USU program growing businesses with SEED money

Utah State University’s Huntsman School of Business has reached the third year of its SEED program, which acts as a last resort bank for budding entrepreneurs in Peru and Uganda. SEED stands for Small Enterprise Education and Development. Jake Peterson is one of the students who traveled to Peru last summer to approve loans to start a bakery, a guinea pig farm (local delicacy) and a mini market. “It was amazing,” he said. “A group of 30 of us went to Peru and we spent a week in a city called Trujillo. When we got there we split up into groups to deal with proposals from natives to fund the bakery, guinea pig farm and the small market. We looked at how much money they were asking for, what kind of business they wanted to start. “It was our job to see if it was going to be profitable. It was something none of us had ever done before. We gained a lot out of it.” Some loans were approved. Peterson said there were some that were not approved. “Those people are now on their way to getting out of poverty.” He said it is very hard in Peru and in other developing countries to get business loans to start a business. “The idea is for the locals to get raw business plans ready for when the big group of 30 students come in the summer. Then those students do a market analysis and a financial analysis to see if these people are ready to receive a loan and start their business.” Once a board of professors at the Huntsman School approves the loans, the money is given to the businesses in stages. At that point interns remain on site, helping them purchase the supplies they need and helping them grow their business. “We don’t just give them the money and leave them, we help them all along the way,” said Peterson. College of Business faculty member Dave Herrmann came up with SEED, seeking a mechanism in the college to create more than just “micro loans” for developing countries that barely get them out of poverty. “He proposed these be actual business loans where there is the opportunity to make a big profit, have employees, and really launch themselves out of poverty and help their communities as they do it.” Peterson said the first year of SEED included approval of a yogurt factory, another guinea pig farm and a bakery as well. “All three are profitable now, they’re doing great,” he said. SEED is a non-profit organization and Herrmann, in his class “Managing and Organizing People” divides students into groups and challenges them to create ideas to raise money for the program. “The goal of the program is that SEED will fund itself,” said Peterson. “The loans aren’t free, we’re not just giving people money.”

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