Program Report – The Cookery: Rochelle and Nick Johnson

Has anyone ever said your grilled ribs or quiche or whatever were out of this world and you ought to open a restaurant—such a good value that Warren Buffet would take his bride for their anniversary.  Or may you—like I do—sometimes dream that your spicy pimento cheese or artichoke relish would be a smash hit at Southern Season or Dean & Deluca’s.  But paying for the construction of a “certified” commercial kitchen in six figures gives you pause?  Or maybe you remember hearing that it was possible to pour more money into a food business than restoring an antebellum house or maintaining a gas guzzling forty foot fishing boat on the coast. [Read more…]

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. [Read more…]

Program Report: French GSE Team and Campaign4Change

We were treated to a double feature at Monday’s lunch meeting—the visiting French GSE Team and Otis Lyons, founding director of “Campaign4Change.”

The French GSE team represents Rotary District 1670 in northern France, nestled along the Belgian border.  The most prominent city is Lille whose metropolitan district with more than one million inhabitants is France’s fourth largest.  The surrounding countryside, the Department of the North, played an important role in the industrialization of France.  As mining and textiles declined in the 20th century, this region reinvented itself with burgeoning commercial, service and education/health related sectors.  Each of the three GSE team members visiting District 7710 is in the health field.  The Triangle obviously offers them rich opportunities to observe the American medical and pharmaceutical professions. [Read more…]

Program Write-up: Dr. Kevin Rome, NCCU

Everyone understands that Duke was founded and built with tobacco money. While it can reminisce fondly about that historical artifact it has moved far beyond any romantic notions about tobacco’s legacy. I think something similar is happening withNorth Carolina Central University, the other great university inDurham. NCCU’s roots as what is often referred to as an historically Black college are a permanent part of its legacy with its heroes like founder Dr. James Sheppard and Dr. LeRoy Walker, who was honored last year by our club with our annual community service award. But NCCU is becoming so much more than just one antidote to the persistent racial segregation of the last century.

Our meeting on April 16, on the NCCU campus provided lots of evidence of the ambition and achievement that now marks the University.  As its mission states, the university will serve its traditional clientele of African-American students and will also expand its commitment to meet the educational needs of a student body that is diverse in race and other socioeconomic attributes. [Read more…]

Program Report: A Haiti Project

Two past club presidents, Dave Ross and Jim Henderson, reported on a Haiti project that helps bring education, medical treatment and Christianity to one of the poorest and remotest regions in Haiti, itself the poorest country in the Americas.  Dave, a development consultant, previously administered two highly successful capital campaigns at Duke, was club president in 1973-74.  Some people irreverently quipped that Dave still looks pretty young!  Jim, former Business Manager at Duke, served as club president in 1986-87.  They participate in a project (OFCB—Organization of the Christian Force of Bayonnais) that is largely supported by churches in the Charlotte area.

OFCB’s origins begin in the mid-1980s when a woman from Charlotte who was visiting her daughter in Haiti realized the desperate plight of people in remote rural regions.  She befriended a young man, Actionnel Fleurisma, who she subsequently sponsored to study in a Charlotte community college.  After returning home in the mountainous area around Bayonnais, Actionnel founded OFCB and prompted the community to start a school that met in the shade of mango trees.  Since then a proper school—and a satellite school—has been built in which nearly 2,000 students in grades K-13 study.  There are no textbooks.  There is no electricity—except what a solar panel provides the church and guest house—or running water. Students have copybooks in which they write down their lessons.  Blackboards are a piece of masonite.  The absence of what we might regard as necessary supplies does not dampen the enthusiasm for learning.  As Dave and Jim point out, it is not money that makes for good education but desire and commitment.  As was true in this country in the middle of the 1800s, students often walk for miles and hours to reach community-built schoolhouses.  The midday meal provided by the school—sometimes the only hot meal a child might get—consists of rice and beans.  In a nod to modernity, many young people have cell phones seemingly of the flip variety.  (Is there an organization that recycles flip phones when we upgrade to “smart” phones?  I’ll bet Rotary could collect hundreds of thousands, millions of them!) [Read more…]

Program Report: Rachel Weeks and School House Apparel

As my old pappy used to say “Sometimes good things happen because somebody saw an opportunity to make some money.” I hope that School House Apparel will prove  him correct because it certainly has been built on a couple of big audacious altruistic ideas. According to Rachel Weeks the founder and guiding light of School House Apparel that day of profitability may be near at hand.

Ms. Weeks was a Greensboro girl who came to Duke with an interest in fashion and concern for exploited workers in the third world sweat shops which produce much of the world’s clothing.

She managed to obtain a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Sri Lanka, a small country 10,000 miles away which was trying to brand itself as a source of clothing that was produced ethically. To make a long story short, Ms. Weeks founded School House and launched a factory in Sri Lankathat paid almost triple the prevailing wage to its workers.

Perversely perhaps, the success of the latter negatively impacted School House. The factory attracted the attention and business of much larger companies like Nike who made it difficult for them to meet the needs of a small customer like School House. This and the fact that the logistics of dealing with a supplier so far away led to the second big School House Apparel idea; revive the American clothing industry.

Everyone knows that there used to be hundreds of small knitting and cut and sew operations scattered throughout North Carolina. School House went on a search among the few that are left and found a partner in Mitt’s Nitts right here in Durham who would work closely with them to produce and source materials right here in North Carolina including zippers in Oxford, fabrics in Greensboro and screen printing in Rocky Mount. In their words, they are creating a greener, homegrown supply chain and providing a model for reviving clothing manufacturing here on the east coast. [Read more…]