Ask a Leader 2011 - Felipe Vergara

Felipe Vergara is the CEO of Lumni, one of the Endeavor Colombia companies and also an AShoka Fellow. Felipe was recently awarded as THE SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS OF THE YEAR 2011 - LATIN AMERICA by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship.

Through my role at Endeavor Colombia, I had had the pleasure to meet Felipe and his team, mainly in the Colombia office, and Lumni has no doubt been a source of inspiration as a person and as a potential entrepreneur (Felipe is also from my home city, Barranquilla, so that makes the role modelling effect even more special).

Felipe has also been a supporter of my MBA cause :-) ... besides all the cheering when I took the decision and in all my GMAT "calvary", his short lines every now and then were key to keep going. In absence of resources to pay for an admissions consultant as many people do, I`ve leveraged on key entrepreneurs from the Endeavor Colombia network such as Felipe to help me facing different levels of the admimission process. Felipe for instance mocked my BABSON interview and it was fantastic to get his feedback, it was no doubt very useful and I`ll never forget how such a busy person took time on a weekend to sit down with me over Skype to help me on this. Last but not least Felipe has recently acted as one of my recommenders for a OAS Scholarship also to fund the MBA at BABSON, scholarship where I`m already in the last round of 8 finalists (out of more than 140) in Colombia.

Maybe on of the coolest experiences with Lumni has been the one when they opened the door to me to deliver a trainning on "Communications" for a group of students of one of its funds: VENTANAS. The story is very funny, originally Lumni requested me as its Endeavor Key Account Manager to get one of our (very senior) Entrepreneur Mentors to deliver this trainning. For some reasons, the Mentors we approached were not available at this date and I simply volunteered myself to do it with the surprise that they accepted. Here are some pictures of that day.

Something that not many people know, is that by that time I was also in the process to open my "already closed" restaurant Sizzlers (we opened from Jan 2010 to Dec 2011), in Bogota. I remember that I hired two guys that I met at this training that were studying culinary with support of Lumni. The two students worked couple of weeks with me to help us gather key information for the business plan of the restaurant. We did not work longer since in the end we came to the conclusion that their time was very limited (actually one of them worked at the Lumni Colombia office as well).

I really hope to keep in touch with Felipe and his incredible model despite my incoming move from Endeavor! And thanks again for everything!