Nineteen students from Wake Forest University’s Babcock Graduate School of Management are heading back to Central America to share their skills with small business owners and entrepreneurs.
The trip is an opportunity for students to learn about business outside the classroom and get hands-on experience in a real world environment.
The group will travel to Nicaragua on Saturday along with two Babcock faculty members as part of Project Nicaragua, an ongoing MBA student-driven effort to educate aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners in Nicaragua’s economically deprived areas.
Project Nicaragua was started in the fall of 2006 by a handful of students who wanted to make a difference. What began as a way to provide basic business consulting for a small businesses and entrepreneurs in Managua has expanded to a two-day seminar that was successfully presented in Benin, Africa, this past summer. The project has become one of the most popular social entrepreneurship initiatives in Babcock’s history.
“We are very proud of the impact we have had on these business leaders,” said Chris Yuko, MBA ’09, one of the project’s co-founders.
The Dec. 13-20 trip will be the fifth made by Wake Forest’s Babcock students in the past two years.
The students’ goal for this trip is “to consult with companies that have already attended our seminars and we will be evaluating prospects to disburse our newly designed SME-lending fund,” said project faculty adviser Sherry Moss, who is going on the trip along with fellow faculty member Ajay Patel.
As part of the trip, students will interview eight entrepreneurs to assess their business needs and determine if they have capital needs.
Based on the interviews and consultation, students will make lending decisions for potential Small and Medium Enterprise, or SME, loans to those entrepreneurs. The loans will be administered and monitored by students as an SME Lending Fund. The fund is being seeded this year by the fundraising efforts of students, who have to date raised more than $5,000.
This semester 15 Babcock students also have provided distance-consulting services to Nicaraguan business owners through video conferencing technology.
“Our goal is to bridge the gap between our seminars and their businesses and this has allowed us more continued direct contact with the network of businesses,” Yuko said. “Student teams at Wake Forest have been able to speak directly with their businesses and continue the two-way learning and transfer of knowledge that takes place during the trips to Nicaragua. It is pretty incredible to think that we are providing actual consulting services to these businesses, via internet and video technology, across borders and countries.
“Furthermore, this is the initial stage research being conducted by our SME Lending team, allowing us more insight into the businesses so that we can more effectively evaluate their lending needs and more confidently make a lending decision in January. These consulting sessions will be continued while in Managua this December, including business visits and further seminar education.”