Giving Back to Global Communities

Project Nicaragua Overview

A business degree is about more than spreadsheets and cash-flow analysis. At its heart, business is about creating and capturing value, whether it’s for a stockholder or a stakeholder. Not all value can be monetized, though, and at the Wake Forest School of Business, you’ll find students who work to create value for those who have never seen a boardroom.

Since the fall of 2006, Wake Forest School of Business students have been working with small businesses in Nicaragua to find new ways to optimize the businesses’ values through consulting projects and business skills seminars.  Through learning on the ground in Nicaragua, Wake Forest students not only have a chance to impart a piece of their acquired knowledge, but also an opportunity to learn a great deal from the business owners.  Many students who participate in Project Nicaragua cite it as the most inspirational and motivational experience in their business school careers.

To learn more about Project Nicaragua and the impact it has made on the lives of students and on the businesses it assists, we invite you to explore the links to the right.

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Quick Facts

  • Project Nicaragua was founded in 2006 by four graduate business students: Christopher Burch, Megan Glaser, Ben King and Chris Yuko
  • The project is driven by a leadership team comprised of current MBA students. Over 2,000 hours are invested by graduate business students and faculty in the project each academic year
  • Project Nicaragua has won awards and received recognition from regional and national media, the GMAC board of business schools, and the U.S. government

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​History

In the Fall of 2006, several graduate business students came together with the common goal of making a difference. One of the student’s friends, U.S. citizen Mike Deibert, had recently founded the Missionary Ventures International (MVI) Vocational School just outside Managua, Nicaragua. The MVI School, teaches students forging and metalwork skills. However, in the area’s stagnant economy, most of their skills couldn’t be put to full use.

In December 2006, a small team of graduate students traveled to Nicaragua to conduct preliminary research and identify opportunities to help the MVI School develop a sustainable business model. After consulting with community members and students, the School of Business team suggested a new business model for the MVI School that focused on selling hand-crafted metal products made by its students. Revenue from the sales of these products supplies real wages to students and graduates who have few economic opportunities and helps fund the school to advance its mission of educating a labor force.

After their return, support for the project continued to grow, and a larger trip was planned. A group of 18 graduate students and faculty returned to Nicaragua in March 2007 to conduct a seminar for area business owners and to implement the marketing, operations and accounting components of the school’s new business model.

At the MVI School, Wake Forest students implemented a simple but effective accounting system using QuickBooks Pro. At the same time, the marketing team set about determining the key characteristics of the MVI School brand and defining the product range. The marketing team also created promotional items including business cards, brochures and a website.

The operations team focused on optimizing the floor plan, storage space and other organizational techniques of the MVI School. After several days of studying the various processes, the team determined the optimal flow of personnel and materials in creating a new flow and storage plan.

Across the city, the two-day business seminar used situational problems to introduce business concepts to aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners. Perhaps more importantly, the seminar also served as a vehicle to facilitate discussion, teamwork and networking among the attendees. With concepts ranging from managing inventory to break-even analysis to advertising and marketing, the seminar was a huge success. After the seminar’s first day, word of its value spread fast through the business community and attendance increased on the second day.

The School of Business students, who were immersed in a new culture, shocked by the acute poverty and challenged to apply clean class concepts to gritty real-life situations, called the trip “a life-changing experience,” “truly-rewarding” and “extremely moving.” Megan Glaser, a member of the marketing team, said “I couldn’t imagine any way for this trip to have gone any better.”

Today, Project Nicaragua continues to offer students an opportunity to learn about business outside the classroom and obtain hands-on experience in a real-world environment. At the core of our service in Nicaragua is a series of two-day seminars, taught by MBA students, covering a range of business topics. The students meet with each participant in advance of each seminar to explore their specific business challenges, and integrate these into the seminars, which are highly valued and well-attended by business owners. Project Nicaragua has become one of the most popular social entrepreneurship initiatives in the School of Business history.

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FAQs

What is the purpose of Project Nicaragua?

The goal of Project Nicaragua is for students to use the skills and knowledge gained in the classroom to advance the understanding and abilities of small business owners in the global community.

 

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Get Involved

If you are interested in contributing your time, energy or ideas to the Nicaragua project, please send and email to Amy Wallis, Director of Global Initiatives at wallisab@wfu.edu.

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