Bpeace Blog Briefs

Stories of bravery, transformation and impact.

18 days in the Land of a Thousand Hills


We took time off this past August from our jobs at the Council on Foreign Relations to embark on an exploratory research project for Bpeace to investigate the budding film industry in Rwanda.

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Can the Rwanda film industry benefit from the Bpeace bump?

Ashley Harden and Ann-Elise Francis have taken two weeks off from their jobs at the Council on Foreign Relations to find out.  They arrive in Rwanda today and will be interviewing filmmakers, producers and distributors to determine whether Bpeace's brand of business skills coaching can help accelerate the growth of the industry.

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7 Habits of Highly Effective Bpeace Advocates

Bpeace Advocates are a rare breed.  Part skill-based volunteer and part business coach, they offer specific and often technical advisory remotely through email and Skype.  Advocates bring knowledge and generosity to help a Bpeace Afghan Fast Runner grow a business in a very difficult environment.

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Bpeace Young Professionals host downtown NYC fundraiser

More than 100 Bpeace Young Professionals and a few over-40 rock stars convened to celebrate the partnership of Bpeace, Blue Marble and the forthcoming documentary, Sweet Dreams.

Down in the atmospheric SL Lounge on West 14th Street, New York City, we met new friends, ate delicious Afghan bites, auctioned off 11 fabulous items and even saw a clip of Sweet Dreams. The incredible owners of Blue Marble--Alexis Miesen and Jennie Dundas--spoke about their journey in helping build Rwanda's first  ice cream parlor and of the partnership they have cultivated with Bpeace over the years. Of course, we enjoyed scoops of their delicious ice cream as we listened to their story.

Sweet Dreams documents the tale of Rwanda's first ice cream shop and the partnerships that have been built in order to sustain it.  Bpeace's Sabra Richardson has a featured role as she teaches the Sweet Dreams staff to record finances "in the same way."

You can read more about the documentary and watch the trailer here. You can purchase tickets for the world premier in Washington, DC on June 19th and 22nd here.

Thanks to the hard work of Bpeacers Kara Castagna, Delilah Rothenberg and Allie Bartolino, who collaborated with Jordan Browning, Biz Ghormley, Fahima Ahad, Meave Murphy, Rachael Rho, Liz Pulver, and Laura Fedoryk to pull off this very fun event. In the wings was Bpeace staffer Lauren Hass making sure all went smoothly.

A very special THANK YOU to our sponsors:
Channing Daughters
Blue Marble
Khyber Pass
Baked by Melissa


With Bpeace, have skills will travel

Since 2004, Bpeacers have logged 1.8 million miles traveling to Afghanistan, Rwanda and El Salvador and have spent 1,321 days in the field on Bpeace expeditions!

In the first half of 2012,  already 5 Traveling Mentors have flown 25,000 miles to El Salvador.

In January, plastics manufacturing and engineering specialist Tim Worthington, visited Fast Runner Accopimold.  In the months since Tim's visit, Acoopimold has dramatically reduced its delivery time by 50% and is producing even better quality molds.  Read the blog.

In March, Bpeace Board chair and business growth strategist Kate Buggeln, teamed up with Wal-Mart production pro Eduardo Flores, to consult with Industrias Marenco on meeting the growing demand for their high-quality baby clothes.  Industrias Marenco is following Kate and Eduardo's advice to hire a production manager and move the workshop to a larger location.

In May, shoe experts Heather Williams and Sue Chang donned their Traveling Mentor hats to spend several days with shoe manufacturer Gropo GW.

Heather told us:  "Herbert has come so far from working in his father's living room to now having his own shoe factory.  He has done a great job adapting to where the business is available for him.  We really pushed him to aggressively pursue opportunities in the medical and service industries, because those industries will always be there despite the fluctuating economy.  We also discussed ways to promote his factory online.  We all really got rolling when we started to see realistic growth opportunities that were attainable in the next year."

During the summer of 2012,  Bpeace Traveling Mentors will be active in El Salvador, first to work with restaurant Fast Runner Carymar.  In August, Bpeace member and  ice cream expert Russell Morley will work with Helados Cremosa.

In the early planning stages are a Bpeace expedition to Herat, Afghanistan in December.

Traveling Mentors pay their own travel expenses.  If you want to help more extraordinary experts share their skills in the field, Bpeace welcomes the donation of airline and hotel points.  Contact us.

