Teaching Entrepreneurship Around the Globe

Entrepreneurship Development Center

WDI shares lessons with hopeful entrepreneurs on identifying a gap in the marketplace and building a business around a solution.

Small- and medium-sized businesses drive up to 70% of global employment and gross domestic product, and many are started by determined, dedicated entrepreneurs. The economies in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are powered by these businesses.

Accompanying the call for entrepreneurship in emerging markets, there’s a call for the knowledge, tools and networks to bolster those businesses. Would-be entrepreneurs working to develop successful companies are seeking the know-how to get there in a more efficient, effective way. After taking part in courses on leadership, communication, and team-building, participants in the Ford Community Impact Fellows Training program — a development program for which the William Davidson Institute (WDI) at the University of Michigan has been creating courses since 2020 — asked for precisely that.

“They really wanted to know the nuts and bolts of entrepreneurship,” said Amy Gillett, Vice President of Education at WDI and co-leader of the Institute’s Entrepreneurship Development Center.

Gillett and David Estrada, Program Coordinator at WDI, created the “Starting a Business: Your Entrepreneurial Journey” course to teach participants the basic skills needed to effectively start their journeys. The 88 students in this summer’s program learned how to identify a need in the market, pitch a business plan, acquire funding, price a product and find a place for it in the market. While at work on the projects, the students were guided by 13 program mentors. These mentors had participated in previous online skills building programs offered by WDI and were eager to now share their knowledge and expertise in a guiding role.

The goal of the course was to set these committed students up for success in the business world by providing a foundation for a new company.

“We gave them an overview of the landscape and the fundamental skills they’d need to take an idea and get started,” Gillett said.

LEARNING FROM EXPERIENCE

A successful entrepreneurship path is forged by experience — even if someone else lived it first.

Course guest speaker Jakub Zaludko, leader of strategy and projects at Impact Games, explained how he reshaped digital challenges toward commercial aspirations. As a trained political scientist and anthropologist, Zaludko observed how students in his home country of Slovakia were largely disengaged in the classroom, but they were noticeably focused while playing video games at home. Zaludko and his partners offered a solution: games with positive social impact goals. They built an innovative platform to develop games that encourage educational progress, promote freedom, and boost inclusion and equality.

Just as he did in the educational market, Zaludko explored how students can find a gap in their marketplace and build a solution to fill the void. Participants learned from his experience in identifying the community need, navigating the business world and launching a product.

The course content echoed similar lessons on focused solutions, mainly within low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). When developing the class, Gillett and Estrada wanted to be sure that examples and questions were sourced from spaces where students could see their own potential.

“Great ideas emerge everywhere. We don’t have any kind of monopoly in the U.S., which is why we included cases from all over the world when we created the course,” Gillett said.

Building a Network

Participants from nine countries, including China, Hungary, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Serbia, Slovakia, South Africa and the United States, shared their backgrounds, skills and experiences with one another — all in an effort to grow their business ideas and abilities. Business can’t be built in a vacuum, and engaging relationships are just as critical to the participants’ business development as the lessons themselves.

“To be a successful entrepreneur, you need these connections — and this is a great way to start building or expanding that network, for both participants and mentors,” Gillett said. “With these courses, we are building a global network of learners and entrepreneurs.”

Beyond simply initiating these critical connections, participants were introduced to the deep value of these relationships through their course conversations, projects and group work. “I learned about the value and importance of working as a team to solve problems as they emerge,” said a participant from Nigeria. “Each team member brings a unique set of abilities to the table.”

Pitching a Business

Ultimately, participants worked together to build a business plan and create a video pitch. Gillett, Estrada, and program mentors evaluated the projects with an eye on how well the teams integrated the course lessons.

The winning pitch was for a personalized, flexible online education company: Explore Online. It highlighted the need for customized tutors on a global level, reviewed a break-even analysis for the business and considered the organization’s value proposition.

The second-place team set out to tackle the problem of teenage pregnancy and motherhood in Kenya. Vijana Artifacts dug deeply into the issue itself in their pitch and shared their solution: viable vocational training for young mothers. They shared their business model, target customers and expected revenue streams.

The Truly Glam Apparel team came in third place. Their business pitch focused on sustainable fashion and explored the gap in the marketplace. Their solution involves turning to local artisans, relying on local production teams, and opening up opportunities for personalized customer experiences.

These pitches pushed students to hone their presentation skills. “I gained a better understanding of how I can present my new project to others,” said a participant from China.

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

To the participants, this course wasn’t just an academic venture. It was a professional stepping stone. Most participants either had a business plan in mind before starting the class or were excited by one they came up with during the process. For them, these tools are providing the groundwork for a lifetime of entrepreneurship. This is the mission of the Ford Fund.

