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Karen and Josette: Turning A Lifelong Passion
Into A Successful Business


Photography has been Karen Kalou’s passion for as long as she can remember.   After studying photography in Canada, Karen returned to Beirut where she met Josette Youssef, a photographer who had recently moved to Lebanon from New York.  They quickly realized they shared the goal of bringing an innovative perspective to the field of photography and decided to join forces and establish Karen & Josette, a unique specialty photography business.

Soon after launching their partnership, Karen realized that as an artistic person with work experience only in the creative industry, she did not have the background necessary to launch a business, which would be successful and sustainable in the long run. A friend told her about the Cisco Entrepreneur workshop “Starting a Business” at AMIDEAST/Lebanon.  Karen decided to seize the opportunity to register in the workshop. 

For the budding entrepreneur, the program was like a checklist that helped her gain the confidence and skills necessary to accomplish her goals.  Karen was presented with solutions to issues that were raised, given tools to create a successful business plan and given the opportunity to exchange ideas and valuable resources with other participants,  helping her create a viable and successful business.  The workshop also helped Karen learn to effectively manage her partnership with Josette by categorizing their strengths and weaknesses and to defining their individual tasks and roles within their business.  Ultimately, Karen felt that the workshop’s greatest benefits were the network she was able to build and the mentorship she received.

In addition the knowledge gained from her workshop participation, Karen was encouraged by her Institute Program Manager, Allyson Jerab, to compete in the Bader/Deutsche Bank Creative Awards.  With the support and feedback from her mentor, IPM and Faciliator, Karen and Josette made their presentation based on their input and were awarded the Jury Award and 10,000 Euro, which they will use to help grow their business.


  • Turned a hobby into a successful business
  • Created a successful working partnership
  • Won the Jury Award and 10,000 Euro in the prestigious Bader/Deutsche Bank Creative Awards

Karen’s success story is a testament to the benefits of her participation in the “Starting a Business” workshop.  In her words, “I’m always recommending the Cisco Entrepreneur Institute to friends.  Even if I don’t, they see how much help and exposure we’re getting and hear us talk about the incredible people we’ve met who are really always there to help us.   For anyone wanting to start their own business my advice would be that they need to have a clear vision, be passionate, and should know their strengths and weaknesses.”

SENCON: Finding a Solution to a Common Problem with an Entrepreneurial Mindset Strengthened by Cisco


David Hurtadois is a 25 year old a Colombian entrepreneur.  His story began in 2006 while he was studying Biomedical Engineering at the Autonomous University in West Cali, Colombia. Since that moment, he showed his entrepreneurial mindset when faced with an everyday problem for millions of students around the world.  

David’s university had found that the classroom seating was not accessible for wheelchairs or students who were overweight.  Realizing the urgency of this need, the university contacted the Biomedical Engineering department to find a solution.  David was asked to join the research team and after two and a half years of research, the project became the subject of David’s dissertation and the catalyst for the beginning of SENCON, a company he created dedicated to the design and manufacturing of comfortable and accessible seating.

David’s research began with a conceptual design of an ergonomic and portable table for people in wheelchairs.  Based on his concepts, David was given a budget for project development from the university in August of 2007.

After the research process concluded in 2010, David had already identified the business potential of his project.   He enrolled in the Cisco Entrepreneur Institute’s workshops at the ICESI University in Cali, Colombia.  Over the course of four months, David participated in the workshop “Online Business” from ICESI, a program that includes the content from the workshops “Starting a Business” and “Growing a Business” from Cisco Entrepreneur Institute.

With his newfound knowledge, David is now consolidating his business plan for SENCON. “We’re taking a lot of elements from the entrepreneurship model that ICESI and Cisco offer”, he says. “The most important aspects of the workshops were to have the chance to share with other people with business plans and the video-testimonials from other entrepreneurs. They speak from their own experience and this is very important. Their knowledge is very valuable”, he notes.

David also found the knowledge he gained in financial analysis and marketing to be invaluable.  “One of the main obstacles that I had as a Biomedical Engineer was to have a very different vision from an entrepreneur. To be an entrepreneur one should be oriented to the market, to have a business model and to know how to be profitable.  The ICESI and Cisco Entrepreneur Institute workshops also taught me not to think small.”  David’s experience opened his eyes to exporting his products and creating a social venture to lower the costs of production and obtain sponsors to benefit a larger population that could benefit from his products.

David is currently in negotiations with his university to obtain the licenses and patents of his design so he can begin sales in Colombia.  He is also in negotiations to sell the product in Ecuador, and ultimately throughout the world.

According to David, entrepreneurship is a about perseverance and setting goals. “I’m doing what I like. This is for a long term.  It’s taking a lot of time, but I’m the owner of my own destiny”, David concludes.

