A Week of Learning.

On June 8th, I returned home from the second phase of a pilot program Videre recently launched in a new country in West Africa. Ice cream and juice sales, a computer training center and an animal feed store were just three of the business ideas from our West African program participants in Phase II! Between Phase I and Phase II, program participants were required to complete a comprehensive list of market research questions specific to their individual business ideas. The program committee then reviewed each participant’s homework in order to determine whether or not the information provided was sufficient to create a viable business plan. In the end, twelve of the fifteen participants were eligible to move into Phase II. We had a team of five business professionals, each working with two to three participants throughout the week, trying to better understand their business plan and determine its viability. As you can imagine, urban Western businesses and rural African businesses operate quite differently, and we had much to learn! We asked many questions throughout the week, and learned more than our fair share about wooden scaffolding, hair creams, and palm oil.

In addition to learning about business, we learned about what it looks like to be a follower of Jesus in a country that is 95% Muslim as we listened to heart-wrenching stories of difficult trials and persecution. We learned that God’s determined love is transforming the hearts of many there through unique circumstances as He resolves to save and redeem. We also learned how the participants plan to be intentional with their businesses, using them not only as a means for providing for their families, but also as a platform for sharing the Good News of Jesus with the people they interact with on a daily basis – from displaying pictures of Jesus in their shop to use as a conversation starter, to using a portion of their profits to provide for the physical needs of those in their communities, in hopes of telling them how Jesus is the only one who can provide for their spiritual needs.

The program committee is currently in the process of reviewing the completed business plans and determining which of them will be considered for financial assistance and advancement into Phase III in late September. Be sure to check back for more updates! Photo Jun 04, 4 49 49 AM

(Above: Brandon walking through the business financials with one of the participants in his group)

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(Above: Eating a traditional meal for lunch)

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Why are you still afraid?

jesus calms the storm with brittany

God said, “Quit your job.” I quit. He provided. God said, “Do a discipleship training school.” I said, “I don’t have the money.” He provided. God said, “You’re coming back (to Africa).” I cried. He provided. God said, “Pursue micro-finance.” I said, “I don’t know what that is.” He provided. God said, “Join Videre full-time (and raise 100% of your salary).” I got scared.

I have been reading through the book of Mark, and the other day I came to Mark 4:35. Up until this point in the book, Jesus has been performing all sorts of signs and miracles in the presence of His disciples and thousands of others. His disciples have seen Him do incredible things, things that the prophets had said the Messiah would do. Mark 4:35 begins the story where Jesus and His disciples get in a boat, Jesus falls asleep, a storm comes, the disciples freak right out and get upset that Jesus is sleeping while they are dying, Jesus rebukes the storm, it stops, and Jesus proceeds to rebuke His disciples by saying, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” As I imagined myself in the boat with the disciples, the thought occurred to me, “You actually are in this boat and this rebuke is for you.” The Holy Spirit pointed out my lack of faith, and I began sobbing. In the process of walking into what He has called me to do, I became afraid that He had somehow already fulfilled His provisional quota and would not provide for my current need. Why?? Why was I so crazy to believe that lie for one second after everything He has done? I had forgotten. And so, I began to remember. I recalled all of the ways He has provided for me as I have followed Him to the places He has led me. I asked the Lord to forgive me for being afraid and for not trusting that He would provide. He reminded me that I was forgiven and He held out His right hand, full of grace. He’s providing.

To learn more about the ministry God has called me to lead, click here. If you are interested in partnering with me and the ministry of Videre, click here.

Plans, Planes and Presents.

The past month has been packed with a lot of exciting things and since I know you’re eager to read the details, I won’t make you wait any longer.