“Ford Fund is proud to invest in expanding access to entrepreneurship in communities where Ford does business with a focus on providing more widespread  access to investment capital and educational resources, partnering with local organizations who share our desire to grow entrepreneurial ecosystems in an impactful way,” said Mike Schmidt, Director of Ford Fund.

Excited by the prospects of a new business, one participant from Kenya said: “My partner and I are on a mission to implement the idea we built during the course. Our next move is to develop a solid business plan and budget, then we’ll approach the necessary funding platforms and apply for grants.”

Buoyed by these positive impacts, the WDI Education team is on its way to creating even more courses for Ford fellows. While it will continue to run the current lessons, a new subject — driven by student suggestions — is on its way for a 2024 launch.

Ford Fund is proud to invest in expanding access to entrepreneurship in communities where Ford does business with a focus on providing more widespread  access to investment capital and educational resources, partnering with local organizations who share our desire to grow entrepreneurial ecosystems in an impactful way.

About Ford Motor Company Fund

As the global philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company, Ford Fund focuses on providing access to essential services, education for the future of work and entrepreneurship opportunities for under-resourced and underrepresented communities. Ford Fund’s partnerships and programming are designed to be responsive to unique community needs, ensuring people have equitable opportunities to move forward. Harnessing Ford’s scale, resources and mobility expertise, Ford Fund drives meaningful impact through grantmaking, Ford Resource and Engagement Centers and employee volunteerism.

About WDI

At the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan, unlocking the power of business to provide lasting economic and social prosperity in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) is in our DNA. We gather the data, develop new models, test concepts and collaborate with partners to find real solutions that lead to new opportunities. This is what we mean by Solving for Business—our calling since the Institute was first founded as an independent nonprofit educational organization in 1992. We believe societies that empower individuals with the tools and skills to excel in business, in turn generate both economic growth and social freedom—or the agency necessary for people to thrive.

From Ethiopia to Vietnam, WDI graduate student teams go the distance

Student Opportunties

BA 685: International Center for Rehabilitation in Kumasi, Ghana.
Distributed Fertilizer New Product Commercialization, Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa; Kampala, Uganda.
BA: 685 Poovanthi (LiveWell) in Chennai, India
MAP: Poornatha in Madurai, India.
MAP: International Clinical Laboratories, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
MAP: Boston Medical / Busoga Health Forum in Kampala, Uganda.
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This spring, the William Davidson Institute supported 13 partner projects in nine countries  involving more than 75 University of Michigan graduate students as part of their MBA degree program.

WDI organized a total of nine multidisciplinary action projects (MAPs) with partners in India, Ethiopia, Ghana, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda and Vietnam. The MAP experience at U-M’s Ross School of Business is designed to help part-time, full-time and online students hone their analytical, project management and leadership skills while helping to solve real business challenges at participating companies and nonprofit organizations.

Four other projects as part of the WDI-supported graduate MBA course, BA 685: Healthcare Delivery in Emerging Markets, took place in the Dominican Republic, Ghana, India and Kenya.  WDI also supported 12 students traveling to Nigeria and Ghana to conduct due diligence on companies under consideration by the International Investment Fund, as well as an independent study for one student.

Learn more about the projects and their objectives below.

MAP:

TIP Global Health, Kigali and Ruli, Rwanda.
Objective: Conduct a financial analysis of the current digital health platform used to support healthcare providers in Rwanda, and develop a recommendation for pricing to implement and support the platform for other government health systems.

Boston Medical / Busoga Health Forum, Kampala, Uganda.
Objective: Working with an imaging business in Ethiopia and partners in Uganda, a team conducted market analysis and market entry strategy to extend the imaging services into Uganda.

PowerTrust, Accra, Tamale and Sunyani, Ghana.
Objective: Identify and develop a systematic way to capture, validate and communicate the value of distributed renewable energy credits (DRECs) in Ghana.

International Clinical Laboratories, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Objective: A feasibility study for developing manufacturing and supply hubs for clinical laboratory inputs in Addis Ababa Ethiopia for diagnostics laboratories located throughout Africa.

Distributed Fertilizer New Product Commercialization, Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa; Kampala, Uganda.
Objective: Develop a comprehensive market analysis and market entry strategy for a technology that allows for production of fertilizer at a smaller scale and lower energy cost in South Africa and Rwanda. The technology would significantly reduce the supply chain risks and potentially the costs to farmers and co-ops in these markets.

Poornatha Madurai, India.
Objective: Develop a plan to increase Poornatha’s business-to-consumer model complete with specific offerings tailored to consumers.

Solagron, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Objective: Conduct market analysis and develop a market entry strategy for high-protein, spirulina-based products by Solagron.

