Best Practices

Where in the World? Rainforest Yields Entrepreneurial Bounty

Published May 19, 2011 by Maria Meyers

After a somewhat brutal Midwest winter, thinking back to a couple of trips to Puerto Rico warms the heart.

I was invited to speak at a conference in Puerto Rico during Global Entrepreneurship Week.  I asked around to find out what I should definitely see if I visited the commonwealth. First answer: Puerto Rico is home to the only true rainforest in the United States. So I found a way to experience it by spending a night at a small business: a bed and breakfast—in the rainforest. 

My one-night stay at Casa PicaFlores was a delight. Those plants that are growing out of pots in my family room are growing out of the ground on this small acreage.   One can pick the starfruits and bananas off the trees.  And the coqui (very noisy frogs) sing a chorus at night.  The proprietor of the inn, Barbara Rogers, is working to serve not only clients looking for a place to rest, but utilizing the environment to create a fruit farm that can send dried organic produce to other areas of the world.

Dana Montenegro with Seriously Creative was a tremendous help to me during the conference, acting as an interpreter both in language (Puerto Rico’s official language is Spanish) and culture.  Dana grew up on a tiny island off the coast of St. Thomas.  He took the boat to the bigger island each day to attend grade school.  His high energy and creativity led him to spend time as Driver of Culture, Innovation and Inspiration for Red Bull Energy Drink for Latin America.  Today, he operates an innovative business in San Juan that includes not only services that help businesses think outside the box but a box to think in―a meeting space designed specially to bring out creative thinking.

Angel Santiago has taken advantage of the climate of Puerto Rico to build a coffee business. He and a group of very young entrepreneurs acquired a 320-acre coffee plantation in 2005.  Encantos de Puerto Rico is now the leading supplier of specialty coffee and espresso equipment for the foodservice industry in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.  In addition to growing coffee, the plantation is managed with the environment in mind.  It was declared an Auxiliary Forest by the Department of Natural Resources because of its conservation and reforestation efforts and certified by the Fish and Wildlife Agency due to its effort to plant “specific trees in a particular pattern that provides shade to the coffee plants and shelter to endemic and migratory birds.”

The really fun part was that I was able to introduce one of our local Kansas City coffee roasters, Danny O’Neill from The Roasterie with the coffee growers in Puerto Rico.