Wednesday, August 19, 2009

First Workshop

Hello everybody…it´s a nice Tuesday in Cajamarca. Yesterday I gave the first workshops to the DHF women. Below is pretty detailed description of the class. Today I´m working on the lesson for tomorrow. I´m writing up the lesson at a coffee shop here called Bella´s – the owner lived in Dallas for 12 years and loves Austin…small world. On Thursday I´m going to go here.

First Workshop

Well, the first day of workshops is over. There were two classes, one at 9:30 and one at 3:30, with about 10 women in each class. The first group was very interactive. I was a little nervous about teaching en espanol but they made it easy. A pair of the women even stepped it up a little bit to ask questions that were far beyond the scope of the class. They are thinking about starting a business together and were interested in the pros/cons of forming a partnership. I pretty much told them to be nice to each other and put everything in writing.

The second group was interactive but less vocal with their ideas. There was also a little bit of a class clown. When we were talking about the importance of choosing a name for one’s small business, Wilma asked me if she should call her store “Tienda Sexy.” Um…probably not…maybe…best let a native Cajamarquino decide that one. Also, Nora and Desiree were invaluable in helping facilitate participation and helping me where I couldn’t remember a word or didn’t understand one of the women.

Today we talked about several topics. First, a little background on some of the common issues and problems that come up with the DHF women. I gathered this background through conversations with Maggie, Nora and the DHF women. The various issues and problems fall into two main buckets: one is the¨”vision thing” (ie what the big picture of having a small business is all about) and the other is accounting / figuring out if my small business is making money. I´ll talk about the first bucket today and the second after Wednesday´s class.

The first workshop (”taller”) was designed to get the women thinking about the first bucket – the “vision thing.” The common issues and problems in this bucket are:

  • Marketing: pricing, segmentation, differentiation, understanding customers (ie, many of the women design and make products that they like rather than what customers want), etc.

  • Where is my business going?

  • How do I grow my business?

In general, the DHF are very savvy about business. Because I don´t fully know and understand the market in Cajamarca, my goal was and is simply to bring in a few ideas and methods to help them think more systematically about the issues they face. Today I learned a lot about what makes the Cajamarquino customer tick.

That said, I started the lesson today talking about branding. What is a brand? What characteristics describe the products and services of a company with a strong brand? We did a little brainstorming exercise to come up with strong brands from both global and more local companies. I started with the example of Coca Cola. We talked about the different qualities that make up the Coca Cola brand (products in the Coca Cola brand). On the good side, flavor, quality, image and reliability. On the bad side, lots of caffeine and chemicals. We then discussed more brands and the characteristics that describe these different brands.

After that, I had them think out loud about a dessert store (tienda de postres) in Cajamarca. What do they look for from this kind of tiends? The women came up with price, quality, service / attention / overall customer experience, hygiene of the store, presentation of desserts and reputation among others. We talked a lot about pricing and how to set the price of a product.

The point of the various discussions on branding was to get the women thinking about how customers view businesses, products and services. By talking about what they value in a product or service, the women were able to think about how their potential customers view the products and services they offer. We came to the conclusion that in Cajamarca customer service / attention is the most important characteristic a small business can have. The women said they highly value the personal touch and an owner who is willing to listen to what they want. I was glad we came to that conclusion because one of my recommendations focused on service.

I ended by making two simple recommendations. First, give your business a name. My belief is that, for a small business, word of mouth is your most powerful tool for promotion. A name makes it easier for a customer to tell his/her friend “hey, you should buy your next bolsa from Nelly.” Second, I encouraged them to be all about service. Not only be attentive, friendly and helpful, but also listen to the customer. These women are making small quantities of different artesanal goods so they really can´t compete with other tiendas on volume. However, they do have opportunities to reach customer segments by being very attentive and providing personal service.

The next workshop will cover more of the accounting issues. We´re goign to talk about basic budgeting and how to determine whether a business is making money.

Thanks for reading…if you have suggestions on the specific topics I´m covering or think of something that would be helpful for a small business owner, please let me know.


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