Monday, November 11, 2013

The Competitions

It’s the beginning of November, which means that most small biz development volunteers have been running around trying to organize local and regional business competitions for the entrepreneurship course we work with.  My biggest worry for about a week was whether or not there would be chairs at my local event since the location I booked did not have any.  Just another day in the life of a PCV!

The competition is the culmination of a year’s worth of work in the schools.  We work together with our counterpart teachers to teach the entrepreneurship course each week to hundreds of high school seniors.  Most sections have around 40 students in them, and each week we work through part of the curriculum starting with idea generation all the way to finances and the final business plan.  To provide a bit of motivation, we hold competitions at the end of the year where the student groups compete based on their products and business plan. 

The local:
My local competition was pretty small.  I told each teacher they could bring one group per section of the class they taught for a total of eight teams.  The mayor’s office let us use the Palacio de Cultura to hold the event.  I thought everything was going to be great until I found out that the Palacio de Cultura does not have chairs, or more specifically, it did not have chairs available that day since they were being rented out for another event. 

For about a week, I wondered if I would have chairs or not at the event as I went to both the municipal and departmental delegations of the Ministry of Education trying to get some help with the chair debacle… all to no avail.  The day before the event I got the final “Sorry, we can’t help you,” and set about trying to find some on my own.  Through the power of networking and asking everyone I knew, I found out a pharmacy also rented chairs and they quoted me $3 for 50 chairs.  The only catch was that I needed to transport them myself to and from the event.  Through another round of calling people I knew, one of my teachers talked with a girl in his class who’s dad owned a truck and agreed to help us with the transport.  Crisis averted in the nick of time!
My private school came out in force and brought the whole class. 

This group made an aloe shampoo and demonstrated using it. 

Defending their product. 

We were a bit skeptical on this product. 

I was afraid the table was going to catch on fire. 

The winning group!

The regional:
The winners of my local competition advanced on to the regional level.  We spent another round of edits on the business plans, taking into account what the judges at the local competition had suggested.  The mayor’s office donated about half the cost necessary to get us to the neighboring city, and with some funds from generous friends of mine, I covered the other half. 

The two groups I brought had very different product offerings.  The first, “Bolsos Creativos,” offered a line of purses for women.  A big selling point was that they could make any design you wanted as long as you had a picture of what it was.  
The team along with one of my counterpart teachers, Alex. 

Some last minute presentation advice.

The second, “Cerenutrín,” offered a powdered drink mix made from cacao, coffee, and a few other toasted grains grown locally.  They ground up the ingredients and made a powder to mix with water or milk for a nutritious beverage.  Both were pretty good products.  Perhaps not the newest ideas out there, but both ideas that have a bit of demand here in my site. 

A la desnutrición le pone fin!

Cerenutrín took third place thanks to their energetic marketing pitch during their presentation.  I wish I had a video of it because Marvin, the “Director of Marketing,” was hilarious as he pitched “Con Cerenutrín, a la desnutrición le pone fin. Con fuerza, sabor, y energia.” Or in English- “Put an end to malnutrition with Cerenutrín.  With strength, flavor, and energy.”  His huge smile and enthusiasm totally sold it. 
Marvin at his finest. 
They were really psyched about third place.

So that’s the end of the competitions for me.  I’ll be attending the national level competition in Managua on the 22nd of November, but just to help out since my groups didn’t advance.  The Nicaraguan school year ends at the beginning of December, and my teachers have already finished teaching the curriculum and are now using the class time to catch the kids up on other subjects where they are behind, so I’m transitioning into some other activities.
A bit disappointed at a tough loss. 

Both my teams.

No comments:

Post a Comment