And finishing up Construye tus Suenos

So after beginning on promoting it heavily at the end of March, I now have a break from Construye for some months.  Now I did post about the class before, but that was not the total of the initiative.  The class is designed around how to write a business plan and one of the incentives is that if they fall into the guidelines (16-29 years of age, completed the course) they can write a business plan to compete for the chance to be funded with there initial budget (this year the limit was 50,000 pesos).

For my classes, only one decided to proceed in this way.  A few others did not fall into the age range or just the competition was not the best , but still have used the information that was shared to improve or start their business.  During August, Melvin wrote out his plan for a Sala de Tareas (a homework center) and I would go over it with offering advice that it was his choice to take.

In September, the plans were graded and 16 were invited to compete and given criticisms and a chance to submit a revised plan by October.  All others who submitted, were still invited to the conference and given a chance to present as well.

This is where I became frustrated with Melvin.  In brief, he was giving me excuses on why not many changes were made, and I’m not calling into question the validity, it just felt like he was not taking full advantage of the opportunity and wanted me to take a bigger role, which I was not going to do because in the end it is his business and he needs to show he can work through challenges.  So in the end the plan was sent in only partly changed.

Then in October, we all gathered in the capital for the conference.   The first afternoon we had the introduction and team building activities led by the trainees (much like I had last year except this time it was in the afternoon, so no problem with the lights going out, and there were more trainees to divide the labor).  Then Gabby and Alana gave a presentation on how to give a good presentation. The evening we had dinner and then time to practice.

The next morning it was time to get down to business.  In the morning, we had 4 room of competitors (4 plans each).  I was slightly leery of Melvin presenting because I was not sure he had prepared well enough.  But I was very pleased in the end.  He covered all the questions that occurred in his plan about how the business would operate.  I was quite happy he had taken the notes into consideration, since I felt he had not with the changes to his written plan.

The afternoon was for the finalists, because of all the great presentations and plans, Melvin did not advance.  After sitting through 8 more presentations we had free time and then dinner.  Later that night the winners were announced (a hair salon, an internet center, an underwear seller, a cafeteria, and a jewelry and craft maker) as well as the peoples choice (a taekwondo school, a nail salon, and a center to sell crafts and souvenirs) who received a portion of money requested to move a step forward with starting their businesses.

For all the other participants there was a panel of past participants (one who had won, but two who had not) who shared their experiences with moving forward with their businesses.  And then all had a chance to relax with a Spanish dubbed Ghostbusters (a movie about entrepreneurship).  The next day was presentations on micro finance and a micro finance fair that gave the participants a chance to ask questions and learn more. Then lunch and we left.

I have to say I was quite happy with the result of the conference.  Melvin told me he was going to start with what he had and build it up.  An approach I think is a great way to go about it and had been trying to encourage starting smaller the whole time he had the plan.  I felt at the time he was not receptive to starting smaller, so it was very satisfying the hear him say that.  I finally could let go of some of my frustration.

And then yesterday when I went to help his brother with his english school, by letting the advanced class practice with a native speaker, I saw Melvin had painted his sign on the building and set up a couple tables, chairs, white board, and books to begin.  How great is that!

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