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Meet The Women Going Back To Puerto Rico Despite The Debt Crisis, Sunne Cleantech Labs

Sheilla Torres Nieves, PhD, 34 — Cofounder & CEO, Sunne Cleantech Labs

“It’s a mistake!” and “Are you guys crazy?” are among the many things Dr. Torres Nieves and her husband heard when they announced they were planning on moving back to Puerto Rico.

But it certainly didn’t stop them. The couple always knew they wanted to go back home, even after a very successful decade living stateside.

In 2011, Dr. Torres Nieves graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, and relocated to Connecticut to work, focusing on aerodynamics at Pratt & Whitney. But the dream she shared with her husband while studying — launching their own company, creating their own invention and patenting it — never left her mind.

So, in July 2015, the couple went back to Puerto Rico and founded Sunne Cleantech Labs, a company focusing on creating solar energy products. This is an area in which the island has a lot of potential, and the 34-year-old’s experiences have only been positive since they moved last summer. The debt crisis hasn’t impacted their startup either.

“I think there’s a misconception about what’s happening. Yes, there is a sector that’s being affected by the crisis. But there’s also a sector that’s taking up entrepreneurship and being successful,” she says.

Besides working at Sunne, Dr. Torres Nieves is also teaching at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus, hoping to give her engineering students the skills they need to stay in the island, something that’s important to her.

“This is the best way to move the economy in the right direction. We need more companies to establish themselves in Puerto Rico and keep a social commitment with the island,” she says. “This is the make-or-break moment.”

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