Keenwash: A Jordanian waterless carwash franchise enabled by the Entrepreneur Institute


The company, Keenwash, planned to deliver a fairly simple service: a waterless car wash and wax. For Jordan, one of the most water-deprived countries in the world, this idea seems imaginative and yet, it also has the transformational power that all good businesses need. For while a dirty car wouldn’t seem to be an insurmountable challenge, in Jordan, washing one can be. On average, washing a car at home consumes roughly 400 liters of precious water, while conventional car washes consume around half that much.

While Keenwash clearly had an intriguing solution to a widespread problem—wasting valuable water on dirty cars—this alone did not equate to a successful business. For founders Nader and Hassan Atmeh, finding a model that would be scalable, manageable, and profitable was the challenge. The two founders had extensive backgrounds in science, but neither had the business savvy to build a business that would allow them to leverage the benefits of their innovation.

Jordan’s Keenwash founders were amongst the few lucky entrepreneurs to participate in the first training courses organized by the Cisco Entrepreneur Institute in Jordan, held at the Queen Rania Center for Entrepreneurship. They participated in coursework that included collaboration, access to resources, and mentoring that helped them understand how their business could succeed.


  • Signed up two new franchisors in Saudi Arabia and Yemen
  • More partners in pipeline
  • Treated 2,800 in the first five months
  • End of year forecast after franchising: 28,000 cars

“Entrepreneurship education was very traditional for us before we joined the first Cisco Entrepreneur Institute course, Starting a Business. Technologies used helped us to better learn, understand, and apply,” stated Hassan Atmeh, COO, Keenwash.

The founders learned how to develop a business plan that would help them reach their goals, and gain valuable skills on how to run their business effectively.

KeenWash Case Study

Cisco partners with Leamos to Extend Literacy Education to Women in Mexico


December 2009 marked the launch of an exciting new partnership between the Cisco Entrepreneur Institute, Leamos and the Pro Mazahua Foundation to offer a virtual learning literacy workshop to nineteen indigenous Mazahua women of Mexico State.

“The pilot is significant because of the projected results of the partnership.  Nineteen Mazahuas women will both learn to read and write, and receive computer training.  This is an important step towards reducing the digital divide in Mexico”, said Gelly Calpe, Territory Institute Manager for Mexico. 

Jose Luis, the workshop facilitator, has worked closely with community members to pave the way for the successful implementation of the workshop.  In addition to planning and instructing the women in the literacy workshop, Jose had to convince the women’s husbands to allow them to participate in the Leamos pilot.  Within the Mazahua community literacy and education is traditionally considered unnecessary for women.  Jose worked with the men to show the value of their wives’ participation in the workshop.

The women, who all received complete scholarships to participate in the workshop, are dedicated to the completing the three month workshop.  In some cases must walk over an hour to reach the center where the workshop is offered.  If the pilot is a success, the Cisco Entrepreneur Institute, the Pro Mazahua Foundation and Leamos hope to bring the workshop to two additional communities that have expressed interest in the workshop.

Zhanna Stoyanova
Koala Bag
Computer Academy STEP
Odessa, Ukraine

Koala Bag

Zhanna Stoyanova, a participant in the “Starting a Business” workshop, converted a fashion dilemma into a business opportunity. After an unsuccessful shopping trip to find a bag to match a dress with an ethnic print, Zhanna decided to start a business creating bags with world culture themes and designs.

Zhanna participated in “Starting a Business” at the Cisco Entrepreneur Institute at the Computer Academy STEP in Odessa, Ukraine. Through this workshop, Zhanna conducted market research and wrote a business plan, enabling her to create her first collection using African fabrics and ornaments. She is currently planning her next collection which will highlight the culture and styles of Finland. In addition to learning key business planning and management skills, Zhanna says it was the support of her Cisco Entrepreneur Institute facilitator and fellow participants that have greatly contributed to her business’s early success. In fact one classmate is helping to build a website to showcase and sell her designs.

When asked what is most important to keep in mind as an entrepreneur, Zhanna stresses the importance of having a clear business plan and the knowledge and skills necessary to successfully launch a new business.

Elena Savelyeva
Hlebopechka On-Line Bakery
Computer Academy STEP
Odessa, Ukraine

Hlebopechka On-Line Bakery

Elena Savelyeva, a Cisco Entrepreneur Institute participant in Odessa, Ukraine, has combined her love of baking with an innovative spirit, to launch Ukraine’s first online-bakery in March 2009. Hlebopechka On-Line Bakery is an information portal about the art of successful baking. provides resources including articles, classes and recipes; interactive forums connecting home bakery owners, and an online shop for all baking needs, from flour to baking equipment.

Elena participated in the Cisco Entrepreneur Institute workshop, “Starting a Business”, at the Computer Academy STEP. As an Institute participant, Elena says she greatly benefited from the ideas presented in the workshop, the guest speakers and use of technology, in helping her to develop the confidence and knowledge to create her own business.

Elena Savelyeva offers the following words of encouragement to aspiring entrepreneurs, “do not be afraid to take a step forward towards the goal, to dream.”

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