Plans: Phase II of Videre’s business training program was September 27 through October 6. Our team of eight walked alongside 30 Ghanaian entrepreneurs, as we discussed the details of their business ventures and worked with them to create a business plan. Between phase I and phase II, each participant completed a sheet with all of the details we would need to create the business plan. We spent the week verifying all of the information with our entrepreneurs, noting appropriate changes and clarifying details that may have been unclear. I had four people in my group: Adam – Cosmetics store owner; Patience – Seamstress; Dela – Beautician; Ruth – Beautician.

On the first day of training, my group started by sharing our stories of how we came to know the Lord, and they told me how and why they wanted to grow their businesses. Adam owns a successful business and wants to increase his inventory to meet customer demands. Patience is a seamstress and would like to purchase an overlap machine, which would enable her to stop outsourcing certain work, reduce the turn around time to her customers and increase her profits. Dela and Ruth would like to start buying and selling hair products to their customers alongside the services they currently offer.  Over the next couple of days we got into the numbers – projected sales, unit cost, selling price, monthly expenses, etc. – and this proved to be more extensive than I expected. It was a long, but productive process, and I went home one night to plug the final numbers into Excel. Unfortunately, when I clicked on the “moment of truth” tab, I realized that the business plans of my beauticians would not be profitable given the low sales projections and profit margins. I was crushed. Obviously, if adding a monthly loan repayment into the expenses would turn their profit into negative numbers, it would not be wise or loving to give them a loan, however, I still felt sad because I knew that they thought it would be the best thing for them. I’m not sure there is an easy or best way to communicate the news. It was a tough conversation, but in the end, I know that not receiving a loan for that specific business idea really was the best thing for them. Phase III begins November 9th and will cover: Relationships and Business, Marketing, Sales and Service, Evangelism, Money Management, and Savings and Loans.

kanimo morning

Our team split up to visit and stay in two different villages on our last night in Yendi, and we went door to door in the morning to share the good news of Jesus Christ. These are two children of one of the men we shared with, scooping out the remainder of their breakfast.

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One of the homes in the village drying okra and pepper to use as soup ingredients.

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Caring for brothers and sisters starts at an early age here.

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Our team had the privilege of meeting with the Member of Parliament for Yendi (third from the left on the back row). He came over to encourage and thank us for the work Videre is doing in Yendi, and the transformation the program is bringing to his town. We were also able to thank him for allowing us to come, and for the work that he does as he stands in the gap and fights for the welfare of his town.

Planes: I have flown over 21,000 miles within the past month, and in the next two weeks I will add about 14,000 more. Ten days after I returned home from Ghana, I flew to Taipei, Taiwan to visit some friends of mine for 2 1/2 weeks. My friends are on staff with YWAM Taipei, so I was able to get to experience a day in their lives and see how they balance ministry and a family of five. We did a lot of fun things, but my favorite part was just getting to be with them. While in Taipei, I got to reunite with a girl I met out on evangelism one night in Perth. When we met, she had been working in Perth for one year and was moving back to Taiwan the next week. I told her about my friends and the coffee shop that they run there. She had visited the coffee shop a couple of years ago while she was attending the university right around the corner. Small world! I invited her and her friends to come to the coffee shop on Halloween and suggested that they dress up with us, and they totally did! Heather and I got to meet up with them again for dinner the night before I left, and we really enjoyed our time with them! Oh, and I got to witness my first earthquake! It was pretty cool…

Presents: With Christmas right around the corner, I’m sure you have already been thinking about what presents to get for your family, friends, co-workers, your child’s teacher, etc. So many gifts can quickly run out or be easily broken/lost/replaced within a matter of months. This Christmas, wouldn’t it be nice to not have to pay for shipping, avoid the crowds and crazy parking lots and get all of your shopping done from the comfort of your own home? More importantly, wouldn’t it be great to give a gift that can’t be broken, a gift that keeps on giving, and one that will impact families, communities and the kingdom of God? The Videre Christmas Catalog was recently published, and in it you will find the hopes and dreams of 28 precious people. This Christmas season, give a gift of entrepreneurship and everything that it stands for to these 28 faces. To them, being an entrepreneur stands for hope of a better life for their families, especially their children.  Many of these 28 are illiterate, but with a loan to improve their businesses, they will be able to send their children to school.  The next generation will not be the same.  It will be better because of what we can do now. These 28 entrepreneurs have been tested, trained and vetted through Videre’s program for proven character and business savvy.  They have told us their stories, their hopes and dreams, their visions for their businesses. They have told us their plans to use their businesses to share the love of Jesus Christ with others so that many more can experience spiritual and physical freedom. Click here to read some of their business summaries. Then consider giving a gift this Christmas that goes far beyond what our eyes can see, a gift that resonates in the coming generations and into eternity.

