Enterprising alumnus helps grow businesses in rural Nicaragua
Armed only with a smattering of Spanish and a burning desire to make a positive impact in a developing country using the skills and knowledge gained from his recent MSc Entrepreneurship degree, Nottingham University Business School alumnus Charles de Bénazé left his native France to help small entrepreneurs in rural Nicaraguan communities.
Through the sustainable development charity, Raleigh International, Charles took part in the ICS Entrepreneur volunteer initiative as part of their International Citizen Service programme. ICS Entrepreneur is funded by the Department for International Development and aims to build resilient communities and support economic growth in developing countries.
The volunteer team
Charles worked alongside a team of volunteers from Nicaragua and the UK in two different rural communities: Sonis, at the entrance of the remote Somoto canyon close to the Honduran border, and Aguas Calientes. Drawing on their combined expertise in human resources, investment, financial management, marketing and business sustainability, they delivered workshops and action days to train local entrepreneurs and help them develop their business plans and knowledge over a ten week period. The volunteer team also raised awareness about sources of finance and helped the local entrepreneurs to identify and secure funding.
In addition to providing business advice and support, Charles and the team also undertook social projects such as English classes for the canyon guides, movie nights, football tournaments, and even a mini Olympics. These also enabled fundraising to support the entrepreneurs’ marketing costs.
Experience of a lifetime
Commenting on his time in Nicaragua, Charles said: “It was an incredibly fulfilling experience. I was able to put my own skills and knowledge to use in a way that made a real difference to real people. By the end of the project we had trained 27 young entrepreneurs, providing them with very practical support such as business action plans and funding that will make a lasting impact on their communities long after we leave.
“My time in Nicaragua also gave me a much greater understanding of the unique business challenges faced by disadvantaged groups with limited resources and enhanced skills such as team working and project management. It taught me the importance of following your passions and being prepared for any situation. Now I am back home in France and my ambition is to work in the skateboard and action sport industry anywhere in the world.”
Read Charles's blog about his Nicaragua experience
More information about Raleigh ICS Entrepreneur project
Posted on Thursday 15th January 2015