than 100 applicants from all over the island, according to the Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs.

Arcos continues, “There have been two or three entrepreneurial programs in Cuba but never outside the island. We thought they would receive a more comprehensive education if we were able to bring them here.”

The entrepreneurs represent a broad spectrum of the micro-enterprises that have sprouted in Cuba in the last few years, in the spaces of fashion design, apparel manufacturing, media, hospitality and financial services.
“In many ways, it resembles a study abroad program as they are experiencing a number of different things including a life in Miami, the city that has the largest number of Cuban exiles than anywhere in the world, living in an accredited American public university, and having the opportunity to receive a proper education,” said Arcos.

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