A week of remembrance.

At the beginning of the year, I asked the Lord for a word or a passage of scripture that He had specifically for me for the year. A friend of mine shared with me that that was something she had been doing and I thought it was pretty cool. As I spent time reading and studying the scriptures, I quickly began to see a theme of remembrance laced throughout this beautiful and powerful story of redemption. As I turned the pages, it kept showing up; it was everywhere!

Remember. “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.” Deuteronomy 5:15

Remember. “If you say in your heart, ‘These nations are greater than I. How can I dispossess them?’ you shall not be afraid of them but you shall remember what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all of Egypt, the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, the wonders, the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm, by which the LORD your God brought you out. So will the LORD your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid.” Deuteronomy 7:17-19

Remember. “My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.”  Psalm 63:5-7

Remember. “I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph.” Psalm 77:11-15

Remember. “Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you; you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me. I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.” Isaiah 44:21-22

Remember. “Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and  I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.” Isaiah 46:8-11

Last week was a week of remembrance for me. Before I left for Ghana, friends blessed me with some money and told me to do something fun while I was in Ghana. Done. I can totally do that because fun is wired into my DNA. When I think of fun, the last thing on my list would involve me by myself, in a quiet place, with no TV, no internet and nothing to do for 4 days, but read. Honestly, that sounds like torture for an extrovert. But it’s just what the Lord had planned. Through a friend of a friend, I found out about this place nestled in the woods, right on a lake, about 30 km outside of the hustle and bustle of Kumasi. I booked my stay and traveled 6 hours south by bus and one hour east by taxi. The view was beautiful and it felt like I was in a different country… This was not the Ghana I had been growing accustomed to. Not only was I in a quiet place, but I was the only one staying there, so other than the staff, I was by myself. No TV and no internet, but I had my Kindle with me, loaded with the first of a two part women’s bible study series on the book of Exodus.

It’s easy to look at the story of the Israelites (or anyone else’s life for that matter) and ask, “Are they serious? How are they still doubting the presence and trustworthiness of God after everything He’s done, so graciously showing them that He can be trusted? They aren’t seriously complaining again, are they?” But as I studied the pages and dug into the story, I found myself walking alongside the Israelites. I thought about my life and it hit me. I wrote in big, bold letters. I. AM. ISRAEL. The Lord was constantly showing the Israelites that He could be trusted and called them to remember – not just in their generation, but also for all generations to come – that they were slaves in Egypt, He rescued them, He brought them out with a strong hand and performed many signs and wonders in order to bring glory to Himself and show everyone that He is the Lord and there is none like Him. This, too, is my story.

The Lord took me back to the beginning of my journey, and throughout the week, I recalled His goodness as we took a stroll down memory lane.

I remembered what my life was like before the Lord extended His hand to me. I was a slave to sin, completely helpless and unable to loosen it’s grip on me. I saw myself sitting in my college dorm room where God so graciously opened my eyes to help me see my desperate need for Jesus, the only One who could save me and bring me back to what my heart was longing for – Himself. “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:1-7

I remembered 2010, a year of humility and surrender. The Lord began to address my deep rooted issues of pride and control and showed me that these things existed because I did not trust Him, and although I would never verbally admit it, I thought I was better suited to be in charge. He slowly pried my tightly clenched fists open, reassuring me that He was better. Little did I know that the Lord was preparing me for a test – knowing what I now knew, would I put my trust in God’s plan for my life, or would I continue to try to hold the reins? In early October, the Lord spoke clearly, “Quit your job.” Although my days at work were full of stress and many tears, we were still in a recession and I was taught never to quit a job without another one to go to. But I knew I had to obey. Filled with a peace that only comes by the power of the Holy Spirit, I turned down a 25% pay increase and turned in my letter of resignation.

