MSMEs: Sil26, a young entrepreneurship at La Timba and La Dionisia

MSMEs: Sil26, a young entrepreneurship at La Timba and La Dionisia
Fecha de publicación: 
9 February 2022
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Ángel David Fernández del Valle is a lawyer by training and prior to establishing his own business, Sil26, he practiced international law. This young man, 35, did not become a businessman when he founded a Local Development Project (LDP), which was recently approved as a MSMEs at the neighborhoods of La Timba and La Dionisia. Some people who know him well say he has been a restless and eager man since forever.

So we talked to him about his own entrepreneurship and his overall approach on the potential and development of MSMEs in Cuba.

—What does the activity carried out by Sil26 consist of?

Sil26 is a Local Development Project, which has been recently approved as a MSMEs. It was firstly thought to provide logistics service to online platforms. Initially, we did it under a courier license, which had a simplified tax regime. Afterwards, we were given the opportunity to hire more workers and we continued to expand and consequently, we hired more people. We moved on to a general tax regime. We were even able to export the service of distribution, consolidation, classification and delivery of online orders. Later on, we were able to obtain the necessary license and we began the elaboration of food from agricultural products with the purpose of packaging, freezing, benefitting them, as well as some cold cuts. In other words, we made a transition from a very simple activity: courier, to become a company whose corporate goal is the elaboration and marketing of food. We are a logistics operator, we own two warehouses, and our corporate purpose is also to provide non-basic parcel and courier services. That is, the delivery and distribution of parcels and courier services.

—Why did you choose neighborhoods like La Timba and La Dionisia?

—Since the initial stage of the project, Sil26´s social vocation was manifested, even when we were only working as couriers and collaborated with the municipal government, especially during the confinement stage due to COVID, the hardest stage, in which there were strong issues and movement restrictions. We began to support them by managing, financing and bringing lunch to sixty elderlies, vulnerable people who were not served by the Family Assistance System (SAF). We did so during the vaccination stage. We were responsible for four polyclinics. That is, we were responsible for the feeding of 32 health care workers linked to the vaccination process.

«Summing up, since we emerged as a small business we had a commitment to the community and we tried to allocate some of our profits for the benefit of that community. Then, we were called to support those communities and we showed up at an opportunity fair that was held in La Timba. We talked about the project and interested parties approached. We carried out a big recruitment work and began to insert those young people from La Timba and La Dionisia. Today, just over a dozen young people have joined Sil26 in the process of distribution, consolidation, and classification of orders. These young people get a fair sum of money in wages and enjoy a professional development and integration».

—You started as a Local Development Project. How did you become an MSMEs? What are the challenges and benefits of this change?

—Actually, the importance of this change is the legal status you achieve. You, being Local Development Project, have no legal status. That is to say, you have a bank account, an activity recognized by the community, with an agreement from the Municipal Administration Council, you have certain recognition, but you do not achieve legal status until you become a MSMEs. Perhaps the duality between MSMEs and LDP complements each other. Having both conditions gives you certain facilities.

—Has it been difficult to establish this business? From your experience, what are the main obstacles that should be removed so that these initiatives can really contribute as expected to the development of communities and the nation itself?

—Entrepreneurship is very difficult, especially because the institutions that are responsible, locally, for serving entrepreneurs do not handle very well the contents of the regulations and policies that the government is issuing. These institutions often lag behind the country's political will and economic and social strategy. Therefore, it is very difficult to come to an institution with new ideas, with innovative ideas, and they do not understand you. You are wasting a lot of time due to misunderstandings, due to lack of information...These are things that can lead you to give up at a certain moment.

«I think that’s the most difficult thing here. The fact that there is no synergy between the institutions involved in the process of approval and implementation of any project; namely, self-employment, LDP or MSMEs, and the fact that there is no understanding in real time of the Cuban government’s will to promote and motivate these projects that generate income for the community, employment —in our case, they also generate access to food, to food sovereignty, to alleviate the saturation of commercial food network, which in a very difficult hours due to COVID, when confinement and social distancing were required, we came forward and proposed solutions, which aimed to develop concepts of electronic commerce and distribution.»

—Why bet on a venture in Cuba at a time when some say the only option is to leave the country?

—I think that we are betting on doing a venture in Cuba right now because many business opportunities are emerging, to create, to carry out projects that may be profitable and so create profits. But these projects need to be linked to the places we were born. They give us a sense of belonging. Seeing your project grow and produce results, generate jobs and contribute to the community in which you grew up, help people in need, that is a source of great satisfaction.

«For young people who want to do things, now is the right time. This is the opportunity and we must take advantage of it, not only focusing on a single issue, but also carrying out projects that may be economically and socially viable on different fields, and trying to contribute in everything possible, especially starting from generating well-being in your inner circle: your family, and then generating employment for those close to you and then expanding to those who need it most.

«In my case, I have always liked to create things and try to innovate, that is why the project is called Sil26, because silicon is the element of the periodic table that has to do with everything related to technological and industrial revolution, and I had been studying this issue of electronic commerce before — I knew that it was vital for the development of our country's economy — and working with applications. That is to say, computerizing processes related to the productive economic sector. This would always have real impact and would generate development. »

—How much do you think this MSMEs can contribute to the community and society in general?

—I don't know if I should talk about how it may contribute, I would rather talk about how we are contributing. We generate employment for 40-plus people, permanent jobs. We have given employment to some young people from the neighborhoods of La Timba and La Dionisia who had no employment relationship during COVID. Some had had situations with the justice system and had issues of social integration. We set ourselves that challenge, which is a big one, but many of them have joined and remain in our project, and with their wages, they are helping their families, their children, their mothers. I believe that’s already an achievement and it is a contribution that Sil26 is giving to society, fundamentally to these vulnerable communities.

—You, who have experienced the process from within, what expectations do you have regarding the impact that MSMEs can have on the local and national economies?

—It is crystal-clear that MSMEs are going to have and already have a significant impact on local economies, on job creation, production chains, in terms of creating and generating dynamism among economic actors, in the relationship between them. MSMEs, in our view, are going to help a little to change the rhythms that some companies and institutions associated with the state sector have, because necessarily, in order to work together, they will be obliged to change their pace, be flexible, adaptable, so that the productive economic processes go faster and cannot be affected by bureaucratic issues; for instance, waiting for procedures or authorizations, and that synergy that is being built between all the actors is going to be a necessary goal to pursue in order to start talking about the drivers of local development in the Cuban economy.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Díaz / CubaSí Translation Staff

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