Nine Afghan Bpeace Fast Runners arrived in Washington, DC for the 2011 Bpeace Apprentice Road Trip (BART). It didn't take long for the jet-lag to wear off and the excitement to set in. With 37 Host Companies lined up, more than 50 Bpeace chaperones eager to meet the Fast Runners, and a meeting set at the Department of State, there was much to anticipate.
The program was sponsored in part by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
AhmadReza and Farangis, two Fast Runners that each run their own IT firm, covered both the East and West Coast, learning about different types of open source software and how to implement it for customers. With facilitation from Bpeace member Johnna Hobgood, Farangis apprenticed with Microsoft, Microsoft Learning Partners and WebsiteSpark in addition to Umbraco, Arterian, and AgWashingtonWeb. AhmadReza spent time in Washington, DC meeting with the design firms JESS3 and Threespot. Shawna Fleming from Microsoft said, "It was a wonderful experience for everyone involved. We learned how IT business is conducted and the challenges presented to a woman in business in Afghanistan. Farangis was exposed to different skill sets for a 360 view of these IT service companies."
During their second week, AhmadReza and Farangis apprenticed together in New York City at Squarespace and Syrup and learned how to apply different pricing models to their full menu of services. AhmadReza spent a day with Bpeace member Gary Gelb from NBCUniversal. Gary said, "The project management work was extremely valuable to AhmadReza. His business engagements and projects have not had any structure around planning, organizing and monitoring the progress of the work and he saw the value in it. For me this was also a valuable experience... and will allow me to be more effective in the future when I am training others at work."
Haji headed to the mines in Redmond City, Utah; Watkins Glen, New York; and White Marsh, Maryland. Haji learned about salt mining, the production of different types of salt, washing and cleaning salt, and salt packaging from two of the biggest salt producers in this country: Redmond Minerals and Cargill. Jay Bosshardt, of Redmond Minerals, noted, "I very much enjoyed having Haji spend four days with us. All of our associates who met him were impressed. We had a great time sharing our culture and processes." Haji concluded his two-weeks of apprenticeships at the Salt Institute where he met with The Salt Guru and discussed ways to apply his new ideas to his business in Afghanistan.
Also hard at work was Mohammad Sabir who spent the full two weeks of his apprenticeship at his Advocate's company, Cabezon Design Group. Mohammad Sabir, who has a metal and wood fabrication company, worked with power tools, manipulated metal, and installed i-beams. In his down time, he learned how to use design software to plan and implement projects and anticipate his raw material needs. Tim Kuehnlenz, Mohammad Sabir's Advocate, observed, "Moh was always eager to get into the work. He loved to just use his hands and work with the various tools and techniques that we use. If there was ever something that he wanted to know, he was sure to tell us."
Zuhal, a partner at an electrical wiring company, traveled across Pennsylvania to learn how to manage the people she employs as electricians, improve her financial tracking methods, and attract and sustain new customers using online networking and marketing. She apprenticed at Generation 3 Electric Inc., Albarell Electric, and H.T. Lyons. Zuhal also spent time with the Good Group, Generation 3's advertising agency. Shannon Good, said, "I admire the program as well as Zuhal for moving forward with life and the goals of an entrepreneur amid the obstacles surrounding the situation. As a woman business owner, I have my fair share of challenges even in America so my "Aha Moment" was relating to Zuhal's drive and motivation. She inspired me." Bpeace member, Pamela Varkoney, invited Zuhal to speak as the guest of honor at the Power of Women fall luncheon. Zuhal spoke to several hundred women about her successes and challenges in Afghanistan and received a standing ovation.
Zuhal and Mohammad Sabir spent a Saturday walking through a hotel that was in the process of being consutructed with Henry Gifford, Gifford Fuel Saving, Inc. Henry, who specializes in energy efficient construction, showed the Fast Runners some unique tips for protecting their materials, saving energy costs, and building a structure that requires less maintenance.
