As entrepreneurs we believe in the power of ideas and ambition to change markets and economies, but what about entrepreneurs at the sharp end, our peers many borders, timezones, cultures and life-styles away, those who are entrepreneurs not by choice but by circumstances, like the street cobblers in Pakistan that Peace Through Prosperity (PTP) is working with.The challenge is to change their attitudes towards their enterprise of circumstance, to inspire them, to bring forth their self belief battered by circumstance and civil society being considerably uncivil towards them!I regularly speak to would be and nascent start-up founders, though doing so in London, Helsinki, Islamabad or Dubai is easy compared to the street cobblers, for starters the usual audience is from the tech sector embarking on an adventure of choice with ideas that if not unique are not commoditised. When I took upon myself to be the first guest speaker at Peace Through Prosperity's mini-MBA program for street cobblers the aim was to explore what works, what does not and what I can learn from the experience and share with future speakers to tailor the message for the audience.The experience was humbling, stimulating, challenging and cosmic!I was in on the 4th evening of the mini-MBA program so the hard part of changing attitudes had already been done by the PTP trainers! the street cobblers were already in 'bigger ambition' mode! this was humbling - it threw my preconceptions out of the window!A short conversation with the group made it abundantly clear the cohort had been well equipped for the operational aspects of running their enterprises, the mini-MBA program had done them good! some were spot on with their new marketing strategies, others had become more adept at convincing their peers towards collective buying - a cooperative of sorts in the making! and some had their elevator pitch perfected! I got pitched a repair I did not know I needed at the end of the session!What was lacking was uniformity, a medium to long term plan… and it made sense; the mini-MBA is designed to better equip them to work 'in their business' as efficient operational managers and not 'on their business' as strategic visionaries… and it is the latter that builds empires and the former that ensures the cash keeps flowing in process.My topic of conversation was planning, dedicated to achieving their ambitions from a personal and commercial context…. and to break down the barriers, to let them know there is little difference between a founder who starts in a bedroom or a garage with a laptop and one who starts on the street pavement with a needle and thread.. circumstance or choice the game is the same.
Inspiring Street Cobblers - Guest Speaker Series from Peace Through Prosperity on Vimeo.You too can get involved, tell your friends about PTP's work, like them on Facebook, follow them on twitter, write/contribute to their blog, do yout part to change livelihoods for the less privileged on the Rock. Its not about giving them a hand-out, its about giving them a leg-up.On a unrelated note I realised how my Urdu has taken a slide! came back to Blighty with a few good reads in Urdu and hope to improve my Urdu soon... before speaking to another street cobbler cohort in the future!
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