I remembered 2011, a year of the Lord’s faithfulness and provision. He provided work for me and it somehow turned into a small business. Although my salary was only one-third of what I had been making in my corporate job, I had ten times more joy and fulfillment and that was worth more than any amount of money I could have been offered. I started nannying, not realizing that the Lord was using that to prepare me for the next step of His plan. A family from my church was going through a five-month discipleship training school overseas and needed a nanny to come with them to watch their youngest daughter. I prayed for clear confirmation from the Lord and He gave it to me. All of the pieces fell into place in such a way that only God could get the glory, and in late September I left with a feeling that I wouldn’t be coming back to pick up where I left off. I remembered a random girl telling me one night, “I feel like God wants me to tell you that you are not just here to nanny. Your purpose in being here is much bigger than that.” Then I began to ask God what exactly His purpose was for me in being there.

I remembered 2012, a year of increased faith and impossible things made possible only by the hand of the Lord. I felt like God was leading me to do a six-month discipleship training school of my own in Australia. The only problem was that I had not been working for the past five months and I only had four months to raise $9,600. The Lord provided everything I needed in just a couple of months, continuing to confirm that I was on the right path. I learned so much about the nature and character of God in the first three months of my discipleship training school, and although I had clearly seen the mighty hand of God move in my life over the past two years, I was still struggling with whether He really is who He says He is. He graciously responded to my doubts and simple prayer of “Lord, I believe, but help my unbelief” by allowing me to watch Him flex as He brought freedom to the soul of a woman and restored the sight of a man. In November, while in Uganda, the Lord spoke clearly, “You’re coming back.” Once more, the Lord pried my hands open, and as I laid my life down before Him, He so sweetly reassured me that He would continue to be faithful and that He is enough.

I thought back on this year, a season of waiting, followed by a promise being fulfilled. In the Lord’s abundant provision, I came back from Australia to a peaceful and quiet home where I would stay for six months as I entered into what I felt like would be a season of waiting. I asked the Lord just what exactly He meant by the word He spoke to me in Uganda. “Did you mean I’m coming back to YWAM? Did you mean I’m coming back to Uganda? Did you mean I’m coming back to Africa? Did you mean this year? Did you mean five years? Did you mean ten years? What did you mean?” I was catching up with one of my dear friends and her dad one night, and I told them I wasn’t sure what was next, but that I had a strong desire to use the gifts and abilities the Lord had given me in a way that would add value to people’s lives. I just wanted to do something that mattered. Her dad asked me if I had ever thought about micro-finance and I told him I didn’t know a thing about it. As he explained how it worked, I was intrigued and thought, “Hmm this sounds like something that would align with this vague desire I have. Lord, is this from you?” Over the next couple of months, once again, the pieces came together in such a way that only God could get the glory. I was connected with a micro-finance organization working in Ghana, told them I knew nothing about micro-finance, but felt like it was something the Lord was leading me to pursue, and they encouraged me to come with them on one of their business training trips. I initially planned to go on a 10-day trip to Ghana, which turned into a two-month stay, and while here, I felt like the Lord was leading me to come back again in November for the last phase of Videre’s business training program. And that brings me back to today.

I think God calls us to remember so often because He knows that we are so quick to forget who He is and what He’s done. And yet He doesn’t respond with condescending remarks or anger when we forget and begin to doubt or question His presence; He responds with mercy, as He holds out His hand and patiently says, “You can trust me. I promise. Remember.”

