When Salu Assunção decided to raise chickens, he didn't anticipate that animals would break in, kill his chickens and halt his progress. Magarete Lima didn't foresee competition when she opened a bakery. Now two other bakers serve a community of 100 people. Obstacles such as these are inevitable when trying to sell products in developing markets, and residents often face unforeseen challenges they must tackle on their own.
The Suruacá Entrepreneur Project helps participants from the cCLEAR Proof of Concept Project, as well as other entrepreneurs in the Brazilian Amazon, to establish an entrepreneur group that offers advice and encouragement to aspiring entrepreneurs in the community. The project also supports the efforts of local community leader and entrepreneur Djalma Lima to assist his fellow residents. Through personal projects, residents are learning to better manage resources and strengthen essential skills in order to produce and sell products, increase their family incomes and become more self-sufficient.
Although former participants of the cCLEAR Proof of Concept Project were successful in becoming more self-reliant, they found themselves completely on their own upon conclusion of the project, which resulted in reduced motivation. Regina Souza and Maria Eugete encountered health problems that distracted them. Both women used the money they had kept in reserve to buy raw materials to care for their sick children. Luciene Sousa dos Santos used her reserve money to buy food when crops failed. While most participants continued their personal projects, CEN and other participants felt that their pace of progress could be faster if they worked with each other to provide moral support and share skills, ideas and resources to overcome unforeseen challenges.
The goals of the Suruacá Entrepreneur Project are to:
- Create a forum where participants give moral support, motivate each other, and share advice. Members are encouraged to work together and incorporate others' abilities and skills into their own projects. Participants are responsible for their own projects and do not depend on CEN for direct contributions.
- Help participants transition from the cCLEAR Proof of Concept Project to selling their products in local markets. This group will not only put into practice the problem-solving skills established through the Proof of Concept project, but they will also motivate each other to complete their projects.
- Build markets for products produced by the participants.
To achieve the project’s objectives, CEN will:
- Mentor participants in building micro-businesses
- Support the creation of a local entrepreneur group where members share advice and encouragement with each other and other aspiring entrepreneurs in the community
- Coach members to develop business plans and research markets
- Coordinate market activities among members such as establishing stands at fairs and local events
- Train local resident and entrepreneur Djalma Lima in a simplified version of CEN’s PRATICAR Learning Approach to help him become a more effective mentor to local entrepreneurs
- Purchase a limited amount of products from participants to resell in the U.S. to supplement members’ own sales
- A majority of the former cCLEAR Proof of Concept Project participants resumed their projects and are making and selling products.
- Djalma Lima, a local resident and social leader, was trained in a simplified version of PRATICAR. He has begun using the approach to determine the specific obstacles that participants face and design activities that address the underlying cause of some of these challenges. This helped the group, and the community as a whole, become less reliant upon CEN by increasing their ability to continue the group without CEN's direct support.
- While the entrepreneur group still does not meet regularly as a formal group, Djalma continues to coach most of the former participants individually and in small groups, and this has resulted in their becoming more engaged.
- Members provide each other with advice and share skills. For example, when Djalma noticed that one of the participants, Nilce, was no longer keeping track of her costs and wasn’t sure whether she was charging enough for her crochet work, he asked one of the other participants, Luciene, to sit down with her. Luciene, who is very organized, offered Nilce specific advice, and through the exchange Nilce learned new ways to keep records that didn’t require much additional work. Since this time, Nilce has sold more hand-crocheted purses and earned enough profit to be able to save more for yarn to make purses.
- Members made plans to create a stand in a nearby town to sell products.
Though participants have made important steps toward applying the essential skills they learned through the cCLEAR Proof of Concept Project to their projects, permanent transformation rarely occurs overnight. These skills require regular practice and reinforcement, and setbacks are a natural part of the learning process. To date we have seen the following progress from this project:
- Participants now concentrate more on positive changes that can be made immediately and less on what they lack (i.e. money and resources).
- Participants improved their ability to evaluate markets so they can adapt their products or expand sales.
- Several participants learned to create budgets and inventories of their products.
- Members provide each other with advice and share skills. For example, when Djalma visited another community, he met with chicken farmers, asked many questions, shot video footage and shared what he learned with one of the other participants, Salu Assunção, when he returned home. This not only saved Salu the time and money to travel to the other community, but helped motivate him to develop formal plans to expand his project.
CEN committed to supporting the Suruacá Entrepreneur Group until the end of 2012. We are implementing the following goals so that members can continue to improve their individual projects without our direct support:
- Formalize the creation of the entrepreneur group. The goal is for a minimum of four to five members to regularly attend meetings and become actively involved in the group.
- Continue to support members' efforts to set up a booth
- Continue to advise Djalma Lima in his efforts to mentor each participant to help them achieve personal project goals
- Purchase a limited amount of products from participants and resell them in the U.S. to supplement members’ own sales