Introduction

I was more than thrilled to take part of the International Visitor Leadership Program in the « Small Business Development and Entrepreneurship » theme.
The trip started in Washington DC on the 14th of July 2018.

16 participants from 9 different countries took part of this very interesting training, the map below showcases the following:

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The interpreters and the administrative staff made our training trip a real success:

Our training took place in 6 cities through 5 different states and spread out over 21 days, the current report features the visits and activities that took place in each day.

Day 1: Departure from Morocco to the US
Saturday, July 14th – Casablanca
My journey to the US started at the Mohammed V airport in Casablanca, Morocco.
I met Khadija, the other participant of the IVLP, a really amazing woman with an inspiring success story: Khadija’s Kuzina’s project!

DAY 2: Special tour of Washington DC
Sunday, Juy 15th – Washington DC
We had the pleasure to visit and learn about Washington DC’s most important monuments such as the Capitol, the White House, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Thomas Jefferson Memorial…[etc.] We were accompanied by our administrative staff, our interpreters and our guide Mr. Timothy Hursen.

Group Picture in front of the White House, Washington DC
Mr. Timothy Hursen

Day 3: Meeting at the Graduate School USA
Monday, July 16th – Washington DC

Introduction to the International Visitor Leadership Program

Our first meeting was held at the Graduate School with the representatives of the US Department of State & the Graduate School : Ms. Deborah Drucker, Ms. Maren Paslick and Ms. Muriel Jolivert.
Indeed we were informed, guided and acquainted about the IVL-Program, its related content, the itinerary and all the relevant logistics.

Introduction to the American federalism

The meeting’s topic was about the federalism in the United Stated of America and it was conducted by Mr. Akram R. Elias, the co-founder and President of the Capital Communications Group.
We learned about the constitutional relationship between the U.S. state governments and the federal government as well as other political aspects established in the country.

Day 4 : Day trip to Baltimore, Maryland Tuesday, July 17th – Baltimore, Maryland Maryland International Incubator (MI2)
We met Mr. Yanfeng Wang M.D. Director of the MI2 and we discussed the three levels to step in order to succeed at a business, the challenges of social media, the project fast growth threats and much more.
MI2 is an accelerator that outcomes from a successful partnership between the University of Maryland and the Maryland Department of Commerce.

 

Greater Baltimore Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE)
We met Mr. Shadeed Eleazer at the World Trade Center of Baltimore, Maryland.
Indeed, Mr. Shadeed is the President of SCORE the largest business consulting in all America in terms of services, experts and business support within the last 50 years. We mainly discussed business plan management, the small world theory, the active listening. I actually was amazed by Mr. Shadeed’s explanation of the reciprocity law.

Meeting at the Morgan State University
After enjoying delicious crab sandwiches in Baltimore, we met Mr. Omar Mohammed, Director of the Entrepreneurial Development and Assistance Center (ECAD) who has been teaching for about 15 years and Dr. David Wilson, the 12th President of Morgan State University who has been operating in the educational field for more than 30 years.
We discussed the importance of strategizing before launching any small, medium or large project, we also mentioned the role of universities in encouraging the local economic development throughout technology.

Day 5 : Washington DC Wednesday, July 18th – Washington DC Georgetown University
We had a great entrepreneurship training and intense coaching with Mr. Shye Gilad, co-founder and CEO of ProJet Aviation and entrepreneur-in-residence at Georgetown University from which have graduated Bill Clinton, Jacqueline Kennedy and Robert Gates.
Mr. Shye has had a very difficult yet inspiring success story throughout his studies and professional path.

US Department of State
The meeting was held at the US Department of State where I was more than thrilled to represent my country Morocco. We discussed women’s status back in my home country within other countries.
I emphasized on the Moroccan women’s importance in marching the economical, political and cultural wheels. We then mentioned some project ideas that can be considered in future collaborations.

Day 6: Trip to Burlington, Vermont
Thursday, July 19th

We had a safe flight from Washington

DC to Burlington, Vermont early in the
morning.
We had a lot of fun as a group as we
were juggling our ball while waiting in
the airport �

 

Once we arrived in Burlington, we joined an
afternoon brunch provided by the city
Chamber of Commerce where we met Mr.
Vinson Pierce, the Manager of Global
Engagement along with the working staff and
the local communities.

 

 

 

Day 7: Social Entrepreneurship – Using Technology to Create Business Opportunities – Rural
and Small Town Economic Development

Friday, July 20th – Burlington, Vermont

Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies (VCET)

We met Mrs. Laurel Butler at the Vermont Small Business Development Center in order to discuss the importance of using the incubator model to emerge in local markets.
We were astonished by the energy and the presence of Mrs. Laurel, the amazing 70 years young woman who quoted that « the leaders of tomorrow are in our Vermont schools today »


ENCORE R.E.

