Our coaster tracked across western Tanzania with a full load of volunteers, bags, and water. Bumping over the busy main roads, we watched the Mbeya region pass by in all its diversity as we slowly transitioned from the dry, hot plains outside the city to the damp and cold foothills that housed the village of Mabonde.
We’d prepared for months at home and just finished two days of intensive training in-country. We studied business concepts we’d be sharing with local entrepreneurs, including business model canvasses and how to analyse strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (or SWOT). And dove into the intricacies of day-to-day life in the villages. The training was a great learning experience and also the beginning of our team bonding. But now all the theory was about to become very real.
After nearly four hours, we turned off the main highway onto a smaller road, then a gravel street, and finally turned down the dirt track that snaked its way through Mabonde. We drove to the furthest homestay that would be generously hosting us and all piled out to greet Mama and Baba Fred. We were running a little late so after quick greetings, we headed off to the school where the entrepreneurs were awaiting our arrival.
Meeting the entrepreneurs
We had a big turnout with 25 entrepreneurs. There were a variety of one-person operations as well as a big group who were raising pigs together.
Diving right in, we found the entrepreneurs we’d be working with and broke into small groups for one-to-one introduction. Throughout the program, we’d focus on a combination of group teaching and individual coaching. This initial chat was mostly about getting to know the entrepreneurs, asking what had changed since their initial Raleigh training almost a year prior, and trying to get a feel for how we could be most helpful.
Teaching + one-to-ones
The next morning, we woke up excited for our first full day in the village and eager to begin the teaching. All these entrepreneurs had completed a 12-week Raleigh programme a year before our visit, so this follow up was designed to be a refresher and a continuation to help address inevitable challenges that had arisen while doing business.
So, the teaching program covered a series of four hour reviews each morning. Lead by a partnership of Googlers and Raleigh alumni, each teaching session reviewed the theoretical basics before workshopping the entrepreneur’s businesses. During the market research session, for instance, entrepreneurs left with a plan for conducting research over WhatsApp, plus peer feedback from a focus group in class.
After the morning’s training, each business owner scheduled a time in the afternoon for 1:1 coaching with an alumni/Googler pair where they could deep dive into the day’s topic and their own specific entrepreneurship challenges.
As week one wound to a close, we dedicated our last 1:1s to the first draft of an action plan for each entrepreneur. Working together in mentor pairs, we brainstormed ideas for how each entrepreneur could address the challenges they’d shared with us over the first few days. Solidifying and structuring those thoughts, we sketched out an action plan of proposed ideas to share with each entrepreneur. We sat down with our entrepreneur teams and talked through the ideas – removing some that weren’t relevant, adding timelines and costs to those that were, and even appending additional ideas that arose from discussion.
The next Monday kicked off with a much-needed training session on cashflow. As several entrepreneurs indicated they would like to learn more about the subject, the crowd was highly engaged during the training session. Two Googlers and two alumni hosted an inspiring session to help the entrepreneurs understand the importance and inner workings of cashflow. Each of them left the training room with a well set-up cashflow of their own.
It was hard to believe how quickly a week went by in Mabonde! Whether greeting the villagers with a local “ugunile!”, or seeing familiar faces in the village, or even the long but worthwhile walk to mama Fred’s (because, hot chocolate). It all felt like home now.