Note: This visionary entrepreneur spotlight blog entry is a recap from our own summer intern, Alex Moore, who spent the majority of the summer on the ground in Uganda. Here he gives an overview of what he was up to and reflects on his experience on the whole and development as a visionary entrepreneur.
It is hard to believe that almost three months ago I set out on a plane from Dulles International Airport bound for Entebbe, Uganda. My purpose was fairly simple – help ILA (TingaTinga’s pilot investment) and search for new opportunities to invest in visionary entrepreneurs in Uganda. My schedule was flexible, and the opportunities were endless – both for success and for failure – sort of a visionary entrepreneurs dream. I set out with a fairly open heart, trying to keep my expectations neutral so that I would not be let down if things went horribly wrong. Nevertheless, I think it probably scared the leaders of TingaTinga a bit to see me off as their fledgling little fellow in the big world of Uganda all on his lonesome.
Working with Visionary Entrepreneur: Benson
As I stated earlier, my main purpose was to help Benson in any way possible. Benson is in the midst of starting a micro-lending unit out of Gulu, Uganda to aid traumatized people in the IDP camps and the villages most affected by the rebel-led civil war in Uganda. As of the date of this posting, ILA has officially started offering fair loans to trauma counseling patients to help them begin small value creation operations that will break the cycle of poverty in these areas. It was a privilege to get to work hands on with Benson and pick up a wealth of knowledge about Acholi culture while learning about bootstrapping and the “lean startup” in a real world setting. Helping Benson took many different forms; it was not uncommon to be consulting, financing, planning, designing a website and writing company documents all in one day. This made the work very interesting and always engaging to say the least.
After a bit of time working with Benson, the focus began to shift from working on ILA to really expanding the TingaTinga network and nailing down some other potential investments for TingaTinga. This is the part of the internship that I loved the most because my schedule was so open and brimming with potential. A typical day consisted of me going to meet new people and spend time with them while getting to know their business ideas. I spent much of the time with these new friends consulting and advising them on their business ideas, which was perfect because it allowed me to analyze their ideas while still benefiting them through the conversation. As time went on in Uganda, I began to notice that the people are yearning for business advice and incredibly receptive to it; so, I tried my best to give liberally and connect with as many visionaries as possible. It became clear to me that due to the business climate in Uganda, knowledge capital from a western perspective on business is one of the greatest investments TingaTinga can make in any of these businesses.
While many of these meetings ended with a simple handshake and an exchange of contacts, a few of these ideas resonated with me and fit nicely within the TingaTinga vision for impactful and visionary entrepreneurs. I always left these meetings refreshed and encouraged because I know the future of Uganda is in the capable hands of people who understand the importance of entrepreneurship within the recovery of the nation. As a result, it has been and will continue to be a privilege to work with these entrepreneurs in whatever capacity possible.
My Development as a Visionary Entrepreneur:
While the major goal of this internship was certainly to benefit TingaTinga as an organization through the aforementioned avenues, another objective TingaTinga hoped to accomplish was the internship benefiting me on a personal and professional level by putting me in contact with visionary entrepreneurs. As the first intern/fellow, there was a lot at stake (perhaps that is why it was a bit daunting to send me off three months ago) – if things went horribly wrong, the future of the BridgeBuilders Fellowship would be in serious jeopardy. Thankfully, things went extremely well. Surely there were moments of immense frustration, loneliness, and struggle, but as a whole, I grew exponentially in my understanding of business and most importantly in how to best administer aid in the developing world. The latter takes a bit more explanation than this blog entry affords, but certainly was one of the most valuable lessons I could have learned during my time on the ground.
From my perspective as an intern, the experience was exactly what I had hoped for in an internship. It was a chance for me to actually help out an organization through a real-world application of the knowledge I have gleaned from my education at Grove City College. It simultaneously spurred my development as a businessman, while helping TingaTinga accomplish its goals of supporting visionary entrepreneurs in value creation in the developing world.