The meeting was held in an open space Mr. Chad Nichols, Director of ENCORE RENEWABLE ENERGY project development and construction.
We visited the main solar base that converts to grids and provides the whole city including the 6 schools with enough electricity power.
The site has 6800 solar panels that were imported from Thailand and costed 4,5 Million USD.
We also learned that one panel generates 315 Mega Watts and costs 11 cts/watt as consumption rate.
What I loved the most about this project is that the solar panels are based on a landfill on a concrete built base.

Day 8 : Social Entrepreneurship – Using Technology to Create Business Opportunities – Rural
and Small Town Economic Development

Saturday, July 21st – Burlington, Vermont

Ben & Jerry’s factory visit

We visited the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory.
We learned that the brand was founded in 1978 by the two friends (B&J) whom one of them has went to medical school and the other dropped out of university.
The idea started in a gaz station, then grew to a bigger scale with a 12000 USD investment. Today the brand is franchised in Holland, the Netherlands, Canada…
We visited the technical areas, but we were not allowed to take any pictures.
Making ice cream needs a blend tank holding 65000 L of dairy, that later chills for 8 hours, then needs to get flavored (vanilla extract, strawberry…) and frozen at a temperature that goes between 22°F and 35°F in order to chill and overfreez down to -80°F.
We were informed that 300 cups are filled with the automatic filler per minute and that the ice cream is non GMO and has a 3 day period for expiration. Every tank takes 10 hours to clean up.

Day 9: Rest day, cultural activities
Sunday, July 22nd – Burlington, Vermont
During the day, we embraced the green nature and the Champlaint lac of the beautiful Burlington and in the late evening, we decided to watch a comedy show as a group in order to support local artistic communities.

 

Day 10: Social Entrepreneurship – Using Technology to create business opportunities – Rural and small town economic development
Monday, July 23rd – Burlington, Vermont Burton Snowboards

The meeting was held at the chamber of commerce with Mrs. Josiel Lerack, Diractor of Burton Snowboards in Burlington, Vermont.
BS was founded and headquartered in 1977 in Burlington, Vermont and is now based in Canada, Japan, Austria, China & Australia and has over than 1000 employees.
Burton produces snowboard clothing from hat to socks, it already owns 21 shops around the world and will expand to 31 by the end of 2018.
Mrs. Josiel shared the successes and failures the company went through and we were all truly inspired by their business model.

Chamber of Commerce
Our second meeting was also held at the chamber of commerce with Mr. John, Director of entrepreneurship investment & financial support for small businesses.
Mr John makes part of a team that helps coach small businesses to get a training in human resources’
management, marketing, communication, strategizing and loan and grant chasing.

 

United States Department of Agriculture

We day travelled to Montpelier, capital of Vermont to the USDA headquarter, it is a huge federal agency that helps make the agriculture sustainable.

The organization helps enhance the quality of life in rural areas and works on different fields such as water infrastructure, libraries, housing, grant and loan offering, renewable energy development…
USDA operates in both Vermont and NEW Hampshire states.

 

Day 11 : Travel to Charotte, North Carolina
Tuesday, July 24th

 

 

 

We travelled safely to Charlotte,
North Carolina.
We checked in at the Holiday Inn
Hotel where we were warmly
welcomed by Mr. JJ, front desk
Manager since the last 15 years.
JJ is a very professional and
helpful man with a big heart.
I appreciated spending 5 days in
a socially responsible hotel.

 

 

 

Day 12: University Research and Mentorship for Entrepreneurs – Financing for Growing Small Businesses – Local Economic Impact of Small Businesses
Wednesday, July 25th – Charlotte, North Carolina
Truliant federal Credit Union

The meeting was held at the TCU headquarter with Ms. Heather Osterweil Counselor at the bureau. Heather and her colleague both shared numbers and statistics about the loans given to their members. We had a general view about the criteria when scaling a small or medium business loan.
Ms. Heather also informed us that Truliant can provide up to 80% of the required investment.

 

 

Clarcke Allen Events
We visited the Clarcke Allen Events business and spent an hour with Mr. Clarcke, CEO.
He generously shared his story and we were very keen on learning about his multiple successes and failures.
Indeed, Mr. Clarke has gone through a lot and today he is a successful entrepreneur who works with Oprah Winfrey and has written a coaching book called Inevitable Box.
We were delighted to visit the facilities of his creative event and catering company.

US Export Assistance Center

The third meeting was held at the US Export Assistance Center where we had the pleasure to meet Mr. Greg Sizemore and his colleagues from the bureau. Indeed, we learned about the center’s activities that are mainly operated in Charlotte area among which American export partnerships with China, France, Germany, Mexico in the energy, medical technologies, textile and many other fields.


