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Editor's note: Five Talents recently sent a team of trainers to Kenya to hold business seminars for a group of micro-entrepreneurs about 30km outside of Thika. Here, one of the trainers, Five Talents board member Jim Oakes, shares stories about some of the micro-entrepreneurs he met, including a woman who gave him the most delicious tangerine he has ever eaten.
I'm writing this from the lobby of the Fairview Hotel in Nairobi, waiting to head to the airport and return to the US after a week in Kenya. I have once again led a small team (there were two of us this time, Brad Frink, on the far left in the photo, and myself, next to him) to teach basic business principles to Five Talents clients. This trip, we worked in Thungururu, Kenya, which is a small village about 30 km out of Thika, an hour's drive north of Nairobi.
Five Talents partners with the Thika Community Development Trust (TCDT), which operates under the umbrella of the Anglican Church in Kenya. TCDT has grown rapidly, and now has over 3,800 members in savings groups. One area where they hope to increase their activity is in the village of Thungururu. Although it is only 30 km out of Thika, it is a world away. The last 16 km or so are on a dirt road that was barely passable. I learned that very few services are available to residents of this area, and poverty is rampant. The congregation there cannot afford a full time pastor, so they share their vicar with three other congregations. The litany of things not available was familiar – no electricity, no running water, no banking services, (I was told that three quarters of Kenya's population does not have access to banking services) and on and on. But there was no shortage of enthusiastic people eager to learn.
For various reasons, we arrived at the teaching location about an hour behind schedule on our first day. But apparently, not a single person had left. Within moments of our arrival, the church was packed, with over 100 people waiting for us. No surprises so far, but I was particularly struck by how hard some people had to work to get there. I noticed that ours was the only car in sight – one person had come by motorcycle, about a dozen had ridden bicycles, and the rest had walked or gotten rides from someone. I learned that some people had walked over an hour to get to the training site, and that one group of women had hired a Matatu (a kind of a shared taxi service) at a cost of almost a day's wages to get there. As you might guess, we felt a heavy responsibility to make sure the training was worth their time.
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Five Talents board member Jim Oakes recently took a team of business professionals to Thika, Kenya, where they held workshops on topics like marketing and accounting for micro-entrepreneurs.
As team member Brad Frink wrote last week, the team also worked with a group of micro-entrepreneurs to develop a value chain analysis for the production and sale of free-range broiler chickens. The ultimate goal of this project, said Frink, was to support the establishment of a farmers' cooperative.
In this photo, a group of micro-entrepreneurs line up for tea during a break in one of the workshops.
Click here to read Frink's account of the business training seminars.
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In early August, we ran a Q&A with entrepreneur Stan Kriz, the primary author of Five Talents' business training curriculum. He'd recently returned from Myanmar, where he and a team of business professionals led training seminars on topics like marketing and business planning.
In this photo, taken by Five Talents board member Cavin Philbin, a group of young men wrestle with the beginnings of a business plan.
"There are two fundamental pillars for the way that Five Talents does training: the first is the holistic linkage between your faith and doing business – they are not separable. God cares about our work because it is part of His provision for us," said Stan Kriz in the interview. "The other pillar is participatory learning. We don't do lectures. Instead we get the groups together and ask lots of questions, get the groups to talk among themselves and to us. The intent here is to demonstrate that we the Westerners are not just coming in and pouring a body of knowledge onto the students, but instead we are pulling out of the students the business sense that they already have. They just don't know it."
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Editor's note: Five Talents recently sent a team of trainers to Kenya to hold business seminars for a group of micro-entrepreneurs about 30km outside of Thika. Here, one of the trainers, Brad Frink, reflects on the contributions of his students, who, he writes, "often had more to teach me than I did them."
On our business as mission trip to Thika, Kenya, we have had the unique opportunity to conduct two very interesting, yet quite different projects, both of which we hope will help the materially poor in rural Kenya improve their businesses, their families' lives and their communities in general.
Our primary focus is teaching Biblically-based business principles to 100 or so micro-entrepreneurs in the Thungururu community, about 30 km outside of Thika. For this project, there was a clear curriculum, a trainer's guide, and at least one of us on the team had delivered the material before. The other project was a bit less clear at the outset, and called for the development of a value chain analysis for the production and sale of free-range broiler chickens in the Ithanga Division of Muranga County, Kenya, with the ultimate goal of supporting the establishment of a farmers' cooperative. Both of these efforts involved taking our knowledge and sharing it with others, whether through classroom teaching or through the development of a process and financial model.
