Findlay welcomes African entrepreneursWritten by Kathryn Milstein | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Hassana Balde wants to fight against hunger.
Balde, from Senegal, and 10 others are at the University of Findlay (UF), participating in an entrepreneurship program.
After two weeks of classroom material, the students in the program will spend a weeklong internship at a company related to their business goals.
The program, run by Paul Sears, dean of the College of Business at UF, generated more than 100 applicants from five different countries in Africa.
The five countries were Mali, Senegal, Chad, Burkina Faso and Niger. Sears said the school focused on French-speaking areas of Africa.
Applicants were asked, in English, to have preliminary business plans, speak fluent English, be literate and have leadership experience.
Sears, who wrote the proposal for the $600,000 grant UF received in collaboration with the Findlay Rotary Club, planned to pick 15 entrepreneurs for each of two sessions, but a few applicants could not get visas in time for the first session.
Sears said UF will accept four additional people to make up for the loss this session.
Balde said his family has more than 250 acres of land, but they use only 50 acres.
“I want to start a vegetable farm because I want to fight against poverty,” he said. “I want people to have balanced diets.”
He said using the land would create more food and jobs for 10 people who would otherwise move to the city looking for work.
Cheick Ahmadou Tidiane Ba, from Mali, created a business plan for a telecommunications company.
Ba said he wants to help the progress of development in his country, which is through new technology, such as cellphones and the Internet.
He will spend his internship week with Windstream Communications in Little Rock, Ark., with Dennis Foster, the CEO of the company and UF alumni.
“I feel like I’ll get a lot of experience working with him,” Ba said. “He’s not a small company. If I can take this experience from here and use it in Mali, I think I will be successful.”
Kadidiatou “Kadi” Mariko, from Niger, wrote a plan to expand her clothing design and manufacturing company.
“I feel like there’s more art here, and people can get it easily,” she said.
She said she enjoys having the art around because there are not a lot of artists in Niger, where her job isn’t taken seriously.
Khalil Ahmat Ali, from Chad, said he liked Subway when he visited the restaurant when he was in Washington, D.C. for three days. Ali, who will intern with Jimmy John’s, said he wants to open a restaurant.
“People want quality food, and that’s why the idea of starting a restaurant came to me,” he said.
He said he plans to model his restaurant after the ones in the U.S. and to network with restaurant owners.
Some of the other proposals by entrepreneurs in the first session were a rural pharmacy, a bilingual elementary school, a translation services company and a family planning and HIV/AIDS center.
“I’m very pleased and excited about what’s happening,” Sears said. He said he has started looking into other ways to fund the program once the money from the grant has been spent.