“The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.”
Melissa de Kant
Before we came to Swaziland with the Graduates Development Program team, we met with several professors and entrepreneurs that each taught us something about doing business in developing countries. During our last meeting in The Netherlands, we met with a professor in entrepreneurship from a Kenyan university. The man gave an inspiring speech to our team. “Start little fires!”, he said. His words stuck with me for the entire project.
Little fires in Swaziland
The first remarkable thing I noticed when arriving in Swaziland were all the little fires along the roads. The smell of smoke everywhere around. That’s when it struck me: the little fires in the souls of Swazi entrepreneurs were all around. What we could do, was enabling them to grow these fires and contributing to their long-term success by sharing our business knowledge acquired over the course of our studies at the VU University in Amsterdam. The Graduates Development Program 2017 collaborated with All Out Africa and SWIFT to do exactly this: enabling entrepreneurs to grow their businesses in a sustainable way.
After one week of gathering information about our partners’ businesses and analysing all that information, we really could get started. We were on fire! At that point, we had figured out that all the entrepreneurs we were partnered up with were very passionate about the products they made, but that finding markets and keeping books were some of the many challenges they faced. We tried to help them individually by giving them advice and personalized trainings. However, we also collaborated with SWIFT (the Swaziland Fair Trade organization for crafts companies) to make our work more even sustainable. We created templates for business lessons in marketing, bookkeeping, consumer-minded business development, innovation and so on. Templates were discussed, tested, improved, discussed once more, compared and improved even further. This all so that SWIFT would be able to use these templates for the trainings of their current and future members and to start more fires.
Every revolution begins with a spark
The past three weeks of volunteering have been an inspiring, exciting and wonderful time for me (and the rest of the team) and I would love for many others to experience the same thing in the near future. Our group was the first to collaborate with SWIFT and All Out Africa to help local entrepreneurs, but I hope other volunteers will come to beautiful Swaziland to continue the kind of project we worked on. We just had three weeks to begin that spark, but more time and creative minds are needed to begin a revolution in the Swazi business environment. “From a little spark may burst a mighty flame” Dante Alighieri once wrote. Let’s hope we created that little spark and that others will continue this work to enable the Swazi entrepreneurs to create a revolutionary, mighty and lasting flame!