I’m not sure what the future holds, but I have learned that some things are certain: God is faithful, He can be trusted with all areas of your life, and when doubt creeps in, it will quickly be replaced with peace as you remember.

relaxing

lake

exodus study

breakfast

Life in Yendi.

It has been a couple of weeks since my last update and I’ve got so much to catch you up on, but first, I want to introduce you to the people I have been spending most of my time with.

Augustina

Augustina

Augustina is staying with me at the house and next to my father, she makes the best food! She is a lot of fun and we like to play games in our spare time. I taught her how to play some card games and she taught me how to play a board game that is similar to the game Sorry! but with many more opportunities to say “Sorry!” to your opponent and not really mean it.

Joshua

Joshua

Joshua is Videre’s new program manager and he is the one I spend most of my time with. He comes to pick me up on his motorbike in the mornings and we travel to the different villages of Videre’s entrepreneurs to check in with them and find out how their businesses are doing. He knows Dagbani, Likpakpaln and English so he is the middleman and translates everything that’s said in our meetings.

Azindow

Azindow

Azindow is one of the local pastors in Yendi and he and his family have been so hospitable and kind. He goes out of his way to make sure that Augustina and I are taken care of, and laughing is guaranteed in the presence of this guy.

You may be wondering, “What does a day in the life look like over there for Brittany?” I’d love to tell you! Over the past two weeks, Joshua and I have been meeting with 3-4 people each day, going through an evaluation of Videre’s training program. The goal is to meet with each entrepreneur who has completed Videre’s training program and received a loan, and gather information about how their business is doing, how the lives of those in their family and community have been impacted through their business, how they are sharing good news of Jesus through their business, and receive feedback on the business program, both what they like and specific areas they think can be improved. This has been such a great opportunity for me to see what microfinance looks like on the ground, and I have really enjoyed getting to meet all of the entrepreneurs and gaining a better insight into their daily lives. So far we have met with 35 of the 42 participants and Lord willing, we will finish up early next week.

Now would be a good time to introduce you to just a few of Videre’s entrepreneurs. Timothy owns a provisions store in the village of Jagando. Through his business, he has been able to build relationships with the people in his community and often gets to share his testimony of how came to know the Lord and experienced His healing power. The people in Timothy’s small community no longer have to make the trek to Yendi to get what they need and can just walk over to his store, saving them a lot of time and energy.

Timothy and Joshua

Yakubu sells insecticide powder. When asked what the biggest effect the business had on his personal life was, he said that he was able to buy school uniforms and nice clothes for his children. He ran outside to grab a bag off his bike and came back in proudly holding up three pairs of jeans he had just purchased for his children.

Yakubu

Sana makes and sells shea butter. When we met with Sana she mentioned that her husband’s eye sight has increasingly gotten worse and he had to stop farming. Many people farm in Yendi and rely on their crops for food and income. Because of Sana’s shea butter business, the burden to provide for the family has been lifted from her husband’s shoulders and they are still able to provide for their family.

Sana Shea Butter

Next week we will start collecting the homework from the participants who just completed phase I of the training program, and determine who will move on to phase II which starts on September 30th. My original plan was to come to Ghana for phase I, stay through phase II and return home on October 6th after the completion of phase II, but after much thought and prayer, I have decided to return to Ghana on November 8th for phase III! Coming back for phase III will enable me to see what the program looks like from start to finish, and as icing on the cake, I will also get to see each of the participants receive their loan which will indeed be such a sweet moment!

I mentioned Augustina’s cooking earlier and I want to introduce you to one of the main foods here, known as fufu. Below you can see step-by-step how it’s made and how to eat it. I’ll also show you how to prepare the guinea fowl that sometimes accompanies fufu, however, in this example, we made guinea fowl stir-fry.

