My heart began to beat heavily when I heard that our team would be given 10 micro-businesses as consulting clients. A surprise!
Since life is usually full of uncertainties, we are required to adapt to the new situation quickly. I aspire to deliver both insightful presentations and useful individualized consulting advice for our ten clients. However, difficulties certainly exist. The first challenge is to contact them and get to their business places. As some of them are located in distant mountains, it is not really easy to get there. Anna Ria, a gentle lady in the municipal agricultural office saves us. She earnestly and generously supports us by providing transportation services and being our interpreter. Words fail to express my heartfelt gratitude for all she and her coworkers have done for us.
All of the ten cooperatives are actively run by female entrepreneurs, and their employees are mainly housewives who spend their spare time earning money in these ten factories. Actually, there is a government-sponsored program for the sake of empowering women. Being aware of this, I feel more motivated to help them achieve their goals. It turns out that these women entrepreneurs are quite proactive and ambitious, and many of them want to expand their businesses to other provinces and even other countries. However, various constraints remain to be overcome such as lack of a BFAD approval, restricted sales channels, and muddled accounting system. Besides, each of them is confronted with a few individual obstacles to further progress. Anyway, these local entrepreneurs and their employees are all incredibly kind and welcome us with splendid hospitality. They presented us with their best products as souvenirs and even served us with delicious homemade pastry. Although we are only university students, they believe that we can make a difference. This places a huge responsibility on our shoulders. Before we left their factories, we usually reconfirm their expectation and wishes. The last thing we want to do is to let them down.
For example, when we visited MAIS CAPE Corn Coffee, dozens of people have been there waiting for us. They welcomed us with tasty hot coffees and passionately invited us to have a look at their machines. And I was glad to be given a chance to participate in production for a moment. When we were about to leave, a benevolent old lady kissed out faces with warm wishes. I made up my mind to help them with both accounting improvement and business development. For example, we are considering product innovation such as introducing new flavors.
At the first week, we were expected to give a short presentation or lecture to these ten companies in terms of recordkeeping. The scope and complexity of their accounting system vary a lot, which adds to the difficulty of teaching. After frank communication with these business owners, we identify some common issues such as non-standardized and redundant formats, neglect of depreciation and amortization. Among these drawbacks, two problems are most pressing. One is the lack of efficient inventory management, while the other is the confusion between cash in hand and at the bank. To tackle them, we decide to hold a small workshop on relevant accounting knowledge. To make it both insightful and interesting, we attempt to cover both PowerPoint presentation and in-class exercises. It turns out that we may get too optimistic. It is hard to digest a wealth of new information within a short period of time and immediately practice it. Nonetheless, with the assistance of other classmates, we eventually manage to deliver our key message and hopefully the local entrepreneurs find it highly instructive. For instance, they said that is was good to record the procurement prices and quantities for future comparison.
This week, we are doing out utmost to help these micro-enterprises with their marketing issues and/or business development. Since we have discussed a lot of aspects such as production flow, distribution channels, and supplier chain management with them, we have some preliminary drafts. But they remained to be meticulously examined and checked. When we revisited these firms, we came with more specific questions. The supplier chain management and distribution channels seem to be their major concern. Many of them simply buy ingredients from the Jagna market, where the prices are higher those charged by farmers or manufacturers. We would like to negotiate with local officers to figure out a better method of their supplier chain management. In addition, as some of them do not possess any delivering vehicle, their delivering capacities are highly constrained. We have come up with two preliminary solutions. One is “group-buying”, which means purchasing delivery services from transport providers together with other micro-enterprises. The other is to make full use of local trade fairs to promote their products and particularly target retailers who are interested in reselling the products in their own stores.
We will also make a presentation about SWOT analysis this Friday to contribute to their marketing plans and dig out more information. It is really challenging for these micro-enterprises to realize their ambitions and for us to help them within three weeks. Let us rise to the challenges!