The importance of training and accompaniment

Micro Enterprise

by Mija den Hartog 

‘I started a business for the first time in 1990. Before that I often went to the city to sell vegetables. When I went there I saw a lot of people coming from their villages buying goods in kiosks (small shops) owned by non-Papuan people [Papuans are one of the main and minor people groups in Indonesia.]. I had an idea that I could have a kiosk like this in my own village and make as much money as these people in the city. I saved up some money and set up a kiosk. But, unfortunately my business failed. I tried to run my own business for 16 years but I failed again and again. I failed because of bad habits, such as gambling and drunkenness, but most importantly because of a lack of business knowledge.’   

This is a summary of the business lifestory of Charles Asso, a man who did not give up after his business failed several times during 16 years. But even great perseverance could not help his kiosk to survive. People like Charles need to learn how to run a business well and how to deal with cultural situations. 

In our organisation, Yayasan Oikonomos Papua, we often meet men and women like Charles Asso. From its beginning, Yayasan Oikonomos Papua started to support people by giving them the opportunity to join courses in our business school and to receive micro-credit. We quickly found out that this was not enough support, so we started our ‘Incubator programme’. People can now join training units, such as a kiosk or computer rental shop, so that they can be trained in a business environment for several months. This means they will be better prepared to keep their business running once it has been set up. Through the programme we also coach people over the long-term by providing follow-up training. Long-term coaching and accompaniment are key factors for success. 

Overcoming difficulties 

There are many difficulties that Papuan entrepreneurs have to overcome. Seven key difficulties faced by them are: 

  • Social structures 

Entrepreneurs give away goods and money to relatives, which means that income is lost and reinvestment in the business is not possible. (Papuans feel obliged to do this to maintain relationships and avoid curses which are linked to their animistic roots.)

  • Book-keeping and savings 

A lack of good book-keeping causes irresponsible spending. 

  • Discipline, motivation and focus  

Entrepreneurs lack discipline and the motivation to work hard for the business, because they have low expectations of success. 

  • Transport

There is a lack of good transport infrastructure in West Papua which makes it difficult for business owners to transport their products to market. 

  • Mindset

Papuans are ‘programmed’ with the Indonesian status system. For example, working in a kiosk is for the Javanese people group, gardening is for Papuans and carpenters are Manadoo people. This gives low self-esteem and a lack of motivation to break out of this way of thinking. 

  • Exclusion and corruption 

Papuans often have to pay higher prices for raw materials than non-Papuans and therefore have to charge higher prices in order to make a profit. 

  • High prices 

Rising prices of supplies creates difficulties in making a profit. 

To improve micro-enterprise we recommend the following actions: 

  • Create and cultivate role models (also know as ‘agents of change’).
  • Pay more attention to private bookkeeping and savings.
  • Visit people after training sessions to provide follow-up and support.
  • Include more information about social and cultural aspects in the training sessions.
  • Teach people the Christian responses to animistic beliefs and curses. 

Charles’ business also failed several times because of the social structures in West Papua. At one training session he told us: ‘I did not have any business knowledge and I did not understand that our social structures caused my business to fail. I used to share out the goods in my kiosk to my family to maintain the relationships. Also, when I sold goods I used the money for my daily needs. I never saved money to buy new stock. When I received financial help I opened my kiosk again but when I ran out of stock, I had also run out of money’. 

But the life of Charles changed: ‘When I met the training team of Yayasan Oikonomos Papua I was invited to join the level one kiosk training course. During that training I learned why my business failed again and again and why other businesses often fail, especially the ones that are owned by Papuan people. They taught us how we could set up an easy administration system so we can monitor our business. Because of new enthusiasm, the continuous coaching by Yayasan Oikonomos Papua and the support of my family my business is now healthy. I hope I can develop my business more so that I can be an example for other Papuan businesses’. 

Conclusion 

During training sessions, we often see that teaching people how to deal with the difficulties they face opens their eyes and gives them power to start or restart their business. Every training starts with a Bible study so people can also see what the Bible is telling us about business, relationships and our daily life. Some Bible studies that we have used are:

  • bearing fruit (John 15:1-8)
  • talents (Matthew 25:14-30)
  • life by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26)
  • submitting yourself to God only (James 4:7). 

Discussions during the training sessions aim to raise awareness about issues and include pictures and stories (like Charles), to show real-life situations and experiences. We also see that entrepreneurs who have been trained are often more successful than people who start without training, and they really can be significant agents of change in their communities. 

Mija den Hartog is a trainer for Yayasan Oikonomos Papua‘s Incubator programme. West Papua Indonesia Email: info@yop.cc