Around the world there are millions of people who have the talent and determination to succeed in business, but lack the opportunity to do so. They’re Hidden Entrepreneurs: highly skilled individuals who – for whatever reason, whether poverty, a lack of potential progression, or cultural or social circumstances – cannot achieve their potential. These people don’t run international businesses, but they have the raw ingredients to create something special.
One North East charity is aiming to help those Hidden Entrepreneurs fulfill their potential. Traidcraft Exchange, which has more than 30 years’ experience fighting injustice in trade, is calling on the people of the region to invest in Hidden Entrepreneurs across the globe, helping them learn the skills they need to turn their untapped potential into profit – and to use that to feed their families and educate their children. The appeal will focus on helping Traidcraft Exchange work in Kenya, Senegal and Bangladesh.
Any donations made to Traidcraft Exchange Hidden Entrepreneur appeal will have double the impact: every donation given to the appeal between 12 January and 11 April will be matched pound for pound by the UK Government – meaning it will help twice as many people. Normally, every £5.50 a supporter donates can help someone build a better future for their family, but with the doubling of donations by the UK Government, the same amount goes twice as far.
The whole programme has a simple premise: equipping them with the same business principles that take entrepreneurs in the UK from rags to riches can be used in developing countries for individuals to work their way out of poverty. Proven business skills, combined with their natural desire to get ahead and succeed in society, can help them build a business, turn a profit, feed their families and educate their children. In short, they can build a better future for their families and communities for generations to come.
The types of skills that those helped by the Hidden Entrepreneur appeal will learn are those that help build businesses. Traidcraft Exchange do that by bringing people together, helping them save money as a group, and providing all the training they need, whether that’s goat rearing or book-keeping. But it doesn’t stop there: the charity also builds meaningful, long-lasting relationships that will help individuals and groups succeed within their communities for years to come.
Those kinds of relationships have helped local entrepreneurs in the North East. Andy Stephenson of Weekend Box is an Ambassador to the Hidden Entrepreneur appeal, and is keen to throw his weight behind the initiative. ‘I believe that the more we have people impassioned to create changes to their own lives and to their own communities, the greater the world will be,’ he says. ‘I feel like we’re on the cusp of a global evolution of entrepreneurship. With a little effort on our part we can help people in developing countries to start new businesses and take control of their own future.’
The first project that the Hidden Entrepreneur appeal will help support is in Kenya, helping women farmers work together and improve their businesses. The project will help people like Agnes Nkonge Gakii, a 66-year-old potato farmer in the village of Muruguma. A mother of six and a widow, she’s worked in the farming sector for 20 years, just like her family before her.
She’s managed to eke out a living from her farm, and enough money to pay school fees for her children, all of whom are now grown up and married. But Agnes still needs to continue to work. It is, however, becoming harder for her. ‘Because of my age and lack of strength, I cannot take my crops directly to the market,’ she explains. ‘I have to wait until a broker comes to buy them, and sometimes they don’t come.’
Fridah Makena Rutere, Agnes’ daughter-in-law, also lives in the same village, and has grown onions on her farm for the past five years. She’s planning to increase the amount of land she has under production to help boost her margins, and to put her daughter, Tressy, who wants to be a doctor, through school. Fridah also has another daughter, Edna, who is two years old and will shortly be starting school.
‘Success would be to be able to pay their school fees with no problem,’ Fridah says. She also wants to help out her mother-in-law, Agnes. ‘She has helped us so much,’ she says.
Fridah faces the same challenges as Agnes: brokers control the market, and she has no way of selling crops directly to the buyers, while she has to juggle running the house and her family. ‘I have to multitask,’ she says: ‘be here and there at the same time.’
Support from Traidcraft Exchange, funded by us, could help both women cut out the unreliable middle man and hire someone else to help them with the harder, more manual work. ‘Because my husband has died and I am older, I need to hire someone to help me in the farm,’ Agnes says. Such support would help the wider community Agnes and Fridah live in: they’re part of a group of 30 women who club together to buy seeds and fertilisers to get better prices from suppliers. ‘The group helps us feel more powerful, like we have a voice,’ Agnes says. The group also supports each other, running a table banking scheme that helps the members save and acquire loans when needed. ‘It’s an easier repayment method with no pressure.’
These are the stories of just two women who are among the world’s most hidden entrepreneurs who are yearning for the basic resources that will help them transform their lives – and their communities – into something better. They can do so through the kind donations of the people of the North East, whose donations will be matched by the UK Government.
To learn more, visit www.traidcraft.org.uk/hidden