Miriam Cloquell (MBA ’99): “We empower children to learn by playing and stimulating their creativity”March 4, 2021 9:31 am
Miriam Cloquell, co-founder of Minds of Tomorrow, is an entrepreneur and business angel with extensive experience in the consumer goods and services industry. A former PepsiCo executive, she was part of the founding team responsible for the successful launch of the beverage Lolea. Her current project involves reinventing the learning experience for children at Minds of Tomorrow.
Building a better future
-How did the idea of creating Minds of Tomorrow come about, and what is your vision for it?
The Minds of Tomorrow project was born in late 2019. A few of us had just exited a beverage startup called Sangría Lolea; we were at a turning point where we were thinking about how to contribute something positive to society. After sharing our thoughts with other Esade alumni, we saw that we were all at a similar point in our lives and careers. We had all known each other for two decades, sharing projects and working together at different stages of our professional lives. We are also parents living on different continents with mixed-origin families and children of different ages.
Thanks to our shared interest in design and technology, we started to explore and think about how these fields would affect our children’s future. They live and learn in a world that is very different from our childhood in the 1980s. It is fascinating, but, at the same time, this new reality is full of uncertainty and negative perceptions around technology: screen time, addiction to video games and social media, etc. We wanted to show a positive side of technology – the one that helps to build a better future, contributing to sustainable living and cultural enrichment.
-At Minds of Tomorrow, you say that design and technology are the core of the main creative minds that are shaping the world. How do you empower children?
Minds of Tomorrow is a new project in the world of education. Our mission is to empower children with creative insight and the confidence that comes from mastering design and technology.
We take advantage of the moments when children are out of school to show them the possibilities of their natural creativity outside of their traditional educational environment. They come to our studio with the excitement of discovering a new adventure or mission every day. We expose them to all sorts of tools, techniques and topics that they are already interested in: surviving on Mars, preparing for the Artemis mission to the moon, saving the biosphere… They are not just attending a programming or robotics course; they are combining cutting-edge disciplines to develop creative projects.
“Our mission is to empower children with creative insight and the confidence that comes from mastering design and technology”
-Can you tell us about your experience with Lolea (a project you developed with colleagues from Esade)
After several years in the corporate world, I dove into entrepreneurship with the mission of launching Sangría Lolea in North America. In the summer of 2013, the project was just starting to take off in a few gourmet shops and restaurants in Barcelona. We saw an opportunity to accelerate our international growth if we split the group – our equity and our financial risk – between two entities, one based in Spain and the other in the United States.
Some of us were Esade graduates, but we also had creatives and designers among the partners. This diversity of talent was the key to breaking business and industry paradigms. We had experience in the restaurant industry and in consumer goods, but our specific lack of knowledge of the wine and spirits industry allowed us to innovate our value proposition. The packaging, the natural ingredients, the gourmet channel: all of this helped us create a premium positioning for Sangría Lolea.
-After many years working in the consumer goods and services industry, why did you decide to go into social entrepreneurship?
After selling our company, we agreed, as is customary, to work on integrating the operation into the buyer’s group. During this period, I did not think about what my next step would be. Although I received proposals to collaborate or invest in large consumer projects, I was more interested in getting out of my comfort zone and continuing to learn. I made a list of problems I saw around me and thought about whether or not something could be done about them. For example, regarding the problem of access to capital for women entrepreneurs, I decided to join a group of business angels made up entirely of women who invest in other women.
I was also concerned about the competitive and classist education system in the United States, and I saw an opportunity to start an initiative from the perspective of parents who want to be active in their children’s education rather than waiting for the government to come up with a miracle solution.
For personal reasons, we homeschooled one of our children for a period of time – long before COVID-19! – and I saw what a challenge it was to keep him interested in the educational material, adopt learning routines, develop his critical thinking, etc. That’s why, at Minds of Tomorrow, we aim to create an environment and innovative programmes for children to “learn to learn” by playing, maintaining their curiosity and stimulating their creativity.
A humanistic economy
-You participate in the Esade Alumni Mentoring Programme. What has this experience meant to you?
It is very gratifying to participate in Esade Alumni Mentoring, because it allows me to meet people with professional concerns and interesting projects. They are people from younger generations and different socioeconomic contexts, and yet I see similarities in their entrepreneurial attitude. Their professional ambitions inspire me and generate empathy in me. Their achievements, their problems and the lessons they learn are also inspiring to me.
-In your professional experience, what is creativity and how can we foster it?
Creativity in the professional sphere is a constant attitude of intellectual curiosity, of analysing results, of empathy towards other people’s problems, of great ingenuity to see problems as “adventures” to be solved. To foster creativity in the world of business and entrepreneurship, you also have to make mistakes, recognise and accept those mistakes, and start again on other paths.
“It is our responsibility to create value as individuals so that society as a whole can move forward”
-How has Esade influenced you and what values have accompanied you throughout your professional career?
In the 1990s, Esade was the gateway to the business world of Barcelona – a guarantee of quality that would enable you to apply for jobs that would pave the way for a corporate career.
But even more than that, belonging to Esade means believing in the humanistic side of economics. Business and entrepreneurs are an active part of social advancement. It is our responsibility to create value as individuals so that society as a whole can move forward.
-How has belonging to a community like Esade Alumni provided support for your international experiences?
I opted for internationalisation. I left Barcelona and headed to Mexico, Brazil and, finally, the United States. I always kept in contact with the Esade Alumni chapters in those countries, because it was an element of connection. Over the years, it has enabled me to generate a network of trust and shared values.