By Josh Frey, president of , and Chapter President of EO DC.
So maybe this is a bit of a stretch, but after spending two days in Washington, D.C., USA, with 30 Muslim entrepreneurs from the Middle East, Africa and Europe, I am now a true believer in the power of entrepreneurship as delivered through the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.
For those of you who may not be aware, EO recently partnered with the US State Department and Businesses for Diplomatic Action to launch a new program called “New Beginnings.” In a nutshell, this program resulted from US President Barack Obama’s commitment to spread and teach entrepreneurship to the Muslim world in an effort to facilitate peace. Thirty delegates from around the world came togther to learn about entrepreneurship on a four-city tour, starting in D.C.
I have to tell you – ir was an AMAZING experience! I personally participated in a “mock” Forum with six delegates and two other EO members, and the diversity of background and stories told was incredible. We had a dairy farmer from Uganda, a clothing importer from Niger, a family restaurant owner from Trinidad, a clock designer from Indonesia, an Internet marketer from France and a photographer from Belgium. All were self-made entrepreneurs, many from poor countries and even poorer cities and villages. None with mentors or MBAs, and most were without college degree. None had capital, and yet all are eligible for EO membership and/or Accelerator.
During the Forum, one gentleman told us about how his “Daddy” knew of a process to pasteurize milk (something his village did not have at the time), so he took the idea and started to produce and sell pasteurized milk (and later cheese) out of his “Daddy’s home.” He would make the milk and cheese, then get on his bicycle and take it to local markets. When his business started in 2005, he had the capacity to produce and deliver 20 liters of milk a day. His capacity is now at 3,000 liters a day. He is currently sourcing equipment out of Europe, and recently recieved financing to build a factory.
I was in no way the only EO member who walked away from this Forum experience amazed. All of us who participated did. I received e-mails and calls from the other Forum hosts (we had four companies hosting and moderating) who shared similar stories of amazement. Backgrounds and diversity aside, we are all entrepreneurs, all working toward our personal and professional goals. We all have issues with work/life balance, social dilemmas, time management, cash flow, employees … and the list goes on. Still, we’re united as entrepreneurs, and this event reminded me of such.
As Chapter President of EO DC, I am doing more than my fair share of drinking the EO Kool-Aid. I love EO because I love hanging out with other entrepreneurs who give me energy, help and hope in all parts of my life. This New Beginnings program took my EO Kool-Aid drinking to a whole new level. It showed me just how powerful and impactful EO is – from the will of the EO people to the effectiveness of EO processes (like Forum) – in bringing people together over a common foundation: entrepreneurship.
So, back to my original comment… do I think EO can solve (or at least play a significant role in) world peace? I really do.