Ask a Volunteer:
Q: What are some of the unique business development projects you have seen during your service?
A: I have worked for the last two years as a community development volunteer. One of my projects was to work with youth to teach them the fundamentals of gardening as a fund raising project for them to earn money to buy their Boys Brigade uniforms. With the cooperation of the Ministry of Agriculture, we successfully planted a half acre plot and raised a hundred watermelons...some of which we sold and some of which we ate!
—Martha Landis, Community Development Peace Corps Volunteer, St. Kitts, Eastern Caribbean
A: One volunteer organized a "farmers' market" where people sell their own food, organic shampoo, and clothing. The idea inspired me to organize a Christmas Bazaar in my site. Other volunteers have been successful hosting craft workshops with women's groups. I recently taught a workshop on how to make piñatas from recycled materials. Now moms and children are making their own for a tenth of the price of the ones sold in the city.
—Clarisa Ramirez, Community Economic Development Peace Corps Volunteer, Costa Rica
A: I worked with a group of women to build a savings association. They worked on bi-monthly projects to earn money and saved the earnings until December, when the money was then divided between the women based on the number of hours that each dedicated to the project.
—Rachel Fuchs, Business Management Peace Corps Volunteer, Costa Rica
A: CISA Exporters, a coffee exporting company, specifically wanted a Peace Corps small business development volunteer here in Yalí, Jinotega. I work with their sponsored institute and micro-farms. Eleven CISA-associated coffee producers are certifying themselves to sell to a large retail chain, which is one step toward bettering Nicaraguan agricultural practices. The process requires much paperwork, organization, and some reconstruction. My CISA colleague and I work with the company to make sure that each step is completed and accounted for.
—Owen Guerrero Reynolds, Small Business Development Peace Corps Volunteer, Nicaragua
A: In a very small village, 55 kilometers from Marrakech on the busy road to the desert, we created a space for a boutique in the women's association building. There is now a place for the rural women to display and sell their handmade products.
The project included acquiring a design for wheeled partitions with movable shelves to be made by a craftsman, outdoor portable signs by the boutique, and large road signs to attract tourists. Funding was possible with a Peace Corps Partnership Program grant.
Product development and business skills continue to be critical elements in the sustainability of this very worthwhile and beneficial endeavor.
—Connie Genger, Small Business Development Peace Corps Volunteer, Morocco
A: In my service I have found that small business development is not unique—that the same techniques that work elsewhere can be applied here in Morocco to help people improve their businesses and their lives. In Morocco, the Small Business Development program works with the artisan sector. I work with women weavers and individual craftsmen. I have made brochures, business cards, and a website for them and helped them to brainstorm new product and process ideas.
—Sharon Keld, Business Management Peace Corps Volunteer, Morocco
A: I work with Berber girls and women who weave wool carpets. They formed their association on their own nearly a year before I was placed in their village.
Nearly 80 women bring their carpets to sell on consignment at the association space. They weave on large wood and metal looms with handspun wool in bright colors. They know their carpet designs by heart, as they are passed from generation to generation.
I hope to help them with advertising and marketing skills.
—Karen Christiansen, Business Development Volunteer, Morocco
A: Currently I am working with the Gambaga Outcast Home in Ghana to develop a charcoal-making income generation project. In conjunction with their wood sales, this project will produce enough income for the members to purchase basic living items such as food, and to send their children to school.
—Carolyn Abdenour, Business Management Peace Corps Volunteer, Ghana
A: Here in Senegal, West Africa, Peace Corps Volunteers partner with local artisans to aid them in production management, to connect them with buyers, and to develop costing and record keeping techniques. We work with artisans that make all sorts of products by hand, including woven grass baskets, leather sandals, paintings, and beads. We focus on artisanal crafts because even people in isolated locations can make a living without having to leave their children or homes.
—Pete Freeman, Small Enterprise Development Peace Corps Volunteer, Senegal
I am a Peace Corps Volunteer in a small and very poor Moroccan city, where some women make hand-woven buttons they sell to tailors who used them for djellabas, which are traditional Moroccan garments. They earn a fraction of a dirham (Moroccan currency) for each button.
