State Department Sending Dallas Entrepreneurs Abroad to Share Business Expertise

Dallas design entrepreneur Steve Kinder and creative agency co-founder Matt Bull are two of the 45 leaders chosen to take part in the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative Professional Fellows Reciprocal Exchange Program.

Steve Kinder

Dallas design entrepreneur Steve Kinder and creative agency co-founder Matt Bull are embarking on trips to help spur more entrepreneurial growth abroad. 

Kinder is in El Salvador this week while Bull will travel Sunday to the Bahamas. 

“Starting a business anywhere is about having the tenacity and resources to execute on an idea, and it is my hope that my experiences and insight will help spark new opportunities and connections to accelerate entrepreneurship for El Salvador,” said Kinder, LOFTwall founder and CEO, in a statement.

LOFTwall founder Steve Kinder [Photo courtesy of LOFTwall]

The work is part of the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative Professional Fellows Reciprocal Exchange Program, which aims to empower young entrepreneurs in Latin America and the Caribbean through connections with U.S. leaders.

The program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and implemented by the Meridian International Center as well as locally by the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth. In 2016, YLAI kicked off in the Dallas area

“Starting a business anywhere is about having the tenacity and resources to execute on an idea …”

Steve Kinder

Last year, a group of YLAI fellows got on-the-job experience at North Texas organizations including Kinder’s LOFTwall, Bull’s Kickstand, DHD Films, and Dallas County Community College. Now, Bull and Kinder are two of 45 leaders around the nation selected by the state department to take their expertise to their respective fellows’ countries. 

“Kickstand is excited to have the support of the U.S. Department of State to help inspire young entrepreneurs around the globe,” said Bull, who helped start Dallas boutique creative agency Kickstand with Bo Bartlett. He said his agency has “a knack for off-kilter campaign building,” and has done work for Gearbox Software, Ted’s Pain Cream as well as some large brands he can’t legally disclose. 

BRINGING INDUSTRIAL DESIGN TO EL SALVADOR

While in El Salvador, Kinder planned to visit universities and local companies to share his best practices in design and building companies. In addition to LOFTwall, Kinder also is co-founder of Dallas coworking space GoodWork and is involved with the Dallas chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

“I’m really excited to educate and explore how to help others in their own country leverage resources and build a community to support startups and an entrepreneurial culture between businesses, the government, universities, and creatives/designers,” Kinder told Dallas Innovates via email.

Last year, Kinder hosted Roberto Juarez, a YLAI fellow from El Salvador. While in Dallas, Juarez worked with LOFTwall, a manufacturer of non-permanent room dividers and privacy partitions for commercial and residential spaces. He also was able to connect with the local startup community.

“During my YLAI fellowship, I focused mainly on understanding how a company based on a designed product works. So my time in LOFTwall was amazingly good, meeting the whole team and understanding deeply the tasks each one of them were doing and how they are organized,” Juarez told Dallas Innovates via email.

“We have a lot of social issues too that we, as designers, can address. Now, I have a clearer vision of what we need to achieve and what we can become …” 

Roberto Juarez

He said the experience helped open his eyes to the steps El Salvador should take to grow and he’s been focused on implementing what he learned.

“We have a lot of social issues too that we, as designers, can address. Now, I have a clearer vision of what we need to achieve and what we can become thanks to YLAI and my placement at LOFTwall,” Juarez said.

Back in El Salvador, Juarez is focused on growing LERO Studio with his partner Leonel Monterrosa. The 5-year-old industrial design studio is unique in the country and has already had exhibits in New York and Paris.

“Our business model keeps evolving as we keep going and we understand how can we aim our talent. With no other industrial design studio in the country, we didn’t exactly know what we were supposed to do and how. We’ve been always open minded and ready to pivot when needed,” Juarez said.

INSPIRING CREATIVES IN THE BAHAMAS

Bull’s YLAI fellow last fall was playwright Kerel Pinder from the Bahamas. She’s working on spurring more original content production in her country and encouraging Bahamians to think of pursuing careers in creative arts.

Bull will be in the Bahamas for the opening weekend of Pinder’s latest stage production. He’s also planning to help her facilitate a workshop for locals interested in careers as writers or actors. They’re planning to produce a short documentary about the Bahamian creative along the way. 

“Kerel has the network, the play production, and the workshop itinerary locked down, our added value is in video production management, and in helping to integrate local brands and nonprofits into the project,” Bull said. 

Kickstand’s Matt Bull and Bo Bartlett with their Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative fellow Kerel Pinder from the Bahamas. [Photo courtesy of Kickstand]

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