Social Entrepreneur Spotlight: Tono Aguilar, CASSA
In Central America there are so many amazing entrepreneurs that are starting projects that have a real social and or environmental impact. We at Pomona Impact always love to meet entrepreneurs, discover more about the work that they are doing, and promote them to our networks. This past week I had the pleasure to do a site visit with an inspiring entrepreneur, Manuel Antonio Aguilar or “Tono” to his friends. Tono has had an interesting life path leading him to study astrophysics in the States at Harvard University to starting several ventures in the alternative energy sector, to finally founding CASSA – a social enterprise that provides ecologically sustainable low-income housing in Guatemala.
CASSA provides architectural consulting and construction services to their clients allowing low-income households, perhaps for the first time, to be able to select and even co-create plans for their homes. All of the houses that CASSA constructs not only use local materials from the land that surrounds them, but they also offer a complete, sustainable system from solar panels, ecological stove, and septic system all at the same cost to their clients as a traditional, cinder block style house. Thus far, CASSA has constructed three houses and has many others in the works.
We went out to Zone 18 in Guatemala City, which has the perfect juxtaposition of the wealthy and those of lower incomes living right next to each other.
We drove through a strip mall and then wound our way up a hill, gaining more and more ground driving through a community built in a somewhat haphazard way on the side of a major hill, until we reached the construction site of one of their newest projects; a two story house being built using local rocks for the foundation and as well as bamboo panels for the walls.
Tono had previously shown us the construction plans of what the house will look like once it is completed - while we were walking through the construction site with Tono explaining what each room would be once completed and detailing the construction process for us, it was easy to see how beautiful the house would be once completed, overlooking Guatemala city from the hillside.
It is entrepreneurs like Tono that help to remind me on a constant basis how important the work that we do at Pomona Impact is in identifying and supporting entrepreneurs in any way that we can – whether it is to invest in them or promote their work and connect them with others within our network. Especially in Central America where the concept of social entrepreneurship is still quite nascent, we need to help develop the supportive ecosystem to allow entrepreneurs like Tono to thrive and create lasting impact.