From Street Musician to Self-Reliant Businessman: Worldwide Education for Worldwide Success By Debbie Adams Section: Service Word Count: 2110 (requirement is 900-1100…please help cut down!) In 2012, 22-year-old Moroni Jesus Ramos Olague lived on the streets of Mexico City. His curly black hair was covered by a beanie shaped like the face of an anime cartoon and his head was filled with dreams of one day studying in the United States. He was a skilled young man—he had graduated from high school at age 17 and then completed a course on computers and networking—and yet he was playing a small plastic recorder on the street, as much out of a love of compulsive music-making as it was to pick up an extra peso to pay for his bare necessities. He had moved away from his parents and two younger siblings in Monterrey, the north of Mexico, to carve out his own future, but had lost everything. The Problem Moroni’s story is not unique. All over the world, skilled college graduates can’t find work. In Mexico City, out of 10 individuals who begin college, only one typically lands a job in his or her field of study, and the average monthly salary of college graduates is US$700—not enough to survive. About 30% of the taxi drivers have college educations. So how do they get by? The answer is simple: jobless people all over the world are forced to make something out of nothing—to find anything they have and sell it to anyone who will buy it. Children in Mexico, like Ramos Olague, are made to sell candy, cell phone plans, credit cards, anything to tourists in the street to help support their families. In Brazil, single mothers desperately try to feed their children by using money they earn from selling baked goods or handmade wares on the street— even though every neighbor on the street is selling the same thing. In a short matter of time, a majority of these necessity entrepreneurs will watch their businesses flop or fail completely, leaving them worse than they were when they started. The Solution: A Business Education I learned Ramos Olague’s story from 23-year-old Barry West, a student at Brigham Young University who interned with the Academy for Creating Enterprise, a school that provides necessity entrepreneurs in Mexico, the Philippines, Brazil, Zimbabwe, and other countries with an intense entrepreneurship and business management education. The Academy is one of just three organizations in the world that provides this type of education to necessity entrepreneurs, according to Dr. Jeremi Brewer, who works with Academy interns and students as well as leads research in the field as part of the global Microenterprise Education Initiative (MEEI). And that’s in comparison to 3,500 organizations that are willing to make loans to these necessity entrepreneurs without providing the education necessary to use the loan money effectively. The principles taught at the Academy and through MEEI are basic—students are encouraged to keep records, to separate their business and personal accounts, and to not lend their money to family and friends, among other “rules of thumb” that the students learn. But the impact can be lifechanging. The Impact: The Value of a Bag of Air
Debbie Adams 10/15/13 9:13 PM Comment : Note to the next editor: I made all of the changes suggested by Kate except for the ones that remain here. She is suggesting one way to cut the article down to the word count and I think her idea is really good. However, I am working closely with Dr. Jeremi Brewer, who is quoted in this article, and I want to run the major deletion past him before making the change. I may cut the part that Kate suggests, but instead I may cut everything she doesn’t suggest and keep the part that she suggests cutting because that part is more important to Jeremi. When he gets back to me about it I’ll make the major cuts and upload a new draft, hopefully by Wednesday night. For now, any feedback would be great! Thanks for your work! Alannah Autrey 10/19/13 10:09 PM Deleted: in the shape Alannah Autrey 10/19/13 10:09 PM Deleted: face Alannah Autrey 10/19/13 10:11 PM Comment : How did he lose everything? I don’t think we need to go into depth here. But just a short sentence explaining what had happened would be helpful. Alannah Autrey 10/19/13 10:04 PM Comment : Debbie, can you provide us with the sources you used for these statistics? Alannah Autrey 10/19/13 10:12 PM Comment : Why are they jobless? Why can’t they find work even though they are college graduates? Alannah Autrey 10/19/13 9:50 PM Comment : Debbie, the sections along with your revisions make this beginning a lot more understandable. Good job. BYU 10/14/13 8:40 PM Comment : I’m not sure if we need to know about Barry West specifically, just simply the organization in general, and that students can participate. I think the more important person to know about is Ramos Olague. Would you consider removing this part? Alannah Autrey 10/19/13 10:23 PM Comment : I agree. Learning about Berry West at the beginning of this paragraph takes away from the importance given to Dr. Brewer and left me confused ... 