Two additional projects at Kisii Eye Hospital and a partner in the Michigan Academy of Development Entrepreneurs in Vietnam are planned for summer 2023.

BA 685

Clínica de Familia La Romana, Romana, Dominican Republic. 
Objective: Develop a financial model for adding GI services to the existing operations at the clinic.

International Center for Rehabilitation, Kumasi, Ghana.  
Objective: Develop recommendations for improving the efficiency of the clinic and doubling the capacity of the existing rehabilitation clinic.

Kisii Hospital Vision Center, Kisii, Kenya
Objective: To develop a protocol for establishing vision centers around Kisii and develop recommendations for potential new locations.

Poovanthi (LiveWell): Chennai, India
Poovanthi was established over 10 years ago and has expanded to 100 beds at its original facility outside of Madurai and 30 beds at a recently opened facility in Chennai. This team’s objective was to develop a five-year strategic plan to support Poovanthi’s expansion plans.

Learn more about WDI Student Opportunities.

Vittas International is a Fintech company founded in 2019 with the goal to bring transparency to the lending ecosystem in Nigeria by providing lenders with a tool to better assess the credit risk of potential borrowers. To effectively accomplish this goal, Vittas wanted to learn from global competitor(s) and other adjacent financial services companies that have succeeded and failed in similar technology-driven endeavors. The project scope included conducting a competitive analysis of Fintech products and business models and providing Vittas with insights and recommendations. To overcome challenges related to raising capital for debt financing, Vittas wants to set-up a digital bank. The project scope included identifying the process of setting-up a digital bank and developing an implementation plan for Vittas.

Participants in the Communication workshop post their selfies to the ExtendEd portal.

 

How does an educator convene a global classroom across a dozen countries, numerous cultures and differing perspectives? Sometimes, it’s better to instead let the students set the pace. 

WDI’s Education Sector team recently tailored two fully online courses for The Ford Motor Company Fund as part of the Ford Community Impact Fellows Training program. Students accepted into the program work together to advance understanding and new thinking around topics such as innovation and entrepreneurship. 

The courses were tailored to the students’ needs by key personnel at WDI’s Global Virtual Learning Center (GVLC), which was established to advance the field to create international linkages and promote economic growth in emerging markets. Students hailed from a dozen countries including Brazil, Ghana, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco and Sierra Leone. 

“In this day and age, we all need to be continuous learners,” said Amy Gillett, vice president of the Education sector. “In a time when it’s difficult or impossible to bring people together face to face, this format is really effective and it also sets students up for making long-term connections with one another.”

The two fully online courses include one module on developing leadership qualities and a second on improving interpersonal communication skills. About 130 students participated in the leadership module, offered for seven weeks ending April 11, and 179 students are taking part in the five-week communications module, set to end July 12. The leadership course helped participants understand themselves as leaders on both personal and team levels, and drew on the Michigan Model of Leadership. The communications course emphasized cross-cultural communication, managing emotions and interpreting body language across different nationalities and traditions. 

WDI produced the content for the courses, which were hosted on the ExtendEd portal – the Institute’s proprietary learning management system. Students viewed a series of instructional videos on ExtendEd, followed by quizzes to check for comprehension. Students were assigned to teams across countries to work on a project together and practice their new leadership skills. 

While the students were from many different countries, pursuing a wide variety of degrees and occupations – from business to medicine – a well-designed online learning environment was a perfect vehicle for bringing them together. 

“It’s an efficient way to reach people with targeted training, and it’s the way people prefer to learn,” said Gillett. “They want to learn when they have time to learn, even if it’s in 15-minute increments. Students log in at their own pace, learn at their own pace, and take the modules on any device.”

The course is a perfect example of a small private online community – or SPOC – which is designed to nurture an intimate learning environment where students can interact and get to know one another other. 

Learn more about WDI’s approach to online learning 

At the conclusion of the modules, WDI hosts a live webinar to summarize the learning. This is followed by sending participants a series of reminders on what they learned in the course. Such reminders — “Memory Pings” — also prompt them to apply what they learn in the course back on the job.

“It’s vitally important to provide opportunities for tomorrow’s leaders to share new ideas and brainstorm sustainable solutions to make people’s lives better,” said Farah Harb, Global Education Programs Analyst, Ford Motor Company Fund. “Learning and leadership are essential as we navigate and adapt to our constantly changing world.”

Many students found the WDI courses very valuable. 

“Giving back to society and creating positive (impact) has always been my passion. In the world, there are so many challenges facing us,” … to fix these problems, the world needs great leaders with great leadership skills and this course has shown me surely that great leaders can be created or trained,“ wrote one student of the Leadership workshop. 

