Entrepreneurship in Central America

Hello Blakeley Blog,

I just finished my first two weeks with TechnoServe in Managua, Nicaragua. TechnoServe is an International NGO that works to improve the lives of business owners and farmers. Their motto is, "Business Solutions to Poverty." TechnoServe works throughout Latin America, Africa, and India. 

I am working closely with a project called Impulsa Tu Empresa - in English "Boost Your Business." Impulsa Tu Empresa is a business accelerator program to help grow small and growing businesses. Entrepreneurs entering the program do between $20,000-$2,000,000 USD in sales per year and on average have 14 employees.

Broadly, the program works like this: Entrepreneurs first work with TechnoServe "technicians" to develop a growth strategy. This lasts about three months. Then, these technicians work with the individual businesses on implementation. This is called "aftercare." The program is one year long. Most of the 2015-2016 cohort is just finishing up. In this region, the program is running in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. 

Officially, I am part of the TechonServe Volunteer Consultant Program. TechnoServe calls these people "VolCons." My consulting assignment is to work with their Central American offices on their entrepreneurship strategy for the region. Over the next two months I will be traveling around the region talking to entrepreneurs about their experience starting and growing their business in order to recommend the best intervention strategies.

This past week, however, I got the chance to join another project team to see the work TechnoServe is doing with smallholder dairy farmers. This project is called GANE and is in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Many of the farms we visited were located around the city of Wappy. We talked with farmers about GANE and challenges facing smallholder famers in the region. TechnoServe works throughout the supply chain. This meant that we also met with microfinance institutions, cooperatives, a mayor of a small city, and cheese and yogurt producers. I am not a dairy expert, so it was interesting to learn about things like incentivizing "trazabilidad" ("traceability" - tracking cattle with ear tags), and strategies for optimizing pasture quality.

Overall, being in the field was a great experience. I met some of the people TechnoServe works with got a better feel for the operations of the organization.