Ben Powell’s inspiration came on a golf course… a miniature golf course. As a co-founder of a small family entertainment park in Puebla, Mexico, Powell saw firsthand the transformative power of entrepreneurship to lift families and communities out of poverty.
A former presidential fellow with master’s degrees from Columbia Business School and Georgetown’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Powell founded Agora Partnerships to meet the needs of the “missing middle,” companies that are too large for microfinance lending but too small for traditional banks.
Powell’s vision has developed into a fast-growing enterprise that operates throughout Central America with plans to expand to Mexico soon. Agora’s latest innovation, the Accelerator program, is designed to help impact entrepreneurs get access to social, human and financial capital to grow their business.
Powell has learned that the Agora model isn’t equally applicable everywhere. That’s why he focuses on people who have demonstrated success and drive on their own, and who view the company as a business partner rather than a development funder. Among these entrepreneurs, Powell says, “what is constant is [their] drive and ambition to improve themselves when given access to opportunity.”
What’s next for Agora and its young founder? He sees impact investing and entrepreneurship as one of the most exciting trends of the next decade.
“We need to create an empowered generation of local entrepreneurs who are committed to sustainability and connected to global capital sources,” he says. “And it all starts with motivated entrepreneurs with a good idea.”
Read the announcement of Devex’s 40-under-40 honorees.