Another student noted: “This workshop has been an eye opener and I am certain I am ready to work in every environment.”

As a final assignment, the students submitted videos exploring cross-cultural learning and how to apply that knowledge to real-world scenarios. The finalists for the contest and their video stories, can be found below:

1st Place:
Team 11, Learning Group C:
https://youtu.be/laznpNIkgrE
2nd Place:
Team 2, Learning Group A:
https://youtu.be/63eZmtafXx8
3rd Place:
Team 20, Learning Group D:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqeAv39OrVo

 

This primer provides a comprehensive but non-technical overview of the distinct health information systems (HIS) that all together support health care delivery in low-resource settings. It opens with a historical account and landscape assessment and describes the urgent need to build a lean rigorous HIS that integrates these different components. Subsequent sections describe the individual systems that: i) track individual patient and health care provider information; ii) directly document care delivery; iii) provide public and population health data; iv) support facilities’ and community health workers’ administrative and financial functions; and v) coordinate logistics and health commodities supply chains. A separate section describes imported data, including “master data” and manufactured (e.g., “meta”) data. The primer closes with recommendations for principled HIS stewardship.

WDI worked with the Global Fund to develop an Excel-based tool to estimate how much money the Global Fund was spending to achieve specific health outcomes for Nigeria, one of its largest country portfolios. This project was started after recognizing the dearth of information regarding what each outcome should cost. This meant that it was difficult for the Global Fund to negotiate with providers for lower costs. This project was done under an ongoing contract with the Global Fund.

WDI developed an approach and toolkit to help governments and donor agencies manage complex data and conflicting priorities when evaluating supply chain designs, and an approach for quantifying the priorities of individual stakeholders and then using those priorities to weight the observed performance of a supply chain model. Drawing upon academic and industry research in multi-criteria decision analysis, this approach resulted in a simplified, composite performance metric that enabled easy comparison across different supply chain models and stakeholders. By applying this approach retrospectively to health supply chain pilot analyses in Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Nigeria and Togo, WDI increased government and donor awareness of the true diversity of real-world stakeholder priorities and highlighted the importance of addressing such priorities in the performance management process. This project was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Vital Voices GROW Fellowship invests in women business owners in emerging economies over a yearlong fellowship. Here, four business owners talk with Nathan Rauh-Bieri about how, in the final stage of the fellowship, they implemented and revised their action plans and evaluated progress toward their growth goals.

As part of his continuing series, Nathan Rauh-Bieri checks back in with participants in the year-long Vital Voices GROW Fellowship. In a world growing more “virtual” by the day, he learned there’s still plenty of value in entrepreneurs meeting face to face.

In many emerging market countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, the government’s ministry of health traditionally defines how public health systems – as well as the supply chains that stock them – function for doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and patients. However, many countries are rethinking this structure, and are interested in streamlining their health supply chains to achieve better performance and cost efficiency.

Two research associates with WDI’s Healthcare Research Initiative presented preliminary findings from a project utilizing simulation software to test out supply chain designs for essential health commodities in Nigeria.

Michael Krautmann and Beatrix Balogh presented the project results at SummerCon 2016, a supply-chain-focused conference hosted by LLamasoft, an Ann Arbor-based software firm specializing in supply chain simulation and optimization. Krautmann and Balogh used software LLamasoft developed for the project, which potentially could have applications elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa.

Watch their presentation below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqpbxX0m0wI

The WDI project was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with a goal to develop tools and approaches for countries – and donor agencies supporting those countries – to help improve and facilitate the supply chain design process.

The lack of data infrastructure is among the biggest challenges emerging market supply chains face; many still operate using paper order forms, which contributes to confusion about how products flow through the system. This lack of understanding contributes to multiple health systems and funding mechanisms operating independently of one another, resulting in redundant and inefficient management processes. Subsequently, innovations, resources, and data from one group might not always get shared universally.

Few tools are available to work past these issues and give evidence-based results on how different supply chain models would affect a health system, Krautmann said. Conducting a pilot study is one possibility, but many are costly and often conditions change rapidly – nullifying most of the findings. One promising possibility is using software modeling to capture the behaviors of different supply chain structures and different supply chain channels, Krautmann said.

“Using simulation software we are able to rapidly adjust these models in an artificial environment, both to optimize and compare different designs in a particular country context, and to see how those designs respond to changes in demand and in geography,” he said.

Balogh said she and Krautmann were at a point in their work where they could present some initial analysis. While encouraged about the potential of software modeling, one challenge with any software is trying to emulate the human element present in supply chains.

“Global health supply chains involve factors in human error which leads to process variability” she said. “Most software models don’t natively account for that.”

Photo Credit: SIM USA, via Flickr

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