Kate Buggeln elected Bpeace Board Chair

The Bpeace Board of Directors elected Kate Buggeln as the new Chairperson of the nine-member Board.  Kate succeeds Laurie Chock, who continues as a long-time Board member.

"Kate is highly strategic, fearless and totally committed to the Bpeace vision because she has been one of its architects," said Toni Maloney, Bpeace's CEO.   "We are lucky to have such a smooth transition from Laurie's Board leadership to Kate."

In non-Bpeace life, Kate is a business growth strategist with a strong retail background and she sits on several corporate boards including Ascena Retail Group, Noble Biomaterials, and Vitamin Shoppe.

In her Bpeace life, Kate's impact has been wide and deep.  She has raised more money than anyone--$360,000 over the past 8 years.  By a significant margin, Kate logged the most Bpeace expedition miles--13 trips in all, including 4 trips to Afghanistan, 5 to Rwanda and 4 to El Salvador.  Just this March, she traveled to San Salvador as a traveling mentor for Marenco, our Fast Runner who produces children's clothing.

Check out the full leadership team here.

“Molding” the Future of El Salvador: Bpeace Traveling Mentor Tim Worthington Visits Acoopimold

[caption id="attachment_1967" align="alignright" width="241" caption="Bpeace Traveling Mentor Tim Worthington"][/caption]

Tim Worthington, plastics manufacturing and engineering specialist, has set foot in over 1,000 mold shops throughout his career but described his experience with Salvadoran plastic mold company Acoopimold as “unique and unparalleled.” Over the last 24 years, Acoopimold, a plastic mold manufacturing cooperative, has developed strong ties to the San Salvadoran community while serving clients in El Salvador and Guatemala.

Acoopimold is partnering with Bpeace in order to better fulfill its commitment to build stronger relationships with its domestic clients and break into the highly competitive international plastic manufacturing market. Tim joined Bpeace’s team of Fast Runner consultants working with Acoopimold to help make that commitment a reality.

In collaboration with Acoopimold’s President Victor Revelo, Sales Manager Jimmy Ramos, and its cooperative members, Tim spent time on the plant’s floor identifying areas of improvement and creating a business plan to enhance the company’s production processes. Tim also held interactive workshops in cutting-edge training in mold production and design practices. During these workshops, Acoopimold’s cooperative members worked together to think and problem solve as a team. As a result of these trainings, Victor and Jimmy are now streamlining Acoopimold’s approach to decision-making and developing tools to more effectively train and empower its workers.

Acoopimold’s sales strategy was also tweaked to better match what Tim described as the “in-your-face” business practices of the company’s competitors. With Tim’s guidance, the company is now implementing a plan to fill orders more efficiently and integrate professional assertiveness with the courtesy and openness already deeply engrained in Salvadoran business culture.

Only a month after Tim’s visit, Acoopimold is seeing positive change. The management team is now holding weekly meetings to foster accountability and its production staff is receiving daily work objectives from plant supervisors. The results are impressive: its on-time product delivery rate is nearly perfect and the company’s internal communications continue to rapidly improve, a testament to what Tim identified as “the unparalleled nature of the company.”

Back on the ground in California, Tim reflected on his visit remarking, “I approached this opportunity with an open mind but was still amazed at how much grace and humility I was met with.” The hospitality of Acoopimold’s staff overwhelmed both Tim and his luggage, as the gifts he was given over the course of the trip required him to purchase an additional suitcase! Despite reconsidering his packing habits, Tim is enthusiastic about building relationships with both Acoopimold and Bpeace. “I look forward to continuing my work with Acoopimold and I encourage Victor and Jimmy to utilize me as an equal partner and as an Advocate.”

Sad farewell to Paula Lerner

[caption id="attachment_1930" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Paula Lerner"][/caption]

Paula Lerner passed away on March 6, 2012 in Belmont, MA.  Our sympathy to her husband Thomas Dunlap and her daughters Maia and Eliana.

Paula was an award-winning photojournalist and multi-media pioneer. For more than 25 years, she photographed stories for national and international magazines, including Smithsonian, People, Time and Business Week.  Women's issues were a recurring theme in Paula's work.

To us at Bpeace, she was one of our earliest members.  In 2004, Paula traveled on Bpeace's second expedition to Afghanistan.  From that trip forward her career course was forever altered and Bpeace grew up fast thanks to her lens.

To best understand Paula's work, spend some time appreciating her award-winning multi-media piece that appeared in The Washington Post in 2006.  She tells the compelling stories of five of Bpeace's earliest female Fast Runners at a time when Afghans and the world were more optimistic for Afghanistan's future.   She was an authentic storyteller with her images and her voice.  She was an amazingly fine writer as well.