Day 13: University research and metorship for entrepreneurs – Financing for growing small businesses – Local economic impact of small businesses
Thursday, July 26th – Charlotte, North Carolina Grameen Bank
We visited Grameen Bank where we met Mrs. Ursula Lalone, a passionat Peruvian lady who advocates for women who live in hard conditions in the poorest and most marginalized communities.
Grameen was founded in 2004 thanks to a Balgash fund and its mission statement is “loans are better than charity in interrupting poverty”.
More than 6842 micro businesses were incubated, accelerated and funded by Grameen bank and more than 97% are still in the workforce!

Charlotte Chamber of Young Professionals
Our next meeting was held at the CCYP with members of the administrative board
The chamber provides value to professionals aged between 21 and 39 years old through leadership, civic engagement, professional development workshops…

 

Ventureprise
The meeting was held with Mr. Devin Collins at Ventureprise a nonprofit sponsored by the University of North Carolina in Charlotte.
Venturprise supports enterprises led by their students aiming to start their own creative businesses through training, funding and grant offering.
Good to know that Michael Jordan graduated from the UNC 😊

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden
We were kindly invited to a warm potluck dinner sponsored by the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden members.
We truly enjoyed the family meal, the green views, the water fountains and the musical show.

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Denise was one of
our two drivers in
Charlotte. She is a
56 years old
mother with a
golden heart. I fell
in love with her
strength and
positivity😊
We invited her to
share the delicious
potluck dinner.

 

 

Day 14 : University research and metorship for entrepreneurs – Financing for growing small businesses – Local economic impact of small businesses
Friday, July 27th – Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

 

The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library is one of America’s
many urban public libraries, serving a community
of approximately one million citizens in the city of
Charlotte and the towns of Matthews, Pineville,
Mint Hill, Davidson…
The CM library provides its members
with an electronic platform presenting a wide range of
information about all the companies and
entrepreneurs; it also has a job help center that is ready to
assist any job seeker into the research.

 

 

 

Prayer / Lunch time at the Ash-Shaheed Mosque

During my trip to the US, I have had the chance to experience the multi-cultural and religious diversity through the many personal life experiences I had the chance to have with many individuals.

One of the most marking assets was neither my religion nor my race made a difference when interacting with different people from various backgrounds from taxi drivers to companies’ CEOs.

On Friday, July 27th, our driver Mr. Omar kindly suggested to take us to the Charlotte local mosque where I was thrilled to participate to the weekly prayer and not only had I the privilege to practice my religion freely but I also briefly met American, Soudanian, Moroccan, Turkish and South African Muslim people living peacefully with their different communities.

After the
prayer, I met
and enjoyed
sharing my
lunch with
Medina, a
native muslim
American. We
hugged and
shared our
contact
information.

 

 

Area 15

Area 15 is located in the Optimist Park neighborhood and is filled with diverse small businesses bringing life and culture to this small, yet quickly growing neighborhood.
Area 15 is owned and operated by two local men with a passion for community, indeed it is a small business incubator!

The idea behind this magical place is that the businesses are constantly moving in and out, as they outgrow their space or change, making for an interesting place to meet new people doing big things in the Charlotte community.

Area 15 is Charlotte’s first small business incubator and it’s main goal is to create a community to accelerate the incubated businesses while creating an environment for community and resources for those in need.

Home Hospitality

We were warmly welcomed by the host family who kindly cooked and served us a delicious homemade middle eastern halal meal. We were happy to learn about their culture, family and friends.
After diner, we danced over Egyptian music and left their property with hugs, love and many memories 😊

 

 

Day 15: Day off
Saturday, July 28th – Charlotte, North Carolina

Day 16: Travel to Denver, Colorado
Sunday, July 29th

Day 17 : PPP to support small businesses – Support for minority & women owned businesses
Monday, July 30th – Denver, Colorado SBA
Our first meeting was held at the Colorado District Office of the Small Business Administration with Mr. Robert & Mr. Eric, both Lending Relations specialists .
SBA’s main mission is to help small businesses create & relate jobs through 14 different lending programs. It is the most important advocate for the state’s 563000 small businesses.

Global Girlfriend
Our second meeting took place at the Global Girlfriend office with the founder, Ms. Stadey Edgar. GG was founded in 2003 at Stacey’s basement and it focuses on women owned businesses and the fair trade with over 150 women’s cooperatives around 33 countries among Panama, Peru, Chilie, Nepal, India, Somalia, Tunisia, Lebanon…
Today, Global Girlfriend owns 1000 stores across the US and achieves a 35MUSD turnover per year. While operating with the providers through importing activities, GG places a 50% deposit at order and completes the remaining 50% right at shipping process knowing that all shipping fees are being covered by the company.
Right after the meeting, Stacey told me she was thinking of trading with Morocco as a new market horizon and I offered my help to build a bridge between the two countries.

