By Lydia Farmer
While many Bennies and Johnnies made their New Year’s resolutions, members of Square One spent the first two weeks of January sharing their business education with an impoverished suburb in Leogan, Haiti.
Square One is a student run venture in which members share their knowledge of sustainable business practices with entreprenuers in developing countries. This was not the group’s first trip to Haiti, they had contacts in the town from a previous trip they took to build a mobile chicken coup in 2015.
Upon arrival at His Hands Orphan Outreach, students spent time getting acquainted with the locals before holding business seminars in a church school. For four days, students shared their business education to over 50 attendees each day.
In preparation for the trip, the group put together a textbook that would cover the basics of business, marketing and money management and had it translated into Creole.
“We wrote the textbook using our knowledge of the education level in Haiti and what business majors in our clubs have learned in class,” senior Global Business major Claudia Schulte said. Schulte is the director of project development for Square One.
Following the seminars, the students conducted interviews with entrepreneurs for two days and decided on six businesses to invest in. These businesses have a variety of purposes but the students believed they each served an important function in the community.
One of the loans given was to a local medicine man named Yva who they had previously given a loan to. His business was doing so well he needed to expand to meet demand.
Another local man showed his craftsmanship to the group in hopes for an $80 loan to buy power tools.
“He showed us raw coconut shells and told us he made art from it. He promised by tomorrow he would turn them into the best hair clip investment we could ever buy,” said Alisia Moreno, senior Global Business/Pre Law major and director of travel for Square One.
Other loans the group gave out were to a woman running a restaurant out of her home, a man who wanted to sell textbooks and to their translator, Mario, who had a business selling fertilizer.
So far the businesses have been doing well with the loans from Square One. The group will receive monthly updates on the status of the businesses as they grow and work to pay back their loans by the end of March.
“There is so much potential in developing countries. There are so many people with interesting stories to tell and they deserve a chance to make a living doing something they want to do,” Schulte said.
Not only did this trip provide students with a global perspective of business but also reminded them to appreciate their own education.
“My biggest take away was probably the power that knowledge and education gives you. We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to further our education. It was a humbling experience to teach business skills, that us business students would think of as common sense, that can make a large impact in someone’s life learning,” Moreno said.
Looking to the future, Square One hopes to launch a trip this spring in a new location. Tanzania, India, Rwanda, Guatemala, Costa Rica and South Africa are some of the countries they have been considering for a chance to expand their impact in the developing world.