A big challenge solved by shocking ingenuity!
On my way to Haiti last week, I read a book* that says: “The real wealth of the universe is the human mind.”
Upon arrival, I met the proof of that claim. His name is Cadet Olmy. In his mid-twenties, Cadet is a married father of one who runs a tiny motorcycle parts store on a street corner in Léogâne (which sustained little damage from Hurricane Matthew).
The broad (and slightly crooked) smile that’s a perfect match for his boyishly handsome face only occasionally displaces pursed lips and probing eyes. Those inquisitive eyes hint at the hungry mind which led him to ask me for French translations of all 62 sources in GrowBook’s bibliography. (Alas, most are only in English. Who else even notices the bibliography?) He proceeds to mention some ways he’s put GrowBook (our 300-page business training curriculum) into practice, such as, oddly, becoming a soccer coach since we wrote about the importance of a leader’s health.
He himself is quite coachable, crediting his Creating Jobs mentor (and my GrowBook co-author) Jennifer Pettie with helping him learn to produce some of the best financial statements I’ve been shown in Haiti. His long fingers, which mimic his wiry frame, hover over the records of income and expenses with the deliberateness of a spider. In addition to the standard listings of “gross profit,” “cost of goods sold,” and the like, he had monthly totals of “lost sales” – the amount of additional revenue he’d have generated if he had all the motorcycle parts in stock that his moto-taxi-driving customers had asked for.
In an inventory-dependent industry such as his, he knows this is the biggest hindrance to growth. Cadet told us: “This business is not for me; it’s for the customer. So I must order the parts they want.”
In his shoes, many would resign themselves to remaining a tiny business, bemoaning the lack of available credit. Our advice would have been to diligently record which parts customers request and reinvest a portion of weekly profits to slowly build up that inventory. But what did Cadet do? He started a…BANK! He did WHAT? Yes, you read it right. He now collects savings deposits and uses some of that capital to grow his inventory. That’s creating wealth straight from the human mind! When we marveled at his ingenious plan, he said: “All these ideas I found in the GrowBook.” (Perhaps he means the chapter on innovation or the many reflection questions that spur creative solutions.)
So, how does it work? Each of his 47 savings clients bring him small deposits either daily or weekly, and can withdraw the total plus 3% interest after 6 months. This gives him a known amount to work with during a known timeframe. With his profit margin being greater than 3%, he can easily grow that capital by buying parts wholesale and selling them retail. As in all good transactions, everyone wins! His sales and profits are increasing, along with the pleasure of making his clients happier. The moto-taxi drivers have less down-time awaiting parts, thus can better take care of their families and passengers.
Many of Cadet’s savings clients are also moto-parts customers of his, and receive credit on parts up to the amount of their savings balance – earning them both interest and trust.
Speaking of trust, the fact that 47 people happily entrust their hard-earned money to a parts guy is remarkable! He credits his reputation for integrity to following Jesus’ instruction to “love your neighbor as yourself.” So, to amend the quote we started with, it takes both ingenuity and trust to create wealth.
He has confidence that he can win the trust of 200 savings clients by April 2017 and 1000 by April 2018 (and eventually become an official bank)! As half a dozen clients stop by to drop off small deposits, we are struck by how happy they are to give him their hard-earned money! As they giddily fork over 100 gourde bills, the banker seriously presides over the recording of the transactions with ink stamps and signatures. He returns their savings booklets, whose front cover admonishes them with this quote from GrowBook’s p.178 (in Creole): “Saving money is an important discipline that builds character.”
To further fuel the dreams of both, Cadet has decided to invest in the minds of his savings clients every month, teaching them how to grow their businesses and their savings. He requests that Jennifer teach from GrowBook’s “Saving Money Regularly” chapter in February at his monthly client meeting. She won’t steal his stage, but rather will co-teach with him so they hear local examples of how the book’s principles actually work in Haiti’s complicated environment.
Cadet’s initiative to pass on to others what he’s learned marks the anticipated point of maturity in our Haiti program. So, we’re now shifting from direct mentoring of entrepreneurs to co-mentoring alongside mentees-become-mentors like Cadet. In fact, there are four “superstars” like him that have developed in our Léogâne program (alongside Partners Worldwide). On our subsequent visits, we’ll play a supportive role as we join these local mentors to visit their dozen mentee entrepreneurs. As we reach the goal of being local and sustainable, we can safely say: “success!”
A Creating Jobs donor who’s worked for a few nonprofits and has watched our work closely says: “It is nothing short of ASTOUNDING what Creating Jobs accomplishes with so little. With a mere $60,000 annual budget, it does in four countries what many million dollar nonprofits aspire to do. “Donors to Creating Jobs get an incredible return on their investment.”
Do you want a bigger share in the impact of developing-world entrepreneurs like Cadet? As 2016 ends, we invite you to begin or increase your prayer and financial support of our work. Together, let’s support Cadet’s dream of becoming an official bank, while he inspires scores of others to employ trust and ingenuity so that their own families will flourish.
Evan L. Keller
Founder & Executive Director
PS: Please see our next newsletter to learn how our $10,000 in relief funding served victims of Hurricane Matthew.
*The quotation in the first paragraph comes from James Schall’s book On Christians and Prosperity