Thursday was mostly a repeat of Wednesday morning, so there will not be a great deal more to add.
We returned to the Blue House — the popular local name for the church in Kibera (because it is painted sky blue and stands out from the surrounding browns and grays) — where we conducted the second day of the entrepreneurial training. We talked about assessing and starting small businesses, about supply and demand, market saturation and finances. The creativity and excitement in the group was even more evident today.
They created lists of potential small businesses. I was impressed with the innovation, and also awakened to the realization that one needs more than mere business know-how to start a business in Kibera; you’d also need insider knowledge. The businesses the students were coming up with were things that only locals would think of, and that was cool.
In Kibera, there are lots of businesses already. Most of them are vendors, selling chicken, fish, vegetables, fruit, shoes, other clothes, or — most popular of all — charcoal. There are also barbers, artisans, security jobs, schools, clinics, NGOs, places to watch soccer or play Play Station, and even cyber cafes.
As much as I’d like to, I won’t reveal the brilliant business ideas the students are hoping to kick off because, as you might imagine, competition for any kind of economic advantage is huge in Kibera, and many of the students wanted to keep their ideas under the radar until they had the money to start them. (They didn’t want their ideas being stolen!)
I was really encouraged by the end of the training. It seemed clear that some of the students really seemed set on getting their businesses off the ground. And, what is more, I believe they can do it. Not in just an optimistic, good-luck sense, but I genuinely think some of the ideas — and definitely the students — could be very successful. It also affirms the possibility of longer-term partnership with the church and the students, rather than a one-off week-long trip that ends and dissolves forever.
I’m eager to hear from the students how the launches go.
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For lunch, we met with the council of the Kibera church. We heard about their vision and talked about continued partnership, so that felt good.
After lunch, I led a short part of the training, talking about how small businesses should be using the internet to advance themselves (record-keeping, communications and networking, publicity and marketing, information movement, and e-commerce). Apart from being a bit nervous to speak spontaneously and with some presumed authority, it was fine. The students were particularly happy to learn about free resources like wordpress.com and Google Docs features.
The class filled the day. A lot was accomplished, and by the end the students had laid out pretty substantial business plans.
We went to dinner with church staff at a fancy, outdoor Ethiopian restaurant. The waiter was funny. (I was intrigued by the clear physical differences between Kenyans, Ethiopians, and Sudanese, which were on display.) It surprised me how distinct Ethiopian food was from Kenyan food. We ordered a little Ethiopian coffee to share, and it was by far the strongest coffee I have ever tasted — way stronger than American coffee or Kenyan tea. I chatted with the pastor from Kibera about KiSwahili, tribes in Kenya (there are 42), how the Kibera church was planted, and NBC’s vision for the next few years.
It was a really great day, and it left me feeling that for all the good work of the week, there was still so much more I wanted to do and see. Alas, such things cannot always be.