Hurricane María hit Puerto Rico in September of 2017 and efforts soon followed to help the island. Many people worked day and night to send clean water, canned food, plus other emergency relief items. Some of the help came from those who had left Puerto Rico since we’re still closely connected at heart.
After months of hard work, the island seemed to be getting better but still needed more support to thrive. Ric Elias, co-founder of Red Ventures (RV) and a native Puerto Rican living in the U.S., had sent relief to the island but felt there was more he could do.
Putting a mission statement into motion
In May 2018, Ric united a team of RV employees to start a social enterprise that could help revitalize the Puerto Rican economy. This new initiative would be called Forward787 (FWD787) — named after one of Puerto Rico’s area codes: 787.
The mission? To invigorate Puerto Rico’s economy by deploying top talent, state-of-the-art technology, and financial capital back into the island. To bring together great people who want to use their talents to challenge what is possible, with the purpose of giving back to Puerto Rico.
One small step, one big leap of faith
Since the beginning of RV, its focus has been on recruiting people with great talent, individuals eager to add value and be excellent teammates. The same is true of FWD787. However, FWD787 members needed to have one additional thing— an incredible passion for Puerto Rico!
After evaluating more than a thousand applications, the hiring team extended offers to professionals who would take a big leap of faith to be a part of this economic engine revitalization.
Who is FWD787?
This is where I come into our story. Back in October 2018, I joined about 40 technology and business professionals with all kinds of backgrounds — accountants, auditors, coordinators, tax attorneys, software engineers, mechanical engineers, investors, and entrepreneurs. This diverse group of people is the First Cohort for FWD787 which I am part of, working as a creative.
Since that time, we’ve integrated a Second Cohort with 38 new members, including recent graduates. We are now more than 70 professionals strong, all on board to work toward positively impacting our beautiful island.
The real twist? All of us were hired to be let go! The plan is to work between 12 and 15 months in Charlotte, where RV headquarters resides, and then GO BACK to Puerto Rico to work with a portfolio of digital assets that we are bringing back as part of the initial phase. While in the Queen City, we are in different roles such as customer experience, software development, SEO, paid search, strategy, and data analysis.
What is our team like?
In our spare time at RV, you might find us salsa dancing in the Culture Fest talent show, climbing the stairs for a good cause, asking tons of questions in meetings and training sessions, as well as simply sitting together enjoying a super-energetic conversation over our lunch break. Even though most of us met for the first time here at RV, a lot of people around here think we’ve known each other for a lifetime.
As it is in dance, every step we take is meaningful and relates back to our mission to help Puerto Rico. But perhaps the best part is that this desire is not just coming from Puerto Ricans. We have Venezuelans, Dominicans, and even someone that was born in Thailand!
In fact, our team includes three different groups:
- Those who recently left the island. These talented professionals were working in the job of their dreams back home. They were enjoying an endless summer all year long but felt they could contribute even more to Puerto Rico and couldn’t pass on an opportunity like this.
- Those that left long ago and are coming back. These are people that were successfully working and living in major cities in the U.S., like Dallas, Boston, Chicago, New York, Miami, and Washington D.C., but sometimes felt an emptiness in their hearts. Often, even on warmer days, they would find themselves wanting to be back home. They daydreamed of being with their families on more than just the holidays. Going back is about to be a dream come true for them.
- Those who feel a strong connection to Puerto Rico. These caring individuals are bonded with the Island. Maybe they fell in love with a Puerto Rican (can you blame them?) or Puerto Rico opened the doors to their families in a warm and welcoming way. No matter their reasons, they want to make a difference and recognize that change comes in many contexts and nationalities — it just takes empathy and ambition.
We are banded together by the things that unite us
Our team wants to make a real difference with knowledge and passion. In the meantime, we are also enjoying and absorbing all the exciting and revolutionary things currently happening at RV. While here, our drive and will to make a tangible impact on Puerto Rico drives us to work into the uncertainty of whatever is coming next with a smile on our face and together. And for that, we need to keep dancing in harmony to be game-changers.
This movement keeps growing, and is only just getting started… The best is yet to come!