It all began with a small loan of $15 and selling chocolate door-to-door. That’s how Stephanie Carvajalino, along with her sisters, Karen and Daniela, began their first business in their hometown of Barranquilla, Colombia at the young ages of six, seven, and eight.
Too young to open a bank account or sign contracts for their speaking engagements, they relied on their parents, to whom they credit much of their success. But institutional obstacles aside, there are advantages to getting into business at a young age.
“The good part of starting so young is that it turns into a lifestyle…You totally change your mindset. We started seeing everything as a business,” said Stephanie, the youngest sister and a senior at Kennesaw State University.
Now in their early 20s, the Carvajalino Sisters or “Las Carvajalino,” as they are known, are gaining international recognition for their work as young entrepreneurs, authors, and motivational speakers.
In 2016, the sisters were invited by President Obama to present their educational program, The Biz Nation, at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Silicon Valley. And in 2017, they addressed young leaders from around the world at the One Young World Summit in Bogota, Colombia.
The Biz Nation is an online learning platform that teaches entrepreneurship, technological skills, and financial literacy. Its mission is to promote economic development by closing the education gap.
By entrepreneurs and for entrepreneurs, The Biz Nation is all about empowering the next generation of leaders by democratizing its greatest resource: knowledge.
That’s why 20% of Biz Nation’s revenue goes towards funding educational programs for vulnerable communities in Colombia. (Course instructors receive 50% of the revenue and Biz Nation keeps 30% to run the company.)
“What we want to do is give the same quality of education for someone who can afford it to those who cannot,” said Stephanie.
The idea for their latest passion project was born from the sisters’ experiences at their speaking engagements, where they would inevitably meet aspiring entrepreneurs who lamented that it was too hard to get started.
“Being an entrepreneur is worth it. It’s not easy but it’s worth it,” said Stephanie. “That’s why we developed The Biz Nation. Because people were always asking us, “Okay, now what? I want to be an entrepreneur, now what?”
For the Carvajalinos, a crucial component of that answer lies in developing technical skills.
“A lot of people say, oh there’s no employment, there are no opportunities, but the reality is there’s a lot of employment; there’s a lot of work to do, but people are not prepared for those jobs,” Stephanie explained.
“World Bank stated that 4 out of 5 children who are entering elementary will hold jobs that do not currently exist today. Schools are preparing kids for the jobs of today but whenever they graduate, those jobs won’t exist. So, we are preparing them for failure.”
That’s why they’ve come up with #BizNation22 – a benchmark goal to reach 2 million students and 200,000 educators in 20 countries before the year 2022. Ever the math-minded businesswoman, Stephanie knows the key to reaching that goal is getting the teachers on board.
“If we can impact 500 students that would be great. But if we can impact 500 educators and they go and impact all their students, then it’ll be even better.”
As for what’s next for the Carvajalino Sisters? In May, Stephanie will graduate from Kennesaw State, as did her sisters before her. Both Karen and Daniela are home in Colombia but travel back to the States frequently, including to Miami where The Biz Nation’s U.S. operations are based. After graduation, Stephanie will have a year on her student visa to stay in the U.S. and work, and she plans to stay in Atlanta where it’s “affordable to dream.”
“I love this city. It has given us all these opportunities…I’ve met so many people that have helped us… That’s the biggest thing any young entrepreneur should have in their life: networking.”
Photos are property of the Carvajalino Sisters.