I experimented with the buttons, using them as beads, and soon had enough ideas to inspire the women to create new products. Most of the women are uneducated, and some are illiterate, but they are all experts at their craft. I taught them to make bracelets and necklaces from their buttons. The jewelry sold well, so I sent photos to contacts in America .
It was like selling Girl Scout cookies. I started with friends and family, and the business grew from there. In just six months, we've sold products worth more than 10,000 dirham in Morocco and abroad. The women are now an official association, recognized by the Ministry of Tourism and Artisans.
—Linda Zahava, Small Business Development Peace Corps Volunteer, Morocco
A: Basket weavers from a small Moroccan village named Tigmijjou marketed their baskets overseas with assistance from a small business development volunteer. Within a few months they were bringing in orders, buying leather handles, and exporting to the United States. Revenues increased, quality improved, and new products started to sell. Within a few months they were bringing in orders, buying leather handles, and exporting to the United States. Revenues increased, quality improved and new products started to sell. Families in the community also benefited from increased work and income. After two years of perseverance and over 3000 bags exported to clients in New York, Los Angeles, and Brisbane, Australia, the local business, with assistance from the Peace Corps Volunteer, has implemented strict quality control systems, learned basic financial skills, and exporting methods. The small village business is now expanding and has started to build a workshop where it can produce its own leather handles.
—Gavin Cepelak, Small Business Development Peace Corps Volunteer, Morocco
A: To promote entrepreneurship and increase practical business knowledge among young people in my community, I've been working with a local university to provide a series of practical business education seminars. The seminars feature local entrepreneurs, legal experts, government officials, and other individuals who share their real-life knowledge about starting and managing a business in Ukraine. The culmination of the project will be a business plan competition among the project participants.
—James Mosher, Community Development and Business Education Peace Corps Volunteer, Ukraine
A: One of my largest projects as a small business development volunteer in Albania has been coaching the newly created financial literacy training team at the micro-credit organization Opportunity Albania. This team provides accounting and financial analysis training to assist small business owners in making better business decisions. My role as a small business development volunteer has been to review training materials, observe training sessions, and facilitate key decisions required to roll out the training throughout Albania.
—Bill Trunk, Advanced Business Development Peace Corps Volunteer, Albania
A: Lately I have been holding seminars entitled Skills Identification Workshops. These workshops are informational seminars. I hold them at the local unemployment center. The participants make a weekly calendar that starts at seven in the morning and goes until eleven at night. They list everything they do every day of the week.
We compile the information and provide advice on what they have identified in the calendar that will provide income. This is not a small business start-up. It is merely meant for unemployed people to realize that what they do every day provides skills for income. One example is cutting family members’ hair; once we recognized this as a marketable skill, one woman offered to cut my hair. Cooking, cleaning, and shopping are other examples. We then post these skills on a bulletin board, and people who need someone to cook or clean for them can contact these people. The workshop also includes hobbies like sewing and knitting. Hats and mittens can be made. One woman sewed a button on my shirt for me, which made her some income. Others formed a group and prepare food to sell to the tourists on the beach.
—Geoffrey Gese, Community Development Peace Corps Volunteer, Ukraine
A: We conducted market research, wrote a business plan, and secured start-up funding for a social enterprise. We capitalized on the locals’ technical know-how to establish a for-profit training center for small businesses, the proceeds from which fund their non-profit social activities. This start-up was partially funded with a Peace Corps Small Project Assistance grant, which paid for equipment, advertising, and a 'grand opening' sample training event for selected small businesses in the area to generate interest and demonstrate the benefits to businesses.
—Zach Zarnow, Community Development Peace Corps Volunteer, Ukraine
A: Paama, a small island in Vanuatu, has started a fisheries association that purchases fresh-caught fish from villagers, providing instant cash for their labor. Individuals cannot afford the ice, deep freezer, generator, packing materials, or transport costs for the fish to be sold to outside markets, so the association formed. Because of its size, small population, and mountainous terrain, Paama faces big challenges in procuring capital to start businesses. The association helps them overcome those barriers.
—Julie Montgomery, Small Business Development Peace Corps Volunteer, Vanuatu