Small Business Spotlight of the Week: CorpsAfrica Amanda | January 4th, 2012
The stress of the holidays and debauchery of the New Year has faded away and, for a lot of us, this means we try to get serious about things we want to change in our lives. For some, this might mean losing weight, quitting smoking or finally watching all five Rocky films. According to USA.gov, one of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to help others more often.
CorpsAfrica is a small non-profit that aims to allow African communities take control and begin to work on solutions to poverty. Instead of sending volunteers from countries that have little understanding of the real issues, CorpsAfrica is about empowering locals with the resources to come up with practical answers. The NPO provides volunteers with training, curriculum, and facilities to help reach these goals. They are currently working in Morocco and Malawi, but hope to expand to all 54 African nations. You can access their donation page here.
Founder and Executive Director, Liz, goes more in-depth about CorpsAfrica:
How would you explain what you do to somebody’s grandmother?
CorpsAfrica helps Africans be “Peace Corps Volunteers” in their own countries – and drive solutions to poverty at the community level.
What are some industry specific challenges you faced?
Being a nonprofit, the challenge is always fundraising. Particularly in this down economy, securing start-up funding is so hard. For CorpsAfrica to establish an office, we need an initial investment of at least $100,000: for the office space, training facilities, curriculum and, of course, the trainers, transportation expenses, insurance and other administrative expenses. The first staff person is the biggest hurdle, we’d need enough money in the bank to ensure their employment for at least six months, and we need to hire someone good. The success of the program will depend 99% on the in-country person we hire to run it.
What made you use crowdSPRING?
A friend referred me; it sounded like an interesting idea. I don’t know anything about design, but I know what I like, and that combination makes me the ideal crowdSPRING customer.
What was your biggest learning curve/experience?
Since our plan is to have the CorpsAfrica program in all 54 African nations we want to create a model that can be scaled up and be it flexible enough to work in such diverse cultures. To do this, our learning curve is steep and long-term.
What’s the craziest story you have from starting your own business?
When you start a new business, everything comes down to the chickens and the eggs. It takes money to make money; it takes people’s understanding of the business to spread the word about the business, etc. When I first decide to do this, the very first thing I did was get a logo designed through crowdSPRING and make business cards. Then I started meeting people and handing them out– as if it was a real up-and-running business – and pretty soon it was.
If you could go back, would you do anything differently? If so, what and why?
Actually, no. The biggest issue is struggling to raise the money, but if I had the money from the get-go, I wouldn’t have had the experience of selling the idea, which is a process of listening, re-working, and re-selling. That’s been enormously helpful.
How do you see your company growing in the future?
I think we can be bigger than the Peace Corps in ten years, with 250 Volunteers each year in 54 countries. That’s 13,500 Volunteers on the ground at any one time across Africa. Quite an inspiring picture.
What’s your working relationship like now with the crowdSPRING designer’s project you chose?
I got both my logo and website design through crowdSPRING. When the projects were done that was it, but I hope to stay in touch. Both of those designers were a big part of the birth of CorpsAfrica. They are a part of its history.
Six words of advice to those looking to start their own company.
Think of it as your child.
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