How to Make Fufu in 8 Steps

How to Eat Fufu in 3 Steps

how to make guinea fowl stir-fry

That’s all I’ve got for now. Until next time…

Phase 1 – Day 5

We woke up this morning and enjoyed bread with butter and jelly. Joel is a smart man and brought Starbucks Via packets from home so we enjoyed coffee, too, which was such a treat! We returned to the same village we visited last night and met new people and saw the faces of those we met last night. We worshipped together and Joel taught from James 1:2-8 and 1 Peter 3:8-22. We left the village and headed to Tamale to stay with the Yakubu family. Four members of our team will fly from Tamale to Accra tomorrow morning and back to the states tomorrow evening. Iris and I will stay in Tamale and travel back to Yendi on Monday to travel around to the villages of our past participants and see how their businesses are doing. We’ll be able to spend time resting this weekend, as our bodies recover from a long, great week!

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Breakfast in Sakpei

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Church service

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Pastor Abukari and me before the team headed back to his family’s house in Tamale

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Joel showing the kids in Sakpei pictures on his iPhone. They love the tall man!

 

Phase 1 – Day 4

This morning all five teams presented their business plans to the panel of three judges, made up of Iris, Videre’s Director of Operations, and two entrepreneurs who graduated from Videre’s business training program, have received and repaid their loan and are currently operating successful and growing businesses that are committed to sharing Jesus with their customers. Each team had 20 minutes to pitch their business idea and loan proposal to the judges and the judges would follow up with questions about their business plan. Think the TV show Shark Tank, Ghanaian style. The judges deliberated over our lunch break and came back in with a verdict. They explained that the winning group won because it was a unique business idea, profitable, and provided a great avenue for sharing Jesus with their customers. And the winner was… our group! Each team members, as well as our translator, received a bottle of oil, a truly prized possession! Before class ended, everyone received and reviewed their homework sheet as the translator read and explained each question. All of the questions on the sheet are questions that we discussed during class and included in our mock business plan. Before phase II starts, I will go around and collect each participant’s homework. If they have completed their homework with accurate information, we will invite them back for phase II. As coaches for our groups, we were all very proud as we watched our teams applying and explaining the concepts they learned over the last three days. Although most people in the program are unable to read or write, they are very smart! The way they brainstormed and the ideas that came up with were very creative. I know that many of them will expand the Kingdom of God as they grow and expand their own businesses. I can’t wait to see where they are, both personally and professionally, one and two years from now!

After class ended, we packed up and headed for a village called Sakpei, about 1 ½ hours from Yendi. We got settled in and ate dinner, and at 9pm, half of us drove to a nearby village to preach and encourage the Christians there. We arrived at the church, a canopy near the road made out of sticks and covered with hay. We sat under the canopy and waited for the church members to gather with us. There is no electricity in the village, which means no street/dirt road lights, so we sat in the darkness of the night and listened to the bullfrogs sing. It was incredible! I mean, I’ve heard bullfrogs before and never thought it was anything spectacular, but it seriously sounded like a bullfrog choir, with many different tones and pitches. As we sat and listened, we began to see small white lights appearing in the distance. One would appear and then another would light up. Although the light was small in comparison to the darkness of the night, our eyes were drawn to it and we were intrigued by it. We realized as the light got closer, that it was the flashlights of the Christians coming out to gather with us. It was a great illustration of the light of Christ within us shining brightly in a world full of darkness. I pray that one day the lights of the people in the village will overpower the darkness, as we long for the day when there will be no more darkness. Joel shared from Genesis 1, 3 and Romans. It was a great encouragement to all who were gathered. We acknowledged that although our lives were so different, we were united and the same in Christ. How sweet it was to worship with, encourage one another and praise our Father with our brothers and sisters.

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Three of the women in my group eating breakfast before class starts for the day.

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Adam and Dela, with help from some other team members, demonstrating the need for high quality chairs and presenting the rest of their business case like champs.