In those early years of Bpeace, Paula's photography on our web site and in our marketing efforts helped us seem much larger and more accomplished than we actually were at the time.

She became family-close with Rangina, our Fast Runner in Kandahar and Paula spent long stretches of time in this dangerous province to document the lives of women there.  For certain, this was the first time these women were photographed.

In 2010, Paula won an Emmy when her Kandahar photographs were the star of "Beyond the Veil" a six-part series for The Toronto Globe and Mail.

Paula used every opportunity to give the world insight into Afghan women. Even while she was ill these past years, she gave more speeches and presentations than any of us combined.  At every single one she never missed an opportunity to also plug Bpeace.   '

Just 10 days before her death, she filled out a Bpeace membership survey, saying "I wish there were more of an active chapter in the Boston area."

Paula's photographs leave a legacy for generations who will always see Afghan women through her eyes.   So many of us were awed by her creativity, tenacity, passion, bravery and generosity. The Bpeace Board has decided to honor her memory with an annual award in her name.

Paula didn't have a chance to see a hard copy, but her new book is now available. More information here.

Paula knew what people everywhere wanted:  "When I am in Kabul, my Afghan friends often ask to see pictures of my family," she wrote in The Washington Post.  "As they smile at my family snapshots, we talk about our children. The Afghans I know want what people want everywhere: a peaceful environment to live and work in, a safe country to raise their families and go about their daily lives."

The many gifts of my friend Paula Lerner

[caption id="attachment_1908" align="alignright" width="389" caption="In Kandahar, Afghanistan: Rangina Hamidi and Paula Lerner"][/caption]

My heart aches from pain and sorrow as I write this about my dear friend Paula Lerner who left us way too soon.

As I struggle to find a higher answer for the losses I have felt in the past couple of years of loved ones, I do take pride in knowing ordinary people who have done extraordinary things in their lives and who have made positive changes to others in a very short amount of time. Paula certainly was, and will always remain, an extraordinary soul for me and the thousands of Afghan women and men whose lives she touched.

I met Paula during a Bpeace expedition to Kabul in 2007 where we just simply “clicked” the minute we met. I was one of the Fast Runner entrepreneurs Bpeace was providing with business guidance. Paula's genuine interest in the work and lives of Afghan women was immediately visible with her beautiful photographs. Her eyes were special--they saw things that ordinary visitors to my country did not. Paula would humbly say that her camera allowed her to see things differently, but we all know that a camera is only a machine, the real eyes were Paula’s and the search for that special sight was Paula’s.

Living and working in Afghanistan’s most troubled region of Kandahar was not easy even for me--an Afghan with Kandahari roots. But it did not bother Paula to make the decision to come and be with the women of Kandahar. When many international visitors were trying to discourage others from going to Kandahar for security reasons, it was Paula who insisted, “We must cover the lives of women in a region where everyone refuses to go!” She was not afraid of taking the risk to come there and spend time to tell the stories of women from Kandahar.

We had many visitors come and go in the nine years of my life in Kandahar, but never had I met someone who took such genuine interest to the region and to the cause as strongly as Paula. She came at least three times to Kandahar and was keen to come more often, but in the end I discouraged her after the security situation worsened on the ground. She was not afraid in spite of the fact that she was struggling with cancer.

When in Kandahar, Paula bonded in a very special way with the women there. Without even speaking the same language the women whom we met would constantly tell me “there is something special about this friend of yours...she is not like the others – she listens to us!” This is important for Afghans and for anyone in the world. To feel this connection is special and Paula easily made this connection with the women she met.

During one of her visits the women of my office decided to throw Paula a singing good-bye party. The Kandahari women sang love songs and friendship songs to Paula and they danced and enjoyed themselves very much. Paula decided to sing a song about women to them (my memory fails me to remember the title). Without translating the words the Kandahari women began to cry! Paula was crying with them. I began to cry as well because they both communicated through music without understanding each other. Parween, one of our Kandahari friends, replied when asked why she cried, she said “I don’t know what Paula sang to us but I just felt that it was from her heart and something to do with us as women!” Not many people have this gift.