While the Five Talents team members were in the role of teachers or trainers, I personally found that our "students" often had more to teach me than I did them. For example, in leading part of the business curriculum on Planning, I soon realized that one of our students had a formal business education and many years of practical experience in accounting. Selected by his peers as the leader of one of our breakout groups, he incorporated a number of ideas into his team's business plan that we had neither discussed as part of the training, nor probably even considered. Items such as the cost of a business license, an allowance for slow or non-paying customers, and taxes, added more depth to the team's financial plan than we had planned to get into in our training, but other teams picked up on this creativity, and proceeded to add further layers of detail into their own plans. The result was that the teams put together some of the most thorough business plans that have come out of this course, as well as a pair of instructors who were both humbled and impressed by the teams' work.
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Editor's note: Five Talents recently sent a team of trainers to Kenya to hold business seminars for a group of micro-entrepreneurs about 30km outside of Thika. Here, one of the trainers, Brad Frink, shares his first impressions of Kenya and the communities where Five Talents works.
Greetings from Africa! It is already day three of our business as mission trip to Kenya, and day two working with the Thika Community Development Trust (TCDT) in this town of about 200,000 citizens. As a seasoned traveler, I probably didn't come to Kenya with as untested a set of expectations as some might, but I have already had many opportunities to challenge any preconceived notions I may have brought with me of the nation, its landscape, people, and rich cultural heritage.
In many ways, my initial visual impressions of Kenya were not much different from those of my first trips to other developing nations, say, in Southeast Asia or Latin America. The landscape is varied, with abundant vegetation in the fertile sections where pineapple, bananas, coffee and tea are grown, rolling mountains far off in the distance, and areas of dry, sweeping flat lands in between. The architecture is a similar style of cinder-block construction with brightly-colored painted facades, and ubiquitous product advertisements on both businesses and homes. Modes of transportation are also diverse, ranging from bikes and motorcycles to minibuses and construction trucks, all seemingly with far too many passengers for me to consider safe. Everyone else seems to be found walking, as there are pedestrians on virtually every street, pasture, and field.
As it always does for me, meaningful interaction with the local people is where the real value of a trip like this is found. Whether it be our TCDT hosts, the hotel staff, or those in the Thungururu community where we are teaching business principles to about 100 micro-entrepreneurs, I have found the Kenyans to be a joyful, friendly, humble people who are reminding me of the value of relationships versus keeping to strict schedules, something we tend to overemphasize in the US. I am certainly guilty of this but am having to adapt to the Kenyan way and be less time-driven, more patient and certainly more flexible. I have learned that one can accomplish more merely by being here, taking time to get to know the people on a meaningful level, and sharing some aspect of your personal life, even if you only accomplish some of your planned activities.
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At last Friday's Spring Gala, guests had many opportunities to contribute to Five Talents' mission to empower micro-entrepreneurs in the developing world. Some took part in a live auction and bid for a round of golf at Congressional Country Club, which hosted the Gala. Others purchased flower arrangements or participated in a silent auction for items ranging from a guitar autographed by musician Paul McCartney to a framed photo of NFL quarterback Tim Tebow.
But some of the hottest items were chicken and cow decorations hand-crafted by Sarah Pichardo. Purchasing a "chicken" for $100, for example, would allow a micro-entrepreneur in Kenya to set up a business producing eggs for sale in the community. By the end of the evening, the "chickens" had sold out -- and scores of jobs had been created.
Visit our Facebook page to see lots more photos from the event.
If you missed the Spring Gala, don't worry: You can still "create a job" buy making a purchase through our online gift catalog.
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In the developing world, as in our own world, setting up a small business alongside an important road can mean the difference between success and failure. On the left, a feed shop serves members of the rural community along a road in the Diocese in Thika, in Kenya, Africa.
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Joel Kimani of Thika, Kenya joined the Giachuki Trust Group in January 2009 after he heard the Chairman of the group talk about the savings and loan association in a church service. After saving for a period of six months, Joel qualified to borrow from the group. His first loan of about $134 was used for cabbage farming on his half-acre piece of land.
The cabbages bring in about $1,067 every season and Joel, pictured here with his wife, cleared the first loan within a period of three months. He eventually borrowed $267 more to grow a special breed of tomatoes.
Joel's expertise and love of farming has given him a competitive edge over other farmers in the area. He recalls vividly that when he started growing tomatoes, most of the farmers followed suit but then gave up after the first crop failed to bear fruit. Joel did some research and discovered a breed that would grow well in the area -- and his extra effort paid off.
He has furnished his house using the proceeds from farming and has also expanded his business to include poultry.
Joel now has over 300 birds and is the newly-elected Chairman of Giachuki Trust Group. Joel said the group has enabled him to experience God's love. Among the plans he has for the group is to invest in the dreams of the poor so that they may be released from physical and spiritual poverty.