Thrive Workplace

Third and final meeting was held at Thrive Workspace where we had the delight to meet Ms. Barbara Bauer, Director of Women’s Investor Network at Rockies Venture Club .
TW organizes about 125 events a year, 1000 early stage ventures showcase, out of which only 80 are presented to the angel investors and about 15 to 20 receive real investments.

Day 18 : PPP to support small businesses – Support for minority & women owned businesses,
Tuesday, July 31st – Denver,

Colorado COMAL, Focus Point

Our first meeting was one of our trip’s highlights!
It was held at Comal Heritage Food Incubator, one of the Focus Points Family Resource
Center incubated projects where we met Ms. Slavica Park, Director of Workforce and Economic Development.
Comal is a safe heaven for immigrant women from Mexico, Syria, Iraq, Ethiopia… the survivors get a free training in the culinary arts field seeking a job placement after their 6 months training.
Indeed, they are not only practically learning in the kitchen, but they are also gaining a 15USD/hr revenue for an immediate economic support they oh so need.
The beneficiaries also receive a business management and entrepreneurial training as part of the incubator in order to be ready to either work and be placed in the job market or launch their own businesses.
We met Viane Nadawi Oum Ahmad, a very passionat Iraqi woman who cooked our delicious homemade meal.

 

Enterprise 5280
Our second meeting took place at Enterprise 5280 with Ms. Erin Mulroy, Executive Manager.
E5280 is a shared workspace environment created by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs with different facilities serving their needs of pitching, meeting, working individually and in group, skype conversations…

Day 19: Support for minority & women owned businesses
Wednesday, August 1st – Boulder, Colorado Cultiva!
First meeting was held at Cultiva!, a 20 years old nonprofit organization based on a family owned
land for more than 100 years.
Cultiva! is a safe heaven for young people keen on learning leadership skills around gardening, agriculture, permaculture, animals and environment.
Cultiva! offers grant financed paid internships for young individuals with difficulties. Lauren informed us that 7000 kids visit Cultiva! in a yearly basis.
We have learned about the Community Supported Agriculture, a very efficient economic policy for the farmers who believe in the agricultural cause.


Techtonic Academy
The second meeting took place at Techtonic Academy with Mr. Chris Magyar, Director.
TA gives paid trainings and internships to unemployed and underemployed individuals especially the underserved populations such as veterans, women with poor educational backgrounds…
The internship is paid 15USD/hour for the first 3 months then 17USD/hour for the 3 following months and it’s mainly coding oriented!
After students complete their training they mostly find jobs with IT companies.
We learned from Mr. Chris that TA receives 1300 applications in the apprenticeship pipelines, that 78% of the trainees are coming from very diversified backgrounds and 80% of the apprentices are still employed in IT.

Rayback Collective
Third meeting was held at the Rayback Collective with the founders Justin Riley and Hank Grant. RC is an afterwork open space where all communities gather around different typical food services. Food trucks, coffees and restaurant concepts co-rent the space in order to offer a varied panel of deliciousnesses.
Both Justin and Hank had stable jobs and decided to switch their career paths to what they take as a legacy.

   

Boulder Farmers Market
Fourth and final meeting took place with Elyse Wood manager of Boulder Farmers Market that has been running for more than 30 years and allows farmer producers only.
Elyse believes in creating communities around food and has established a policy in order to provide food to poor families.
On Saturday’s BFM, about 100 ventures display their foods and more than 6000 visitors shop their foods locally.

Day 20 : Social medial strategy workshop
Thursday, 2nd – Denver, Colorado
Denver Open Media

We visited the Denver Open Media, a nonprofit organization dedicated to putting the power of technology to most people.
“We want to give the voice to the voiceless” said John Aden, Director of education.
OM provides services (video production, website creation…), tools (cameras, computers, tripods..) & trainings (classes, education, video editing, animation…)
We learned that OM applies and beneficiates from grants generated by cable bill taxes.

Day 20 : Project Closing
Friday, 3rd – Denver, Colorado
After 20 intense days of learning, experiencing and networking, our training came to an end on the 21st day.
We had a morning meeting with Ms. Deborah Drucker and Ms. Maren Paslick and all the participants gave their opinions regarding the content and the organization of the program along with recommendations for the future IVLP groups.

Conclusion and Perspectives

I have participated in the International Visitor Leadership Program to learn about entrepreneurial practices and leadership, but I have concreted way more than that.

Indeed, I have learned a lot thanks to the content of the training itself but I have also had human experiences through all the period of my stay.

We have been to 5 states, 6 cities, Universities, nonprofits, banks, incubators and I cannot be more grateful for all the good practices, the skills and the knowledge that I took back to support my network, my NGO and my country, Morocco.

The training came to an end on Friday August 3rd but will not stop at that point;
Indeed, we have created and discussed a common project idea with some colleagues before the end of the training session and we are planning to launch a social business incubator that will support our countries’ respective communities.
[Further information will be provided in the future]