Meet the insurance broker from the diaspora devoted to helping Puerto Rican businesses.

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Insurance broker and business owner Joel Berrocal was born and raised in Pennsylvania, but that hasn’t lessened his strong bond with Puerto Rico. In the destructive aftermath of Hurricane María, Berrocal saw an opportunity to mobilize members of the Puerto Rican diaspora to support communities affected by the natural disaster. In a collaboration with the National Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce, he helped to raise over $100,000 to assist with disaster relief efforts. His commitment to the betterment of the island led to his current role as National Director of Small Business Development for the Chamber, a nonprofit organization created to support the development of entrepreneurship, innovation and business throughout Puerto Rico and its diaspora in the United States.

The National Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce provides resources for incubating business ideas, leveraging new markets, taking advantage of new opportunities and ultimately advocates for policies that help the entrepreneurial industry grow. The organization aims to act as a bridge between Puerto Rico’s small business ecosystem and the Puerto Rican diaspora by helping entrepreneurs grow and scale their businesses in U.S. markets. They also help U.S. businesses enter the Puerto Rican market, whether they are exporting services from the mainland or want to physically relocate to the island.

Since it was founded in 2010, the organization has helped over 10,000 entrepreneurs thrive. After the COVID-19 pandemic, that number has increased significantly because the Chamber has adapted to the current needs of the business community. “Companies aren’t worrying about expanding or growing, but rather surviving during these tough times,” said Berrocal.

To address these challenges, the organization has developed events like educational webinars on how to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program loans, online workshops on how to adjust businesses to today’s circumstances and offerings that help business owners create websites for their companies.

For Berrocal, the key to the Chamber’s growth has been sharing their working with the public, alongside strategic social media management. They have been active for over a decade, but it wasn’t until recently that the organization started to use media platforms to showcase their efforts. The increased visibility also enables the organization to find sponsors. According to Berrocal, what matters is not what you say you want to do, but how you can demonstrate what you have already done.

During their early years, the organization didn’t offer small business memberships in the traditional sense of a chamber of commerce. “We helped small businesses with the things they needed on a sort of à la carte basis,” Berrocal explained. Today, aside from sponsors, the organization’s revenue comes from a variety of membership offerings. The Chamber has annual plans for small businesses that range from $250 to $500 and include the opportunity to connect with experts who support entrepreneurs with starting their businesses, as well as the chance to receive training throughout their growth stages. Additional perks include being highlighted in the Chamber’s email newsletter announcement, which has over 15,000 subscribers. In the future, the Chamber intends to create a database with a matchmaking algorithm that would pair businesses with their ideal investors.

The Chamber is currently focused on forging strategic partnerships with organizations in Puerto Rico and the United States to increase their programming and offerings. Berrocal has considered creating an accelerator program, but due to the many existing opportunities to participate in business accelerators and incubators on the island, the Chamber sees a greater opportunity to join forces and support them. To learn more about The National Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce and stay up to date with their events, visit their website at http://www.nprchamber.org.

Gustavo Diaz Skoff

Gustavo Diaz Skoff

Gustavo A. Diaz Skoff is an entrepreneur born and raised in Puerto Rico's startup ecosystem. Gustavo has over a decade of experience leading non-profit organizations, administering real estate ventures, and consulting small family-owned businesses on the island. Gustavo completed his Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration at Babson College. He serves as the president and founder of BASED.