By Yarelys Gàlvez
My internship at Bootstrap Compost was an experience that not only met but exceeded my expectations, especially in the time of virtual learning. The opportunity came as a fellow of the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI), a US Department of State program that pairs entrepreneurs from Central and South America to work with different companies in the USA for one month. Typically we are sent on-site, but this year, due to the pandemic, the internship was conducted online. It allowed us to improve our skills through cross-training and professional growth opportunities in marketing, communications, product development, and the like; various events enabled us to network with fellow interns. The program is designed to prepare and mentor us as the leaders we are and will be within our own countries.
Who am I?
My name is Yarelys and I am a social entrepreneur from Panama. My partner Franklin and I own GeoAzul, where we collect and compost organic waste from residential and commercial accounts. In our company, we are especially focused on providing jobs to formerly incarcerated people to reintegrate, rehabilitate and dignify this often stigmatized population. Through our work, not only do we save the Panamanian waste system approximately $1 million each year, but we help avoid the recurrence of crime.
“I found it very striking that Bootstrap projects composting as a very fun activity, which is new for me, as I have always seen it as a very serious and corporate topic.”
My (invaluable) month at Bootstrap Compost was full of learning. I admired how the team worked together – through virtual meetings and otherwise – to talk through any difficulties and pain points. Bootstrap always found a fast solution for each issue as a team and more often than not I can describe their interactions as a virtual “cafe.” In the sense that, it was all very fluid, respectful and with clear goals and solutions in mind. Without a doubt, everyone was very passionate and proud of their jobs.
What lessons did I take away from Bootstrap?
- Bootstrap picks up organic waste from houses, apartments and businesses to be composted at partner sites. With the help of apps and automated technological tools, the company is able to improve communication between drivers, management, and clients, increasing collection efficiency and delivery timing. I strive toward building my operation to be as healthy and organized as Bootstrap, saving a large percentage of time (and money) at every step.
- Bootstrap’s team is constantly thinking about how to innovate in marketing, sales, and operations, which gives a certain spirit and versatility to their product, with a touch of something new and good frequently added, such products and items in their new Bootstrap Shop.
- Most notably, I found it very striking that Bootstrap projects composting as a very fun activity, which is new for me, as I have always seen it as a very serious and corporate topic. Now that I see it from Bootstrap’s point of view, I understand that the company offers their subscribers a unique product and opportunity: the company, their team and its subscribers are together enacting positive action. Through Bootstrap, roommates, families, and individuals bond to help keep food waste out of landfills, reducing pollution and creating the resource of compost. In the end, one learns the meaning of “sharing,” or the collective effort to do something good.
Without a doubt it was an extraordinary adventure. At times I wished I was in Boston to see Bootstrap in person, but due to COVID-19, this was not possible. Still, as a virtual experience, I hope I can apply what I learned through YLAI and at Bootstrap as CEO of GeoAzul and also as a growing social leader in Panama.
In conclusion, I feel full of satisfaction and gratitude for the opportunity that I obtained this past month. To those living in Greater Boston, I highly recommend Bootstrap as a company to manage your food waste through. To those seeking an internship or fellowship, look no further than Bootstrap to learn about the practical and operational applications of using composting programs to clean up their cities.