Urgent Evoke

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I am currently teaching assistant for a class on entrepreneurship. We aid students in creating and implementing entrepreneurial ventures for the semester. In this way, not only do the students learn from lectures but also by doing. The main project of the course is to run a business and report their findings. The students get seed funding through micro-loans ($100-$200) that we the teachers negotiate with them. We are currently mentoring and aiding the students with their businesses.


What is currently happening is truly amazing. The students realized that the micro-loan was really just something to lift them off the ground. What really matters is the skills and abilities of each group to do something meaningful. The money they were given actually can be limiting and disrupt their thinking on endless possibilities. The money that is being exchanged is merely a medium for the transaction of skills. However, to ensure that the loan does get repaid there is tremendous collaboration between lender and borrower to implement ideas that work. For instance, one group is producing a coupon book and working with local retailers but have had six iterations of their idea, from an advertising website to SMS coupons to the coupon book. The group was trying to get realtors but they weren’t biting. We told the group to setup two levels of ads, one that was exclusive but cost more, the other was not exclusive but cost less. It worked, one realtor invested in the exclusive option.


If money is a medium and a human construct then both how it is used and its meaning can change. The value of something tends to be an average of demand, so at the same time one person could feel like they are getting screwed while the other thinks they are getting a steal. I think the digitization of money will slow inflation and make people focus on trading skills. If people can us their skills to setup businesses with micro-loans, then the standard of living of the world will slowly increase.


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Comment by Shane M. Wheeler on April 7, 2010 at 9:05pm
Not sure if you're right, but if it somehow starts to work in more than small instances, I'm all for it. My only concern here is how REAL these experiments are. For instance, if they turn a profit, will it be a profit that matters?

For instance, we fund $100 to a project with four students to sell a brand of t-shirts with corporate logos in some sort of cross promotional deal- cheaper t-shirts for people, and the brands get free advertising. When the semester is done, they've turned $100 into $500 over a few months, which is a technical success, but certainly not enough to live on taking into consideration monthly expenses for their survival. Would this small success be translated more towards the larger success of the venture, such as if it were a $1000 loan and a $5000 profit, etc?

I don't ask out of a sheer cynicism but general concern that while these micro-loans may be of great utility in countries where smaller amounts mean more, in our more inflated economy that such gains may be less indicative of a useful model for our own economic plight?
Comment by Eric Koziol on April 8, 2010 at 1:18pm
Shane,

You make a valid point. I guess I forgot to mention that all the profits get donated to charity. So what I will try to do is get them to use Kiva. Thus the circle of entrepreneurs will be completed. We could be starting businesses here to make enough money to fund entrepreneurs in less developed regions. Very cool. Thanks for sparking the idea!

-Eric

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