Paraguay is country that thrives when it comes to entrepreneurship. All the side streets are filled with family run restaurants, Paraguayan crafts and clothes boutiques, and of course the many corner shops. Because of this variety and competition, it is important that future entrepreneurs learn from a young age how to make their business special and successful. As a foundation that promotes the entrepreneurial spirit, that is exactly what Fundación Paraguaya does.
Last week I had the chance to fill in for a fellow intern while he was absent. The area of interest was Junior Achievement, a field that tries to bring the entrepreneurship of young people of Paraguay to the forefront. Junior Achievement is one of the three main branches of the Fundación (alongside Microfinance and the Agricultural Schools). The aim of this initiative is to teach young people about business, applying the business skills to their work place, and finally about the importance of contributing to the development of their communities.
Junior Achievement works with young people from all over Paraguay, adapting the workshops to the type of community they work in. The students are taught about the economy in an interactive method, with a wide range of activities to tune into. The idea is to motivate the students to think as entrepreneurs so that when they graduate from high school or university, they will have the necessary skills to enter the workplace with the right frame of mind and understanding as to how things function. Depending on the activity, they are taught a vast array of tools, such as how to set interest rates, administration, marketing and publicity.
I participated in one of the Banks in Action workshops, which is a simulator programme in which students from all over the country form groups of three to set interest rates based on a few preset figures concerning savings, credit, and deposit certificates in the short and long run. The goal is to generate as high an income as possible based on these rates. From each school or city, the group of students who makes the most virtual money moves to the national round, in Asuncion (takes place in October). The national winners then go to the finals, in Costa Rica. The importance of this activity is teamwork toward achieving a goal, and the development of an understanding on how banks can generate profits.
Another one of the main projects that Junior Achievement engages in is the Cooperative, the Company and Community Leadership. Bringing these together, Fundación Paraguaya has developed a six-month competitive project in which students from high schools around the country have to create their own innovative business from scratch. The final activity is a day in a shopping center where they get the opportunity to sell their products to the public and discover who the overall best business was (the best wins a few prizes). The businesses ranged from making gingerbread cookies and chocolate, to boxers and bamboo products. This past Saturday, the company “Nutripar JA” from Ybycuí who makes roasted coffee, flour and bean biscuits won the first prize.