Over the summer, we shared a lot of positive news from Uganda about students who are learning from Venture U. We want to take a moment to explain Venture U’s beginnings and the purpose it serves, so you can better understand the impact we are making together.

Entrepreneurs in Uganda Face a Problem

Currently, the state of business in Uganda is grim. Every year, about 400,000 people contend for about 9,000 jobs (according to Youth Business International). The country needs job makers, not job seekers, so entrepreneurship is extremely important for the country. And lots of new businesses are starting up every year! However, lots of businesses are also failing every year. Here are the numbers:

  • In 2015, Uganda was the most entrepreneurial country in the world, by far; its entrepreneurial rate was almost double that of the runner-up country (according to an Approved Index analysis).
  • More than half of Ugandan youth are entrepreneurs; in 2014, 55.6% of the youth population in Uganda was involved in some stage of entrepreneurship (according to a report by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor).
  • Uganda also has the highest business failure rate in the world, by far; in 2014, the percentage of failed businesses 21.17%, more than double of average of countries with similar economies (see the 2014 Global Report by GEM for more detail).

These statistics staggered us when we first heard them. So, we took the opportunity to learn more about this issue by speaking directly with Ugandan entrepreneurs. We learned that it is difficult for Ugandans to get a solid business education outside of a college or university, where most people cannot afford to go. Secondary schools (the equivalent of American high schools) offer limited business education, but the curriculum is congested with information that is useless for its Ugandan audience. For example, students may learn about certain marketing tactics in excruciating detail, even though those tactics are impractical for the types of businesses they are likely to start. They must memorize large amounts of information by rote — a difficult learning tactic in itself — and that information includes concepts that are not applicable to the Ugandan economy. How frustrating!

It’s no wonder so many businesses fail every year in Uganda. Unfortunately, failing businesses are not just numbers in a report. Each discontinued business in Uganda could translate to a family losing its income, a young adult losing access to education, children losing meals, and the country losing jobs. This is why Venture U exists.

What is Venture U?

Venture U is a business-building curriculum meant to supplement or replace the existing secondary school curriculum. It includes relevant examples, and it is easy for anyone to understand — no more irrelevant topics and tiring memorization!

You may have seen the updates we shared about the incredible success of the Venture U workshops, where an experienced entrepreneur who is native to Uganda leads students (and sometimes teachers, too) through the Venture U material with a visual presentation. We hope you are as encouraged as we are to see how many Ugandans are benefiting from the material!

Students gather in a school to learn about business together

Now, for the first few years, Venture U was primarily a workshop. Not anymore! Because of your prayers and support, we are now able to get better tools into the hands of our students.

Getting Tools into the Hands of Business Builders

Goats. Pigs. Ladies’ fashion. A vegetable garden. These are some of the things Ugandan students are telling us they want to create, care for, and sell after learning the fundamentals of business through Venture U. Emails have been pouring in from Venture U students in Uganda who are excitedly sharing their stories with us and thanking us (read: YOU) for the opportunity to turn those ideas into reality. We will share some of their stories in later weeks, but first we have a big announcement to make.

Venture U is expanding! We are giving each student a “toolkit,” which consists of three printed booklets totalling over 100 pages. Take a look at what’s inside:

  • The first booklet is a primer that imparts a vision for starting a business and gives an overview of basic business concepts.
  • The second booklet is a 25-chapter guide that covers key topics to entrepreneurship, with culturally relevant examples.
  • The third booklet contains a business plan template and a business plan example. Students can fill this out and use it to explain their business plans to others and receive input from teachers, and eventually they can bring it to the bank to help get a loan.
Several students show off their booklets from the Venture U toolkit

Along with the toolkit, students can attend the Venture U Club, which is an extension of the workshops we have been running at multiple schools around Uganda. While the workshop is a quick crash course on business basics, the Venture U Club is a forum for students to dive deeper into the material and work together to develop their own businesses. The Club meets three times a week, each time reviewing and discussing a new chapter in the toolkit.

One of Venture U’s goals is to provide business education in simple terms, stripped of all the complicated language and wispy concepts that can make traditional business textbooks hard to follow. So far, none of our students have had trouble understanding the English in the toolkit, and they are picking up the concepts right away.

The groups are getting so big that we had to recruit some of the fast learners to lead

Young adults aren’t the only people who benefit from the toolkits. Several teachers at the schools where the workshops and Club meetings take place are really interested in the Venture U curriculum. A few have joined us as “students” to learn from the toolkits as well. That tells us the material really is effective!

The Part You Play

We would love for you to join us in making a difference in Uganda’s business education options. In order to get a toolkit, each person must have a sponsor (that’s you). Every month a Cross Create member chooses to support Venture U, one more student receives a toolkit. That means that if you support Venture U for a year, you are handing toolkits to 12 people. That means 12 kids could pay their way through school, or 12 families could afford to eat, or 12 people could pay for medical costs.

Students look through their toolkits (left); the Venture U Club in a meeting (right)

At the time of this writing, 70 people have toolkits and are enrolled in the Venture U Club. When those first 70 students first got their printed booklets, others were so impressed that they started clamoring to join the Club. Right now, at least 52 other students are eagerly waiting for sponsors so they can get their toolkits, too.

We look forward to sharing with you some personal stories about the students impacted by Venture U. Spoiler alert: these kids aren’t just learning for fun — they have big plans to start supporting their families through entrepreneurship!

Until then, take it from us that we are making a tangible difference in so many people’s lives. Each month you support Venture U, one more entrepreneur gets to start working through a toolkit and building a successful business. Over time, we want to see these businesses lift families out of poverty and create thriving communities. To those of you who are already sponsoring through us, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your generosity. To the rest of you, thank you for your prayers, encouragement, and interest. We’d love to have you onboard!

Want to join us?

You can subscribe to join in on the impact at CrossCreate.co.