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Emmanuel, a past program participant, announcing the winning team

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Our team with their prizes (from left to right): Rebecca, our incredible translator Salumi, me, Theresa, Dela, Rose, Adam and Eunice. Sara had to leave right after class to head back to Tamale. The second picture is most of the entrepreneurs and the business coaches.

Phase 1 – Day 3

Today we talked about the components of a budget, how to create one, the importance of saving, different ways to save, how to create a savings plan, how a loan works and the concept of interest. For our budget, they first determined how many events they would have each week and how many chairs/canopies they would rent for each event. We determined our price brackets yesterday, so we were able to create a budget for our high season months and our low season months. Once we had our budget, we began creating our savings plan. We talked about the importance of saving and I asked what would happen to our business if we were not saving and someone broke into our store and stole our entire inventory. They quickly realized that without a savings plan, their business could collapse overnight and everything that they worked so hard to start and build up would have no way of continuing without money to reinvest in inventory. Our savings plan had different categories including: tithing, giving back to the community, personal salary, reinvestment into the business, and an emergency fund. Once we had determined our budget and savings plan, we dove into how a loan works. The hardest concept for them to understand was interest because they have not heard about it before and they don’t use percentages in their daily lives. I showed them an example of two people in our group receiving loans, one for $1,000 and one for $2,000 and asked them if it would be fair if the investor charged them each $200, although one was receiving a smaller amount. They decided that it would not be fair. Then I showed them an example where instead of being charged a flat rate, they were charged a variable rate. I showed them that although they would both be charged 15%, the final amount to repay would depend on the size of their loan. I showed them that when the investor charges both participants 15% instead of $200, they would repay $1,150 and $2,300 instead of $1,200 and $2,200, respectively. I asked them if this would be fair, and they agreed that it was. It took a good 30-40 minutes before everyone in the group understood how interest worked, but they finally got it and boy, was that a sweet moment! We then determined how quickly we could repay our loan and what our monthly loan repayments would be, including interest. We were finally able to put everything together and used actual numbers to show income, expenses, profit, and savings both in our high-season months and low-season months, both in the months we were repaying our loan and the months after we finished repaying the loan. They were pretty amazed to see how profitable their business was and how much they would be able to give away and save. We finalized our business plan, which includes everything we have learned over the past three days, and the group chose two members to make the business pitch to the panel of judges tomorrow morning. Dela and Adam decided they would present for the team. They don’t know what the business ideas for the other groups are, but they are still confident that they will place 1st in the competition!

 

Phase 1 – Day 2

Today was a much better day! We started off with a big group activity, exposing the class to market research in a fun, creative way. We brought seven volunteers to the front of the room and conducted a mock market survey with three new products we wanted to introduce in Yendi. The three products were Goldfish crackers, gummy fruit snacks, and sunflower seed crackers. They examined the packaging of the products and ranked them 1st to 3rd based on appearance alone, and six out of the seven liked Goldfish the best. One by one, we took each product out of the packaging and gave our volunteers a sample in order to comment on the touch, smell, appearance and most importantly, the taste. Although six of the seven would have bought Goldfish based on packaging alone, six out of the seven hated the taste and some even spit it out. Haha! At the end of the exercise, we asked them how much they would pay for each product, and based on all of the information we collected, we chose to introduce the product that would yield the most profit for our business. The winning product was the gummy fruit snacks. After the exercise, we broke up into our small groups and came up with our own mock business idea. For the rest of the training, each group will create an entire business plan for the mock business. On the last day of training, the groups will present the business plan to a group of judges, pretending that they are wealthy people who can fund their business. Only one group will be the winner and the group that has the best business plan will win a prize.

