Beckham and David — Educate! graduates, Mentors, business partners, and cousins — proudly stand in front of their home in Kireka with their fellow Mentors. They present their booming mushroom business, an enterprise that has grown by five times since its launch only six months ago. The cousins’ peers have come to learn from their business’ successes and challenges, which is all part of the newly launched “Project Day” — a initiative born out of a suggestion from Mentors during one of Educate!’s Internal Advisory Board (IAB) meetings.
Great ideas can come from anywhere, but the best ideas usually come from the people closest to the impact, which is why Educate! holds IABs three times a year to gather recommendations directly from the field. In a recent IAB meeting, Mentors shared with Educate!’s leadership team that it would be valuable for them to observe and learn from each other’s businesses. Spending half a day visiting other Mentors’ enterprises would allow them to pick up new lessons, identify common problems, and learn from each other’s successes and challenges. Our programs team wasted no time incorporating this innovative idea into the Mentor’s professional development program. Project Days have spurred innovation and group problem-solving; it’s been a powerful learning opportunity for the Mentors.
“Project Days inspire them to come and see what others are doing in their businesses and helps them improve.” Doreen, Educate! Youth Leader, says this and beams as the seven Mentors she manages take advantage of this valuable time to exchange ideas: they are extremely impressed with Beckham and David’s well-developed projects and all were jotting down notes and asking a variety of questions throughout the afternoon. Doreen is thrilled with the value that Project Days have added to the Mentors’ businesses: “Project Days are a great innovation.”
The advice Beckham and David gave: Never stop learning. David and Beckham told the Mentors how they very quickly learned to take every experience as a learning experience. They learned they had tapped into a high demand market when their mushroom stock would sell out very early in the morning, so they’ve worked to scale up their production. They also have expanded their product offerings by selling both poultry and eggs, bringing in significant income for their family. They advised their peers to see their current businesses as “starter projects” or training grounds for bigger, more sophisticated enterprises. The cousins explained that learning good money management would set the stage for future dreams. David and Beckham are strictly saving the money they earn now so that after they graduate from university, they can heavily invest in their business by buying land, starting their own farm, and producing on a commercial scale. For now, they are eagerly learning all they can about commercial farming and are testing the new techniques they pick up on a small scale in their yard.
When we invest in Mentor professional development, through initiatives like Project Days, the impact is twofold: Mentors strengthen their businesses and grow their contribution to local economies, and at the same time, their additional entrepreneurship and leadership expertise is directly transferred to the hundreds of Scholars they mentor. One of Educate!’s cultural tenants is “Always Learning.” Project Days are a prime example of how our team embodies this tenant on a daily basis.