The Adventure of Aventuras – by Kristal Griffith
In September of 2009, four students in the Professional-MBA program at the University of Denver set out on an adventure.
They were charged with the mission of helping a business in Costa Rica become profitable while having a positive impact on people and the planet. That business was Bahia Aventuras.
Walter Brenes, the owner of Bahia Aventuras, has had opportunities to work with educational institutions in the past, but chose to work with the faculty at the University of Denver because of their approach. The introduction between Brenes and the University of Denver was made by Global Journeys Inc. owner Franco Marini and staff member Kay LatchmanSingh.
“We felt that Franco, Kay and the DU staff were dedicated to creating an experience that brings people together to enhance people-to-people understanding and grow friendships between people of different countries, languages, cultures, religions, socio-economic classes and political outlooks with an emphasis on equality among all humans regardless of personal circumstances,” Brenes says.
The students traveled to Costa Rica and met Brenes and his staff for the first time on the morning of Sept. 4, 2009.
“I was nervous to meet the Bahia team,” says Geoff Bieging, a P-MBA student. “I didn’t know how sophisticated their business practices would be, nor did I know if language or business practices would be a huge barrier. Fortunately, Walter speaks great English, and he was able to share a vision that is consistent across all borders.”
The participants did have communication help. Travis Bays, long-time friend and Peace Corps volunteer, helped Brenes start the business in 2007. His knowledge of the business and fluency in Spanish and English was critical.
“I cannot express how impressed I was with Walter and Travis,” says Pete Crowe, P-MBA student. “Here are two guys our age who were willing to take a risk on something they truly believe in. They are working to create a successful business and they are always thinking about how the business can contribute to the local community of Bahia Ballena.”
After the initial meeting, the Denver and Bahia teams decided to meet for dinner that evening at a local pizza restaurant called La Fogata. It was a memorable evening for all.
“My favorite part of my entire trip was the evening spent at the local pizza shop,” says Chaun Powell, P-MBA student. “It was important to me because it helped me understand what was important to Walter and Travis. Meeting Walter’s family made it clear to all of us that there is more to this than a business plan and a financial statement.”
“Rapidly we were able to connect on a very intimate level,” Bays says. “From our first meeting to the dinner party at La Fogata Pizza, our relationship as a team was built with shared values underlining friendship as number one.”
Since September, the two teams have been communicating through email and Skype to come up with ideas to build Bahia Aventuras.
It’s been an education of heart and mind for Team Denver.
“I think DU struck gold with Bahia Aventuras,” Powell says. “Walter and Travis’s innate excitement never die attitude, and unprecedented charisma have certainly made this experience memorable. I look forward to future memories made between the two teams as Bahia grows in an ethical and sustainable manner.”
“If anything, it has helped me learn how to probe a business owner and learn some of his/her key touch points,” Bieging says.
“I was truly inspired by Travis’s incredible motivation, Walter’s incredible spirit and how savvy both these guys really are,” Crowe says. “It was refreshing and encouraging to see two friends take a risk on something they believe in and work like crazy to make it happen. And there is no doubt these two will make it happen!”