Students Kick-Start Women’s Businesses in Africa

What started as a class project during the fall semester turned into a mission to kick-start three ventures on the other side of the globe.

Three classes of Fullerton College students took a lesson about corporate responsibility and turned it into a mission to fund three small, female-owned startups in Africa. It started with a lesson Professor Barry McCarthy was giving about how organizations must balance profits and charity in one of his three Critical Reasoning and Writing for Business classes.

The students in that class began discussing the lesson, and the conversation soon led to how a small team of students might make the world a better place. Students in this class got in touch with students in the professor’s other two Critical Reasoning and Writing for Business classes, and together they decided to raise funds to help start businesses in African countries.

“The students engaged quickly, raised funds, and when we got back into class the following week, we sourced and funded several entrepreneurs,” Professor McCarthy said.

The students chose three female-owned business proposals in Kenya, Zimbabwe and Madagascar. They used a web app, kiva.org, to facilitate the funding and within weeks the students, along with matching donations from faculty, raised $400, which fully funded three ventures the students selected.

The Kenyan entrepreneur is now running a home energy business, the Zimbabwean woman now has a small poultry business and the woman in Malagasy opened an agricultural business.

The students who participated were asked to write an essay about their experience for extra credit, but the greatest benefit they received wasn’t a letter grade or points.

“I believe this project did inspire me outside of the classroom, but it also reminded me that I believe college can help me make more of an impact for people in need,” said Zac Neuenfeldt, who participated in the project. “I hope that one day I can help less fortunate people, whether it be participating in charity foundations or involving myself with opening food banks or shelters for those in need.”

McCarthy said he was taken aback by the enthusiasm and care the students displayed throughout the project. “They made a dramatic difference in the lives of three women who serve their families as mother, leader, role model and small business entrepreneur.”

Author: Fullerton College

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