Success Stories

Vanessa Olivera

Vanessa Olivera always dreamed of owning a business -- a drugstore to be more precise.

Upon graduating college with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a minor degree in Marketing, Vanessa found a job as a pharmaceutical rep covering Puerto Rico’s southeast region.

“I learned a lot and grew a lot,” Vanessa says. “I worked with the company for 10 years, as a pharmaceutical rep for about five and a half, and the remaining time as a supervisor.”

Vanessa realized she had the talent and potential to operate a business of her own and in 2013 took the leap into entrepreneurship, opening her shop called Valorios. But first, Vanessa visited the Women’s Business Institute (WBI) and enrolled in the course ‘From the Idea to the Key’, which covers all of the steps required to start a small business on the island.

Established in 1997 under a cooperative agreement between the U.S. Small Business Administration and the University of the Sacred Heart, the WBI provides... Read More

The story of Café Roma began over three decades ago in Cruz Bay on the beautiful island of St. John.  It is a favorite spot among locals and tourists alike, and has overcome more adversity than perhaps any one business in the U.S. Virgin Islands has ever seen.

But for John Hiebert, current owner of Café Roma, the story is barely beginning.

It was 25 years ago that John and his wife Michelle honeymooned in St. Thomas, promising each other that, not only would they return some day, but that they would make the island their home.

Originally from Connecticut, John always had an entrepreneurial spirit. Upon graduating college he started a small recycling business.  He then sold to a large waste disposal company and became a manager for Papa John’s in Orlando, FL. Later, moving to South Florida, he worked at an Italian restaurant where he got the know-how and hands-on experience. Finally, along with a couple of partners he bought four restaurants.

After... Read More

Alfonso Fernández and Javier Torrens of A.F. Rema

Alfonso Fernández left his beloved Spain at the age of 18.  It was a time of dictatorship in his home country, and the young man was in search of freedom and a better quality of life.

He joined his uncle, who had moved to Puerto Rico not long before, and began working at his company specializing in maintenance and repair systems for tires.  In 1973, Alfonso established A.F. Rema in Bayamón, Puerto Rico taking over his uncle’s business and working mostly out of the trunk of his car.  In time he met Annabella Debs, a young woman whose family had also left their homeland –Cuba—in search of brighter tomorrows. The couple married and together continued building the company.

A.F. Rema, with nearly 40 years of market experience offers 4,000 products for different industry sectors, among them materials to repair tires, rubber products, machinery, tools, alignment products, and lubricants for cleaning and shine, to mention a few. Also, the company offers certified training... Read More

Nairda Hernández

Woman Entrepreneur Succeeds at Business Ownership with Great Faith, Perseverance and SBA Assistance

When she was five or six years old, Nairda Hernández dreamed of someday becoming a supermodel.

She would saunter out in her mother’s high heels, slide a rubber band on her small wrist with a nail-clipper hanging from it like a medallion, and beg to be introduced to her parents’ friends visiting their home.

“I would ask, ‘Mami, Mami, introduce me!” Nairda recalls. “And she would say ‘ladies and gentlemen, with you, Nairda Hernández! I would walk out shaking my wrist and striking a pose.”

Time and again Nairda would plead with her mother to enroll her in modeling classes, and each time she got the same response: “when you’re a little older.”

“Since I was so little, I thought that meant when I was in the sixth grade, so I asked then, and again when I was in the ninth grade.  I never got a different answer, so I decided to wait... Read More