Once strictly forbidden, Cuban entrepreneurs now have their first opportunity since the Revolution to start their own private enterprises from a specific list of 178 state-sanctioned jobs.
Cuba has always provided life-long welfare support to its citizens through subsidised health services and universal ration cards for essentials such as food and household goods.
However, after support from the Soviet Union was lost after its collapse in 1991, Cuba entered a period of economic downturn known as the “Special Period in Time of Peace”.
Limited private enterprise was allowed in response to the “Special Period”, mainly in the much needed tourist sector, such as family-run guest houses and restaurants.
There is a long-running tradition of sociolismo – working outside the official system by trading or bartering goods and services.
Friends do favours for each other without expecting anything in return; for lesser-known acquaintances, payment is through
everyday items like shampoo, a piece of chicken or fruit.
Sociolismo also applies at a larger scale: employees of a business were offered preferential care at a hospital in exchange for scarce paper and stationery.
Borrowing is not an option, as the United States trade embargo denies Cuba access to major lending institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund.
Instead, President Raul Castro, brother of Fidel, is now attempting to rationalise and overhaul the island's Soviet-era economic model.
In September 2010, the Cuban Government announced that they would grant 250,000 licences to permit self-employment and private small businesses.
By January 2011, more than 75,000 entrepreneurs had received official licenses to start up their own small enterprises.
From snack bars to seamstresses, manicurists to mechanics, enterprising Cubans finally have official sanction to fulfil their dreams of running their own businesses.