Today we talked about marketing, created a marketing plan for the business, and starting working on our financial plan by determining our start-up expenses (what we need to start the business and how much we need). Tomorrow, we will continue our financial plan by creating a budget, a savings plan, and discussing how loans work. Our group decided to start a plastic chairs and canopy rental business. In Ghanaian culture, they have ceremonies for many things and plastic chairs are a vital component of all ceremonies. Once we had our business idea, we discussed why marketing is important and defined our target market. The group decided that they would target brides-to-be, pregnant women, business owners with apprentices and families planning funerals. Then we came up with the questions we would need to ask in our market survey and discussed the best ways to conduct our research. One of the great things about the business idea they chose is that there are not a lot of competitors in Yendi. They said the current chair rental businesses rent chairs that are broken and “not neat”, and they want their business to be known for renting high quality, clean chairs to the community. They also decided that they would offer volume discounts to their customers, which is not common in this area, to show their customers that they value their business. They determined a competitive price and defined a promotional campaign. The most important part of their business plan is their kingdom impact strategy, which is how they will use their business to share the Gospel with their customers. They discussed for a while and finally decided that when customers came in to their store, they would ask the customer what the occasion was. If they said it was to celebrate the birth of their new baby, they would talk about what the bible says about children and how they are a gift from God. If they said it was to celebrate a marriage, they would talk about how the bible says that we are to rejoice with those who are rejoicing. If they said it was for a funeral, they would talk about how the bible says that we are to mourn with those who mourn. They are very confident that they will place 1st in the competition! They will take this assignment and apply it to their real business to prepare them for phase II. Their homework in between phase I and phase II will be to conduct market research for their own personal business and I will collect it a couple of weeks before phase II is scheduled to start. In phase II, I will work with them one-on-one to create a solid business plan and we’ll determine whether or not they have a viable business plan. They all worked very hard today, were participating and are taking the assignment very seriously. Dela even said, “We are talking more today!” I said, “YES! Isn’t it way more fun when we are all talking?”

This evening we went around town to visit the businesses of some of the entrepreneurs in the training program. We visited two business from my group Adam’s and Dela’s. Adam’s brother has been running his shop while he’s in training during the day. Dela’s beauty shop is very neat and I would totally get my hair done there!

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Phase 1 – Day 1

Today was our first day of Videre’s business training. We have 36 participants split up into five groups. I have six women and one man in my group:

  • Rebecca cooks and sells rice in Yendi
  • Adam sells cosmetics, hair care and toiletry-type items in Yendi
  • Dela has been a beautician in Yendi for 13 years
  • Rose is a seamstress in Yendi, and she is married with two children
  • Eunice is a beautician in Yendi
  • Theresa is also a beautician in Yendi and she and Eunice are sisters
  • Sara sells baby clothes in Tamale, and she is married with two children

As the business coach for the group, my main role is to facilitate conversation among the participants by asking open-ended questions as we go through the training material. Many of the participants are unable to read or write so lecturing the entire time is not the best way to teach. The morning started off a little slow for our group. I’m sure part of it was because they didn’t know each other very well, and of course they didn’t know me either, but for whatever reason, they wouldn’t say anything after I would ask a question.  I started to get a little frustrated because I didn’t feel like I was able to phrase my questions in a way that was getting through to them. About that time, our team leader came in and was able to take over for a little bit and helped by giving me some pointers on how to best communicate with my group. Honestly, pride and insecurity rose up in me and I began to think, “Really, Brittany? You can’t even teach basic business principles to your group? You should be able to do this without help. You’re failing and are unable to fulfill your role in the group.” I had a mini meltdown during one of our breaks, declared that the thoughts in my mind were lies, and asked the Lord to help me speak in a way that they would understand, and prayed for more participation from everyone. After the break, conversation was flowing and things really turned around. Praise the Lord! Today we covered two sessions of business training using scripture, biblical examples, and real-life examples:

  • Why business is a good thing from God
  • The role of local pastors and entrepreneurs in supporting one another
  • God’s clear instructions for running our businesses
  • The components of a “kingdom business”
  • Key factors in the failure/success of businesses
  • Evaluating God’s plan for your life

Overall, the day ended better than it started, and that’s a big win.

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