During his internship at the Academy’s Mexico location, West became familiar with Ramos Olague. At that point, Olague was a recent graduate of the Academy’s five-week micreoenterprise “boot camp” training course, where he learned the skills and gained the confidence he needed to trade a bag of air for 50% ownership of an internet café, which he is now managing. He currently lives above the café, which is seeing greater success thanks to his expertise. Ramos is now self-reliant. How did he end up with an internet café when he started out with a bag of air? On the second day of “boot camp,” the students were divided into teams of five. Each team received a bag of air with the instructions to go out into the city and return in five hours with 500 pesos (about US$50). Ramos Olague’s first thought was, “How am I going to exchange this?” But, trade by trade, his team began receiving objects of greater and greater value: first, a bag of rice in return for the bag of air; next, candy; then, a bag of chips, then cookies, then a sweater. By the end of the five hours, the team walked back into class with 254 pesos. The trading activity opened Ramos Olague’s eyes to a new world of opportunity. If he could start with nothing and obtain 254 pesos, why stop there? He kept trading and eventually earned 2700 pesos, enough to pay for rent for an apartment in Mexico City after graduating from the Academy. He kept trading and heard from an Academy employee that someone in the area owned an internet café, but he needed someone skilled in computers to partner with him. It was a perfect match. With the earnings he had made from his trades and a promise to put his computer skills to work, Ramos Olague signed a contract securing him 50-50 ownership in the internet café. “My situation in life now wouldn’t have been possible without the Academy, because the Academy changed my mind, my point of view about self-reliance and about business,” says Ramos Olague. “I remember when they talked to us about self-reliance. They told us, the minimum is being self-reliant. The maximum is being wealthy.” Dr. Brewer sheds a little more light on the “trading activity” he began experimenting with in 2008 by explaining that “most individuals in emerging markets flock toward loan officers to get the capital they ‘need’ to start their businesses. Sadly, most of these individuals are not trained in how to actually put that capital to best use in a small business. Consequently, they find themselves trapped by debts they can’t afford to pay off.” Brewer continues, “I am not ‘anti borrowing;’ I simply wanted to demonstrate that education—and I mean a specific education for business management—must play a vital role in the lending process. Thus, if a student can take a bag of air and transform that into a few hundred dollars in a week, and then turn that into US$1,000 in a month, and eventually 50% ownership in a small business, then he has learned a significant amount about himself and his abilities throughout the process. And, if that same student were to start with a bag of air, turn it into a few hundred dollars, and then lose it all, he has only lost a bag of air, and more importantly, he isn’t burdened with unnecessary debt.” Since 2008, Dr. Brewer has tracked the nearly 2,000 graduates of the Academy in Mexico and recorded how they have transformed objects of no inherent value (e.g. rocks, blades of grass, leaves, bags of air, etc.) and generated USD$628,000. Same Principles, Different Countries Ramos Olague’s success story is not unique to him. In fact, nearly 6,000 Academy alumni and MEEI participants around the world experience similar transformations with bright opportunities for their future.
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Alannah Autrey 10/19/13 10:15 PM Deleted: , Alannah Autrey 10/19/13 9:54 PM Comment : I love that the bag of air is explained now. I think it gives the reader a great insight into what kinds of life-‐ changing lessons these people learn through the program. Alannah Autrey 10/19/13 10:15 PM Deleted: s
Alannah Autrey 10/19/13 10:17 PM Deleted: on Alannah Autrey 10/19/13 10:17 PM Deleted: and explains BYU 10/14/13 8:47 PM Comment : At this point, we’ve already reached the word count. I think you might need to decide which aspect of your article is most important. Instead of going into great depth about the interning experience/sightseeing, etc., consider focusing on the Ramos Olague example of becoming self-‐reliant as the main point of the article, and briefly mention that there is work going on in other countries and that college students can get involved. Alannah Autrey 10/19/13 10:19 PM Deleted: Alannah Autrey 10/19/13 10:19 PM Deleted: of their lives and Alannah Autrey 10/19/13 10:19 PM Deleted: future
Jessica Pino, another Academy intern who taught the first pilot training course in Lima, Peru in the summer of 2013, recalls, with emotion audibly shaking in her voice, “Response was huge. The people were so thankful, so grateful that we were there and we taught them those principles that are really basic. I saw people crying, saying, ‘I just wish I would have heard this before, because I wouldn’t be poor. I wouldn’t have lent all my money thinking it was the right thing to do.’ It was extremely fulfilling.” Jesse Mackay, who went to Zimbabwe as an MEEI intern, agrees. “I like the program a lot because it’s not giving away fish; it’s teaching people to fish,” he explains to me. “It’s teaching them principles that they can apply in their business, but it also makes them better husbands and fathers. It makes them better leaders in their communities and in their churches. It helps them think critically and be more effective at life in general.” As part of their month-long stay in Africa, Mackay and his team partner Matzen Shirley also experienced the region as tourists, taking multiple safaris and boat rides as well as a road trip that took them through Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia, Swaziland, and South Africa. But they both note that their work as interns ultimately contributed more to their experience than the stunning sights. “When we were seeing the sights, we often were traveling around with more wealthy tourists,” reflects Shirley. “A lot of them thought of Africa as animals and beauty—and that’s a big part of it—but they didn’t have a deeper understanding of the culture. They often said things like, ‘I wish I had the opportunity to meet the people. They seem great.’ “We had the opportunity not only to live with them but to dive into their problems, the real problems they deal with on a day to day basis. Our work actually made the touristy part of the trip more fun—more fulfilling. We understood the flipside as well.” Zooming in on Zimbabwe: Scarcity to Self-Reliance Part of that flipside involves Donald Gotora, a young entrepreneur in his 20s with big dreams. Raised by a single mother after his father left when Gotora was just five years old, he remembers his mother as constantly working three or four menial jobs to support her children. “My mother worked and she was a fighter,” recalls Gotora. “One of my great desires in this life is to work as hard as I can to please my mother.” Gotora explains to me that as a child he always “had the burning desire to do all that it takes to be successful,” that if he received an extra $5 he would try to make it become $50 by buying things and selling them for a higher price. As a teenager, he predicted that advanced technology, which is still not manufactured within Zimbabwe, could help his third-world home develop, and he started to design a way to buy electronics from other countries and resell them in his community. “I always wanted to experiment with running things myself, to not be dependent on anyone’s money or work for someone else,” he says. “I would see people well-off, and we really had nothing. As I kept researching more about different people, I always thought, why cannot I do the same as these people and be better?” When Gotora was 24, it was his mother who encouraged him to start his business in October 2012. “Other people were very skeptical,” he remembers. And for a few months, he was not earning as much as he had hoped. But when he began receiving microenterprise training in early 2013, he immediately put his newly learned skills into practice.
BYU 10/14/13 8:48 PM Comment : This is all interesting, but I think can be removed.
“As soon as I learned it, I did it instantly. It had so much of an impact,” reports Gotora. “I just went home and took all my bank statements and started adding things up and calculating them from my journals. I started seeing many changes, and things started moving better.” In addition to keeping records, Gotora now sets weekly goals as well as long-term goals, including opening up five branches of his electronics store by 2016. And he is able to help his mother with the bills, something that he says gives her “more peace.” Where This is Going MEEI has long-term goals, too—one of which is to connect as many coaches as possible with necessity entrepreneurs such as Gotora and Ramos Olangue. And as the entrepreneurs themselves learn and apply the principles they are taught, they can’t keep themselves from sharing the ideas with the people in their communities, spreading the education and vision for a future full of opportunity. For Ramos Olangue, success started with a bag of air. For Gotora, the seed of success was planted when he saw the examples of his mother and other successful individuals around him. For countless necessity entrepreneurs yet to be found, success can start with a traveler who takes the time to get to know them, to listen to their stories, and to share the hope of self-reliance. For more information about MEEI, see www.marriottschool.byu.edu/selfreliance/microenterprise/about For more information about the Academy for Creating Enterprise, see www.stoprmpoverty.com Potential sidebar: List of the 25 rules of thumb taught by the Academy: http://stoprmpoverty.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Academy-E-book-11-26-2012.pdf (p. 5)
BYU 10/14/13 8:57 PM Comment : Same as above. We already have an example of a successful student doing the same kinds of things. If we are going to talk about Gotora, he should probably be mentioned much earlier. Consider moving this to right after the Ramos Olague story. However, both of their stories would need to be drastically condensed if we want to keep both of them. But including this story right here doesn’t seem to fit. Alannah Autrey 10/19/13 10:21 PM Comment : Didn’t we already know that this was the long-‐term goal of MEEI? Alannah Autrey 10/19/13 10:04 PM Comment : Hey Debbie. I agree with Kate’s suggestions for cutting. I absolutely love Ramos’s story and think that will be the most powerful in this article. BYU 10/14/13 9:06 PM Comment : I hate to cut out anything, but I think if something is going to go, it would probably need to be the Gotora story along with the stories about the students traveling. I feel like we still get the gist of what the Academy does with the one example and with the interview with Dr. Brewer. If we keep everything, I feel like it will be hard to keep track of everyone mentioned. Plus we need to cut the word count pretty much in half. Anyway, like I said, a lot of great stuff here! But at this point, we just need to keep the absolute essentials. That being said, I’m excited to see this story in the magazine! Great work!
Published on Dec 17, 2013