This week I’m pleased to introduce you to three more examples of cross cultural entrepreneurs who impacted others through the qualities they brought to their businesses. These three together with the three from last week’s blog embody much of what it means to be a successful entrepreneur, BAM or otherwise.
1. He was a student of the culture.
Jeremy and Lynn were recent college grads when we first starting consulting with them. After a couple of years developing the business model, trying to understand potential customers and developing them as individuals, they headed for India and started a tour business.
About three years into the business I visited the business on site along with several others who were bringing financial, legal, marketing and content expertise. We followed Jeremy around India in a “beta tour” and then provided feedback and recommendations to Jeremy and Lynn.
I was greatly impacted by the fact that they loved the country, they loved the people and they loved the culture. I observed how they were continually learning new things, asking questions and applying what they learned to their personal development and the development of the business.
One time we were in a restaurant and Jeremy said, “You are going to love this new food…it just explodes in your mouth.” I am not accustomed to having food “explode in my mouth”, but the point was that Jeremy loved everything about the culture and that contributed greatly to the success of the company.
2. She was a team player.
A young recent college graduate name Brit set out to start a business in a former Soviet republic in central Asia. There were many challenges with the history of corruption, Soviet style business and cultural nuances. Because she had worked her way through business school at Starbucks, she was uniquely qualified when they decided to start a coffee outlet.
She teamed up with some people she met there in Asia and soon had a management team, the startup capital and a values proposition. I will never forget her value proposition. The people were intrigued with America and wanted to go there; it was a tea-drinking culture; and few of the middle-upper class could speak English. The value proposition then provided opportunity to learn to value America’s drink – coffee, learn English in the shop and formal classes, and learn values which provided the foundation to America’s democracy, capitalism and Christian faith.
It required a team to do this and she promoted the concept beautifully – demonstrating the potential for people of diverse backgrounds, with complementary skills, working together with nationals within a foreign culture. Today two profitable coffee shops in the business district of the capital demonstrate the success of her teamwork.
3. He masterfully built a social enterprise combining social needs and business.
Kirk went to China with a heart to help the disadvantaged, disabled and handicapped. But he was wired by God for business and was loaded with entrepreneurial qualities. This all came together when the Barrington Group decided to start a factory in China.
Kirk came to help start the factory which focused on the production of leather goods while providing a profit for the parent company in the USA. They became profitable in a few years, but while doing this Kirk focused on the social needs of the community where there were many handicapped without hope of a better life. One class of handicapped was the deaf-mute.
When I visited the factory a few years ago, I observed an entire production line of deaf-mute workers. Their foreman was a woman named Ceci who was the first handicapped person hired by Barrington. She was able to learn quickly and soon was a very productive worker. This led to others who were disabled in some way to contribute to the company, and gain confidence to live life to the fullest.
A social enterprise is one that is profitable and sustainable, but also focuses on the needs of the community where it exists. It maintains its viability while at the same time addressing social problems. Kirk and Barrington Gifts in southeast China do that well.
Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures