The Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) is committed to supporting entrepreneurs at every level. We encourage young entrepreneurs through the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA), the premier competition for college and university students who own and operate businesses. The 2021 GSEA Global Finals were held virtually in May this year, and gave students access to mentorship and networking opportunities with both seasoned entrepreneurs and other competitors.
The 2021 GSEA Global Champion is Roberta Elizondo, a former business creation and innovation student who represented Mexico. We sat down with Roberta to chat about her inspirational business, Travelers with Cause. Travelers with Cause promotes responsible tourism and aims to create a positive social impact in vulnerable communities. Here is her story and top tips for success:
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START YOUR OWN BUSINESS?
I’ve been passionate about entrepreneurship from a young age. In the past I ran a pizzeria and learned important skills about how to run a successful business.
My success came when I started travelling in high school. Seven years ago, I made a trip to Kenya that changed my life and gave me a new perspective on how tourism can support social causes. Since then, I’ve built up an organisation that sends volunteers abroad and promotes responsible tourism.
My degree at the Universidad de Monterrey also had a significant focus on entrepreneurship. I was required to build a functional business as part of my studies and the university provided support and mentorship throughout the process.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE AS A STUDENT ENTREPRENEUR?
I was initially sponsored by a large company in Mexico to study at university. This meant I had to work for this company alongside my studies and running my own business. This became difficult as my business started to grow, and I eventually made the decision to give up my scholarship and fund myself through school. This was a risk, but it meant I was able to focus on my dream and continue to build my business. It’s been great, and I would encourage everyone in a similar position to follow their dreams, believe in themselves and focus their energy on their passions.
As you might expect, running a tourism business has been a big challenge during the pandemic! The last year has been difficult at times but we’ve made it out the other side and things are beginning to pick up.
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY?
This is a cliché, but I prefer to focus on the future! Everything that has happened in this journey has made me stronger, braver, and more adaptable. I think it’s important to focus on what is to come and accept that any past mistakes have brought me to where I am today
WHO HAS SUPPORTED YOU ON YOUR JOURNEY?
I would not be where I am today without my network of mentors, teachers, and the career director at my university. The university paid for the registration of my business and provided advice throughout the process. I would encourage all students starting up businesses while at university to access the career support services on offer as they made a big impact on my success.
My co-founder, Alex Rubio, has also been great. He’s a former UN volunteer in a refugee camp in Zambia, so he has been fantastic at developing and identifying social projects. We complement each other well and he really believes in the core values of our business.
WHY SHOULD OTHER STUDENTS APPLY TO GSEA?
I originally applied to GSEA because I knew of EO and the mentorship and networking opportunities on offer. EO itself gives entrepreneurs access to a great network of contacts and business leaders so I would encourage students to get involved as early as possible.
Aside from anything else – you literally have nothing to lose and a lot to win! You have friends, money, and mentors to win, and you don’t even have to pay to enter the competition
GSEA is great because it values the person and not the project. The competition is about stories, you get the chance to share yourself and your story as an entrepreneur and develop a wider perspective on the experiences of others.
WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS FOR YOUR BUSINESS?
Each year we strive for something different. This year we’re focusing on growth. We’re investing in new technology and identifying new markets to enter. Currently 85% of our market is in Latin America, and we’re looking to expand into the American and European markets in over 2021.
Interested in starting your own GSEA journey? Apply now!