For close to four months we’ve spent our Saturday mornings teaching away with our friend, Elva. Our mission: to spark entrepreneurial interest in our students and to give them real business skills to start their own business. Some of our students have plans to begin a business soon while others were interested in gaining the skills that could help them if they started a business down the line. And really, who couldn’t benefit from a budgeting or planning-ahead lesson?
We owe huge thanks to one of our local cooperatives who not only gave us a space to hold the class each week (even if we sometimes had to wait for chairs to be delivered despite our best efforts to assure our students we would start on time, a rarity in this laid back culture), paid for all the copies of the workbooks and other materials used throughout the course, but also helped us put on a special closing event a couple of Saturdays ago.
Each student completed homework assignments after each class that in the end of the entire course could be beefed up and used to write a full business plan. For our closing event we all got dressed up and listened to the wisdom of a local restaurant owner who started his business after finishing this same entrepreneurship course taught by our town’s previous volunteer. He inspired our students to take what they learned and put it into action and emphasized the power of a lot of hard work.
Next each of the 11 students who completed business plans presented their idea in front of a panel of three judges – our restaurant-owning guest speaker, an economist, and the manager of the cooperative. I felt proud of the students confidently explaining their plans and responding to questions posed by the judges, even though I know how nervous some of them were beforehand.
While the judges were compiling their scores for prizes such as Best Presentation, Best Written Plan, and Most Innovative we all enjoyed the provided bocaditos, little finger food snacks like mini empanadas and small pieces of the traditional Sopa Paragauaya.
It was a feeling of accomplishment (even for us) to hand over the certificates of completion to the 11 students who mastered all the requirements we had set out for the course, which based on my experience, were even stricter than school classes. They had to turn in their homework on time, couldn’t miss more than 3 classes, and arriving tardy even counted against them. It’s impressive that these students of varied age followed through on this 100% elective class.
Everyone left with spirits high, asking Isaiah and I when we’d be teaching another class. It will probably be soon as we both enjoyed the experience and the cooperative has expressed willingness in sponsoring more of our classes, but we don’t have anything confirmed as of now.
Up next is we get to travel to Asunción with two students from our class who we selected as having the most viable business plans as well as having real plans to start the business soon (one has even already started). The workshop we’ll take them to is the big Paraguay Emprende event that Isaiah and I have been helping to plan since back in February and the one our home church chose to financially support.
It’s just two weeks away, which means I’m busy helping coordinate all the final steps and details that go into pulling off a 3-day workshop. It’ll be a huge success and relief to see it to fruition. Then again, I think I’ll miss the planning.