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I woke up at 5 am this morning to prepare for the first day. I reviewed Workshop #1 – Introducing the Business Plan for about an hour, made notes about what I wanted to speak about, and outlined an agenda for the day. Nancy and I met for breakfast to review the final details, and she also gave me some great tips to get started on a sound note. I arrived at the church in Kimathi at 7:20 am for an 8 am start but by 8 am, there were no students, just the facilitators. It was not until close to 9 that we had almost all the students present, with the last one trickling in at 11 am. While we are particular about attendance and being on time, given that it was the first day, I was not too concerned about this.

As we had planned, Jose welcomed everyone one and set the expectation that everyone must show up on time and work hard on their business plan. He also stated that we (Sauder) are educators and not funders but that we would help bring in organizations to help fund their businesses. After the facilitators and I introduced ourselves, I went around the room and asked everyone to introduce themselves and to tell us what they expect. I should have anticipated that almost everyone would say “to learn more about business”.

I then reviewed the major parts of a business plan, knowing that most of the audience had never seen one. I kept emphasizing that it’s OK if they don’t understand it yet because we’ll be delving further into each part over the next 17 sessions. Still, it was a lot of information without much context but then again, it was an introduction. I hope that by repeating things enough times in different contexts, that it will make sense and more importantly, that they can apply it to their business idea. That said, I’m uncharacteristically highly flexible so am willing to change direction at any time if it makes sense. I’ve learned that things often don’t go as expected on this continent, so flexibility and adaptability are crucial.

Speaking of being flexible, our guest speaker from the ICT government agency unexpectedly showed up (he was supposed to arrive tomorrow) and so I welcomed him and asked him how much time he wanted to speak. He replied “10 minutes” even though we had allocated more than an hour for him. What I learned was that even though someone says 10 minutes, he or she generally means a much longer time frame. Our speaker, Victor, spoke about how ICT is supporting businesses that want to make use of the Internet in their core operations. I was a little surprised that his topic was not general enough for our group since many want to start businesses that have no technology component to them. But, in the end, the Q&A session went quite well so I think the students did get enough out of it.

After we spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon working on the assignment, that was the end of the first day. I was exhausted being “on” for the whole morning rying to manage the chaos of the first day, set expectations, create a supportive environment, and of course, teach. All in all, I’m pleased with how well the day turned out. I have a good group of eager students who are willing to learn and am supported by a very bright group of university students to help me teach the modules. And of course, Jose is invaluable in helping me look after all the logistical details.

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