Program Write Up: Accion Emprendedora and Calder Exhibit

Danielle Kasper introduced our program presented by Alejandro Sanchez, a native of Colombiawho is the co-founder with Ignacio Torres in the United Statesof Accion Emprendedora  a movement founded  by Mr. Torres inChile. AE is a non-profit organization dedicated to small business development in areas of high social impact through training, technical assistance, and support services.

AE’s focus is on what they call micro-entrepreneurs primarily in the Hispanic community.  Micro, of course, means really really small. Of the approximately 40 thousand Hispanic owned businesses in the state only 11% of them have sales of $1 million and many of them only have one or two employees.

Back in the 90’s the author Michael Gerber authored a best selling business book called the E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. The myth, according to Gerber was that most people who started a business were not really entrepreneurs. They were instead “technicians” who had a “entrepreneurial moment” when they thought they could take their skills and earn more on their own than they could working for someone else.  The vast majority stumble because they may know how to provide a service but know nothing about running a business.

Much is being made now about the fact that our recovery post recession has seen rising corporate profits and a rising stock market but an anemic rise in employment. Using technology companies are squeezing more productivity out of fewer employees and those that remain had better be educated and adaptable.  This has actually been going on for some time. Here in North Carolina when there was an effective push for better conditions for migrant farm workers, the tobacco growers began consolidating and mechanizing their businesses, eliminating many of the migrant jobs which were held by Hispanics.

The result is that there are many small businesses started by people that must create their own jobs, not just frustrated “technicians” working for larger companies. So, if your English language skills are limited and you don’t have the money or the time to go to college, what skill above all do you need to survive? Gerber would argue that if you are out there on your own, whether you are trying to run a framing crew, a lawn service, a food truck, a real estate practice or you earn your living as a psychic, if you want to survive you better know something about running a business.

The dilemma is that the people that most need help learning these skills are the ones that can least afford it. Mr. Sanchez confirmed this when he mentioned that they had to reduce the cost of their programs from a modest $120 to something far lower. AE has proven their model and helped over 4,000 micro businesses in Chile and have begun pilot programs in Peru, Guatemala and now Mr. Sanchez is leading the initial effort in the US.  Here they are supported by Duke University, El Centro Hispano and Rotarian Chris Gergen’s Bull City Forward but they need more. There is much more information about the organization and how to help on the website www.ae-usa.org.

Calder Exhibit at the Nasher

The main program was preceded by a short presentation on the current Calder Exhibit at the Nasher Museum on Duke’s Campus. Rotarian Kristen Greenaway introduced the Nasher’s Senior Curator Nancy Hanks for a quick overview of the exhibit.

Ms. Hanks enthusiasm for Calder’s Mobiles was obvious but she also shared how her appreciation for the works increased during the set up of the exhibit that revealed as much as anything the engineering skills of the artist.

The exhibit runs until June 17, 2012 and also includes the work of seven contemporary artists whose practices are bound to Calder’s legacy as a modern sculptor.

Submitted by Jay Zenner

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