Business School study abroad trip focuses on re-establishing entrepreneurism in communist nation

In January, the University of Colorado Denver Business School took 16 students on a study abroad trip to Cuba, a country experiencing a renewed wave of entrepreneurial spirit. Although Cuba remains a communist nation, Raul Castro’s transition to power has allowed the creation of state-approved private businesses, many of which are flourishing.

Leading the excursion was Barry McConnell, MS, MBA, a Business School instructor with expertise in information technology and consumer product marketing. The 10-day trip offered students insight into the nation’s developing economy as well as meetings with influential entrepreneurs. CU Denver students observed that, while many of Cuba’s business approaches are different from the United States, the island’s entrepreneurs share our passion for achieving success.

Here are five takeaways from McConnell and a few CU Denver students:

1. Business is not the same in Cuba as in the United States


“Entrepreneurship is a foreign concept to the Cubans and is viewed as a necessary evil by the government,” McConnell said. The Cuban government has allowed for only 200 types of self-owned business. “It was so inspiring to see entrepreneurship in its purest form,” said Manuel Aguilar, an International Business student. “Here in the U.S., we often rely on our education to start a business. In Cuba, they rely more heavily on passion and drive.”

Cuba lacks any formal business schools. The University of Havana views business as a function of economics, and unlike CU Denver, it does not offer courses in entrepreneurship.

Despite the challenges, many Cubans are eager to become entrepreneurs. CU Denver students met with app developers and owners of restaurants and bed-and-breakfasts. The students noticed in the entrepreneurs a shared willingness to learn – through trial-and-error and hands-on experience – new ways to succeed.

Read Brian’s four other takeaways here.

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