December 9, 2019

Beyond Silicon Valley – Connecting Students in Cleveland to Entrepreneurs in Venezuela


Sydney Wagner, a junior accounting major at Weatherhead, is participating in the Beyond Silicon Valley course taught by Associate Professor Michael Goldberg. The course is part of Case Western Reserve University SAGES, which is an undergraduate seminar program.  This semester, the course partners students with entrepreneurs in Venezuela to learn about their ventures and how they are building their business in the struggling economy.  

Q: Describe the entrepreneur from Venezuela you were paired with. What does he/she do, what challenges does he/she face?
My entrepreneur was Daniela Court. She and her business partner, Valentina Gordon, started Bee∙nené, a clothing brand for ‘nenés’ that transforms babies into little mini adults with a European style. In the face of the crisis, they have experienced electric failures, water shortages, and spotty internet that has halted their business and the businesses that work for them. These changes have created an entrepreneurial environment susceptible to failure, but Daniela and Valentina have not slowed down on accomplishing their dreams. They are even starting to see some great trends in their business this year. Amazingly, Daniela and Valentina provided their own capital from past jobs to start Bee∙nené which is often one of the most challenging parts.

    Q: What is one thing you learned from this class so far that has surprised you or interested you the most?
I loved learning so much about a country that I knew nothing about before. Venezuela is a topic that you just keep learning about. And we learned so much more than just Venezuela’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. We got to learn how Venezuelans  survive and the struggles they face. Mostly, I think this class has taught me how interconnected we are as people. The speakers and Venezuelan entrepreneurs were so considerate to talk to us about their passions and the struggles they’ve faced. It was also amazing to have a group of Venezuelan Cohorts available so we could teach each other about our countries.
   Q: What new concepts have you learned in the class and through this project that might stick with you the most or carry with you?
I think I will focus on the tools and resources that entrepreneurs could use to build their business. I think most of the time, entrepreneurs do not always know the resources available but throughout this semester, we have gone through types of assistance for entrepreneurs. As a future entrepreneur, those resources will stay with me until I need them. We also got a chance to network with many different professionals and that experience will stick with me throughout my entire professional career.
   Q: Why has this class been such a unique experience for you?
It’s such an interactive class. The speakers were always a highlight for me. The speakers were diverse and all highly educated professionals that just motivated me to get to a point like that someday. The things that this class does is just so inspiring. It’s amazing that this class and Professor Goldberg can bring together a diverse and inviting community. I think we all feel a little bit of a connection to Venezuela after this class and will be rooting for a bright future for the country.