As I sit and write this painful memory of Paula, I remember one thing my grandmother used to tell me growing up “Do good, throw it in the river; the river will not take it away!” This means that even if one tries to wash away good deeds they cannot be washed away. Paula’s commitment to giving Afghan women voice and helping them tell their stories will not be washed away by time. She may have left this physical world, but her spirit will forever be alive among the women, among her family and friends and certainly with me to continue the legacy for as much and as far as I can.

More on tap for Bpeace in 2012

As Bpeace enters our 10th year in 2012, we are striving for "more, more, more."  Here is our game plan:

1.  More Salvadoran Fast Runners.  We entered El Salvador in mid-2011, and we now have 8 Fast Runners with the addition of a call center, a social media marketing firm, a high-end baby clothes manufacturer and a shoe manufacturer  Herbert of Group GW (see him above). Our goal is to reach 25 Fast Runners by the end of 2012.

2.  More Afghan Fast Runners.  We just reviewed 140 applications and will accept 12 male and female Fast Runner entrepreneurs into our program.  New industries for us include film and animation companies; solar panel installers; and a for-profit vocational school.  We will also onboard Fast Runners in industries we know: business consulting; IT and web design; shoe and furniture manufacturing; and beauty salon services.

3.  More jobs created.  Bpeace doesn't create jobs--our Fast Runners do.  We are conducting the 2012 census of Fast Runners.  Stay tuned for survey results.

4.  More communities.  In January 2012,  we expanded into Herat, Afghanistan.  And later in 2012 in El Salvador, we will expand beyond San Salvador and Santa Tecla. We will also conduct due diligence on a 4th country to enter.

5.  More members.  Every Fast Runner needs a Bpeace bench of about 7 members.  Among them are Bpeacers who refer experts from their network; members who contribute ideas on calls; members who perform skill-based tasks virtually; Advocates who source knowledge for an individual Fast Runner; Traveling Mentors who invest time in the field; and members who cheerlead and spread the word.  Since we expect that 2012 will be actively assisting 50 Fast Runners in our portfolio, we need to grow our membership by at least 15%.

6.  More Road Trips to the U.S.  Two groups of Afghan Fast Runners will visit with Host Companies in April and October.  The U.S. Department of State provides financial support for these trips by Afghans.  Because El Salvador is only four hours away, Salvadoran Fast Runners will travel to the U.S. individually.

7.  More Host Companies.  To date, nearly 100 U.S. companies have hosted Fast Runners--including 37 in 2011 alone.  We will be recruiting at least 50 host companies for the 30 Fast Runners coming to the U.S. in 2012.

8.  More expeditions to the field.  Bpeace consulting teams are scheduled to travel to El Salvador on a rolling basis this year.  We expect that at least 8 teams in all will travel to El Salvador this year. Security permitting, a training team will travel in December to either Mazar, Herat or Dubai.

9.  More corporate partnerships.  We ended 2011 with 2 new partners--Citibank and Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Women.  Bpeace Executive Council member Mojdeh Barros is developing corporate outreach strategies so that every Bpeace member has a pitch toolkit at the ready.

10.  More engagement with the U.S. Department of State.  In 2011 we received a $434,000 grant for our next 2 years of activities in Afghanistan.  In May and November, we will be attending State Department Global Professional Fellows Congress events in Washington, DC with representatives from 40 other countries.

11.  More Growth Guides.  Bpeace practical training workbooks are authored by Bpeace experts and provide an interactive experience that receive rave reviews from Fast Runners.  This year we will launch Growth Guides in "Partnership," "Lean Manufacturing," "Fast Runner Finance" and "Family Business Succession."

12.  More Board members.  We welcome Anne Glauber, Managing Director, Finn Partners, back to the Board of Directors. In 2002 at the UN in Geneva, Anne planted the seed that grew into Bpeace.  We also welcome Michael Strong,  the lead author of Be the Solution: How Entrepreneurs and Conscious Capitalists Can Solve Al the World's Problems, co-authored with John Mackey, Muhammad Yunus and others. We will recruit 2 more Directors who have the skills to advance our vision and who can deliver on a $10,000 minimum give or get.

13. More money.  Because of  $500,000 worth of donated member/volunteer time annually, Bpeace is very efficient.  But cash is still queen when it comes to hiring and retaining the talented staff we need to scale the organization.  We will ramp up our efforts to expand our relationships with current donors, pursue new grants, and court philanthropists who share our goals.

14.  More celebrations.  2012 is Bpeace's 10th Anniversary year.  We will hold a GALA CELEBRATION on November 1 or 2.  The Bpeace Young Professionals are planning a May or June event.

More health and happiness to you and your family this year.

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