Let’s be honest here; entrepreneurs are a weird bunch. We work very hard to build our companies into a healthy well-oiled machine. And once that happens, instead of giving ourselves a big pat on the back and taking some time off to smell the roses, we focus instead on taking it to the next level or look for more problems to solve.

I am definitely one of those entrepreneurs who loves tackling problems, and my close friends who also own businesses often tease me about this, especially when the problem is really not a problem. This is why I was so excited when my Entrepreneurs’ Organization forum decided that instead of traveling to an exotic location for our semiannual forum retreat, we decided to give back and help address a serious problem. We selected San Juan, Puerto Rico, due to the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria and its effects on the wonderful people and their surroundings.


At the end of March, 2018, I was joined by five other Arizona entrepreneurs, Shawn Leonard of Collabtech Group, Seth Friedman of Septon Group, Chris Berg of Fully Loaded Deliveries, Mark Disalvo of Landmark Physical Therapy, and Geoff Stanisic of YC’s Mongolian BBQ traveled to Puerto Rico. Our group meets once a month to support each other with the challenges associated with business ownership and plan a getaway twice a year.


With parts of Puerto Rico still struggling to recover from the last hurricane season, and the objective of helping a fellow entrepreneur, our group traveled to the territory not knowing who or how we would help. Three days into the trip our group happened upon Casa Melaza Rum Boutique, in the center of Old San Juan. On entering, we found the stifling heat inside the small rum shop and tasting room nearly unbearable, but were persuaded by the owner, Antonio Lizardi to stay and have one drink.


Lizardi explained to our group that Hurricane Maria had not only blown the rooftop A/C Unit off but also killed his primary source of income for his family, daily tours of the Puerto Rican rainforest. Since Casa Melaza relied on tourism, he struggled to support his family, let alone being able to afford replacing the A/C unit.


Our group had found our reason for visiting Puerto Rico and the next day invited 350 people, both locals and tourists, to Casa Melaza and paid the tab. It was a crazy personal experience for me. My forum members were talking with the owner of the business and he shared what his largest number of customers in a single day was, which was under 100 people. The cruise ships had already left for the day so Old San Juan was not very busy but that did not deflate us.

We are a very competitive bunch and my forum members challenged me to go out and beat the goal. Challenge accepted! I went out on the streets and convinced over 100 people to check out Casa Melaza within the first 2 hours. My forum members then helped as well walking the streets in shifts getting others to come in. I’m sure offering to buy them drinks helped; however, we quickly heard from guests that they heard about these crazy Americans buying everyone drinks from over 30 minutes away. People started coming in from all over San Juan and the best part was that many of them were coming for the story and not the free booze. We were thanked by so many locals which meant the world to our group. As mentioned earlier, we ended up meeting over 350 locals and tourists that evening.

In the days and weeks that followed our group provided resources to Lizardi to help get his business on the way to success and intends to create an ongoing relationship. You can learn more about our story from our interview with the Phoenix Business Journal, by reading ‘How a group of Arizona entrepreneurs gave new hope to a San Juan rum boutique.’

Offering a hand up, paying it forward, or helping a fellow entrepreneur in need, can provide several benefits for professionals at all levels, including business owners. Here are three lessons I learned from this process:

Lesson 1: Look For Unique Ways to Improve Your Leadership Skills

Guiding a fellow entrepreneur is an opportunity to hone and master your communication and leadership skills. The process of helping another like-minded individual to achieve their goals is a powerful development tool for the mentor.

Lesson 2: Helping Provides Personal Satisfaction

Research shows that giving back and helping others stimulates the part of the brain that is responsible for feelings of reward, releasing feel-good chemicals which encourages the performance of more giving, what psychologists call “helper’s high.” Giving can increase your self-esteem and overall well-being, making you feel more socially connected and increasing the strength of your relationships.

Lesson 3: Build Your Professional Network and Reputation

Sharing your firsthand knowledge and expertise is priceless for the businesses you help, which the business community will recognize, enhancing your reputation. Assisting others to achieve success builds relationships that are good for your company and the entire business climate that you work within.

How is Casa Melaza Doing Now?

Casa Melaza had a record night the day we visited, now has a new A/C unit, and soon a brand new website, designed and built by my amazing team at StringCan Interactive. This hand up has been a “lifesaver” according to Lizardi who hopes to pay it forward shortly to other business owners in the area. If you are interested in helping, there is a GoFundMe account that will stay open to mid May, 2018.

Much of life’s long-term success comes from helping others to succeed, and the reward of giving a hand up will far outweigh the investment you make. To learn more about this or anything else contact us today.