Wake Forest Business School Students Help in Nicaragua

Jan 08, 2010, 14:01 ET from Wake Forest University

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., Jan. 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The last decade saw a spike in the use of micro-credit, small loans designed to help poor people start businesses and work their way out of poverty. Now a group of students from Wake Forest University's Schools of Business is helping some of those former micro-entrepreneurs acquire the skills they need to grow their business.

On January 3, 20 graduate students will travel to Nicaragua where they will host a series of two-day workshops aimed at helping small business owners learn basic business concepts such as record keeping, pricing, and marketing. The trip will be the eighth made by Wake Forest students in the past three years, and will include an advanced seminar for business owners who have already completed the basic workshop.

"Our goal is to complement their innate ability to run a business by giving them structures that enable them to become more efficient and profitable, employ more people, invest more in their business and become wealthier," says Ajay Patel, one of the faculty advisers who will be traveling with the students.

The seminars also help Wake Forest students learn about business outside the classroom and get hands-on experience in a real-world environment. "They have to understand the theory and how to apply it in a developing country to an individual's business," Patel says. "They also have to learn to think on their feet because they never know what question will be thrown at them, so it helps them become more confident."

Among the business owners they will be working with is Yasmin Gonzalez, who has attended the Wake Forest seminar three times and used the information to build her business selling bags of hygienic, filtered water in the streets of Managua. "When she started a little over 10 years ago, they were selling 100 bags of water a day," Patel said. "Now they are up to 40,000 bags a day and have 60 distributors in the city." The Wake Forest graduate business students will be consulting with Gonzalez as she expands her product line to include five-gallon containers of water and flavored beverages.

The students also will be helping young jewelry makers who live in and around the Managua City dump, and previously had to rely on trash for their income and survival. The Wake Forest students are currently in discussions with Nica HOPE, an organization that seeks to educate the youth and provide them with practical job skills, and may be developing a business plan for the non-profit in the future.

As part of the trip, students also will interview small businesses and determine if they have a need for a loan. Based on the interviews and consultation, students will make lending decisions for potential Small and Medium Enterprise, or SME, loans to those entrepreneurs, financed by the fundraising efforts of students, who have to date raised more than $35,000.

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SOURCE Wake Forest University



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