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!
(Above: Brandon walking through the business financials with one of the participants in his group)
(Above: Eating a traditional meal for lunch)