Inspiring Entrepreneurs

15th January 2015

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What’s it like being a Team Leader on Raleigh’s most recent venture, ICS Entrepreneur? Having spent six months in Nicaragua supporting two groups of volunteers and a host of budding business men and women, Alex is in prime position to share his thoughts.

At 40%, youth unemployment and underemployment rates in rural Nicaragua are among the highest in the world. ICS Entrepreneur is the latest addition to Raleigh’s programmes, where groups of UK and home-country volunteers support young Nicaraguans to start businesses in their communities, helping to lift themselves and their communities out of poverty. Alex was Team Leader on the pilot project in Somoto, northern Nicaragua.

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The aim of ICSE is to contribute to the sustainable economic development of rural communities through young entrepreneurs. The six month program is made up of two three month cycles – “during the first cycle we identified and selected the young entrepreneurs, paired them with business mentors, and helped them to develop business plans. The second cycle focussed on transforming these plans into a reality.”

The Entrepreneurs had exciting and varied business plans, ranging from a bee farm to a repair shop. “A number of the businesses looked to harness the business potential of the nearby tourist attraction, Somoto Canyon. They focused on providing goods or services for tourists, including a restaurant and a bakery. One business we worked with, ‘Manualidades Darling’, was made up of a group of three young women united by their enthusiasm and talent for handicrafts. Their aim was to sell handmade souvenirs and accessories to tourists visiting the Canyon. After attending courses run by our project partner, INPRHU, and Raleigh ICS E skills workshops, Daniela, Darixa, and Rosa Elena have all the tools to be successful businesswomen.”

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Inevitably there have been challenges along the way. “By far the greatest challenge was the lack of self-belief among the entrepreneurs. This could be due to the lack of opportunities normally available for young people in rural areas of Nicaragua, and the effect this has on their perception of what is possible.To tackle this, we presented a number of inspirational success stories and shared some motivational videos with the entrepreneurs. This, together with constant one-to-one guidance and encouragement, helped to build their confidence and enthusiasm.”

“The change has been remarkable in some of the entrepreneurs, who are now allowing themselves to dream of a better future, in which they are the masters of their own destiny.”

“By taking part in the program as a team-leader, I’ve had the opportunity to develop many new skills and gain valuable experience. Bringing together a diverse group of volunteers and keeping them motivated throughout the project was a big challenge, especially when in a testing environment.”

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“We learn and develop much more when forced out of our comfort zone; the experience has helped me grow as a leader but above all as a person”

“The past six months have completely changed my outlook on life. Before I took part in ICS E I felt unsure of my place in the world and the direction I would take in it. I was cynical about the way the world worked and how we were treating it, but didn’t know how to make a difference, nor saw it as my responsibility. Through Raleigh ICS E and the incredible people I’ve met along the way, I’ve learnt that we all have a shared responsibility to this planet and to those still living in poverty. It’s really inspiring to meet so many people dedicating so much of their time and energy, with no other motive than to change things for the better. I’ve learnt an immense amount and experienced countless unforgettable moments on Raleigh ICSE: I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to make a change, and is up for an adventure of a lifetime!

Supporting young people in business is just one of the ways that Raleigh volunteers have made a difference around the world. Do you have inspirational stories from your project to share? Let us know at alumni@raleighinternational.org.