Raleigh International brings together young people from the UK and rural Nicaragua to create small businesses with a positive impact. Here’s how it works. 

The majority of the population in Nicaragua (66.4%) live in poverty, and high levels of youth unemployment have stunted economic development in many areas. Yet rural communities provide a good environment for entrepreneurship to thrive, with countless opportunities to fulfil unmet market demands.

At Raleigh International we’ve always championed the potential and energy of young people to make change happen. On the ICS Entrepreneur programme, young people with a passion for business and poverty alleviation have been training local entrepreneurs, matching young people with mentors, and ensuring sustainability is at the heart of their plans.

Training local entrepreneurs

Oscar, from the rural community of Tres Esquinas, is 27 years old and was once unemployed. He set up his own business, ‘Don Pollo’ a chicken farm, and was keen to respond to the growing local demand for eggs. Oscar worked with volunteers from the UK and Nicaragua to develop his business strategy, whilst also working out the right care that will enable him to keep his chickens happy, healthy and producing the targeted number of eggs. He also worked with volunteers to establish a sector risk analysis, costs and future investment plans. Oscar’s business is now taking shape with chickens ready to be housed and a production plan in full swing.

This is just one example. In Llano Redondo, Raleigh volunteers are supporting a local entrepreneur to start her own book and stationery shop, which will go towards providing a wider range of affordable school materials for the community. Another young businesswoman, Gloriana, is developing a gym to provide her and her peers with fun, boxing-themed classes using homemade punchbags. Gloriana has high ambitions for the future of her gym and she’s already received a lot of interest in her classes, putting her in a good position to welcome her first customers. 

Ethically responsible businesses

Sustainable development is at the heart of our work at Raleigh, so it’s really important to help and encourage entrepreneurs to develop ethically responsible enterprises from the outset.

For example, our volunteers are supporting entrepreneurs to develop a bee farm where crops are free from toxins and all other types of chemicals that could damage the environment and the health of the locals. As a result they can also produce a 100% natural, high quality product without any artificial additives. 

Supporting entrepreneurs on the journey

When multiple generations of the same family have only ever worked in one trade, it sometimes takes a little external inspiration to encourage someone to step out and become an entrepreneur. By having young volunteers there to provide a bit of extra guidance and support we can help motivate and inspire people to create strong, sustainable businesses.

As our local project partner explained, “We have experienced a terrible drought in this area of northern Nicaragua. Farming is no longer a reliable way of making money. People feel like they have to migrate in order to make a living finding work in the only trade they know, which means they have to leave their families behind. We believe it isn’t necessary when young people can use their potential here, in their own communities.”

Mentorship is also key, so we pair entrepreneurs up with established local businesspeople. Their experience in starting their own businesses from scratch makes them an invaluable source of advice, and helps us to promote an entrepreneurial culture that motivates and inspires the whole community.

It's really important to help and encourage entrepreneurs to develop ethically responsible enterprises from the outset

Entrepreneurship can accelerate the rural development process, providing necessary services and satisfying the basic needs of communities. It can bring education, health and social services into an area. If businesses grow successfully, they can create enormous employment potential, play a vital role in the economic development of the region and contribute to the economic growth of the country. 

With young, local people leading the development of community-focused businesses, we have a much better chance of ensuring their sustainability, leading to long term poverty alleviation.

Raleigh International is looking for volunteers to build resilient communities and support economic development in Nicaragua and Tanzania next year. You don't need lots of qualifications or a degree to apply, but you do need drive, ideas, and the desire to develop brain for business. If you have some experience in one of these areas, you can apply for this opportunity. This could be from your educational course, work experience or even your personal hobbies:

  • Book-keeping, accounting or finance
  • Marketing and sales
  • Management
  • Business or strategic planning
  • Project management
  • Communication skills

To find out more and how to apply please visit Raleigh's website.

This is a guest blog from Shalini Rawlley, Content Officer at Raleigh International. This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.

- Background image from gettyimages.

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