Zarghuna, the owner of four beauty salons, learned about new techniques for cutting, coloring, and styling hair from Dop Dop Salon and Bumble and bumble. She quickly became an expert on gel manicures thanks to Imperial Nails and Spa. She learned about new massage services from Melandre Salon and Sulis Spa and new makeup techniques from MAC Cosmetics. Through inspiration from Bumble and bumble, she came to understand the importance of creating separate spaces in her salon for different types of services. Zarghuna plans to double the size of one of her salons and completely reorganize it using this knowledge. Sarah Rappolt, Bumble and bumble, said, "It was such a fantastic opportunity to learn about another culture while sharing our own, in a language (hair!) we can all understand. Everyone involved in the apprenticeship was very happy to be involved and took a lot away from it. I feel like Zarghuna got some exposure to things she hasn't seen before and relationships were fostered. I think the program is invaluable.... amazing!"
Rassoul traveled across the U.S. to meet with local radio stations. As the owner of an agricultural station in Afghanistan, Rassoul visited U.S. farmland and learned from KFRM-550 AM, the Voice of the Planes. He drove throughout Kansas in order to research, record, and edit a radio story. Rassoul also learned about securing new agricultural advertisers and how to work with them to create engaging ads and measure their success. From Connoisseur Media, The Radio Advertising Bureau, and Voice of America, Ashna Radio, Rassoul acquired knowledge in managing his station and new technology and more. Dolores Nolan, Radio Advertising Bureau, said, "Our employees were very happy to meet a business person from a conflict-effected country and realize that they are not that different from business people in the U.S. in their desire to serve their customers and audience. They look for new and efficient ways to accomplish their goals."
Masooda, the manager of Dosti Soccer Balls, spent time in New York learning about pricing--she worked with her advocate, David Montieth, to review every line item in Dosti's budget. Masooda also saw Dosti balls stocked at Upper 90 Soccer and visited Global Goods Partners, the Dosti online retailer. "I think she now has a better sense of the US market and the competition that her product will encounter in the US marketplace," said Catherine Shimony, Global Goods Partners. Additionally, Masooda learned about everything from customer communication to inventory management to filling wholesale orders from Envelope.com, Etsy, Scoresports, Quattro Balls and LeadDog.
Khan Aqa, who owns a traditional Afghan jewelry production company, also met with several of his clients and U.S. jewelry designers Bochic, Jane Diaz, and Linhardt Design and retail specialist, Cheryl Beall, from Retail 101. Khan Aqa's Advocate, Pam Massenburg, worked with him to connect the information he learned in his apprenticeships to the client meetings he had in the U.S. Debbie Atteberry from Bajalia International Group, a current client of Khan Aqa's, said, "What a great experience! Most of our team members have not been to Afghanistan so having Khan Aqa onsite to explain to them the challenges of running a business was immensely helpful. Also, although we had explained by email that we were selling his products on HSN...watching the show himself and seeing his products in HD was very eye opening for him."
MORE ABOUT BART IN THE NEWS:
Blow-Dry Diplomacy, The Wall Street Journal
Value Added: An Exchange Program for Entrepreneurs, The Washington Post
South Philly Electrician Gives Afghan Contractor an Eye-opener, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Toni Maloney’s Path to Peace: Create Jobs, The Christian Science Monitor
KFRM Hosts Farm Broadcaster from Afghanistan, High Planes/Midwest Ag Journal
Entrepreneurship in a War Zone, Portfolio
Afghan Entrepreneur Reflects on Apprenticeship, Winter Park/ Maitland Observer
Knowledge to Take Back Home, The Morning Call
Thank you to all 37 Host Companies:
Bajalia International Group
Bumble and bumble
Cabezon Design Group Inc.
Connoisseur Media WRTS, WRKT, WXBB, WTWF, WJET, WFNN
Dop Dop Salon
Generation 3 Electric Inc.
Gifford Fuel Saving, Inc.
Global Goods Partners
Imperial Nails and Spa
Melandre Salon and Sulis Spa
MS Learning Partners
Radio Advertising Bureau
The Salt Institute
Voice of America, Ashna Radio