By Cory McClellan, Graduate Student, Master of Science in International Affairs and Global Enterprise
Partnering with the University of Denver, Master of Science in International Affairs and Global Enterprise students participated in a course aimed to boost entrepreneurship in the developing world. The course centered around a weeklong visit to Cusco, Peru, where the students acted as consultants for small businesses on the ground in an effort to increase efficiency and profitability.
Cuy Incaico is a recently formed co-op of 15 associations of guinea pig producers. In Peru, guinea pigs are a highly valued food source and are often raised by rural families to supplement their diet or sell for profit. The 15 associations are comprised of 125 women who are engaged in this production out of their homes. Their operations feature anywhere from 20 to 1,000 guinea pigs. Right now, the co-op benefits these women by serving as a channel for best practice sharing, guidance and community. The co-op leadership would like to expand these benefits by offering a low cost and high quality alternative to the guinea pig food the women are currently purchasing from the market.
The primary focus of the project was to analyze the business case for producing the food, taking into account facility rent, grinding/mixing machine purchase costs and operating expenses, employee salary, bulk prices of raw ingredients and end consumer demand. From their analysis, the students were able to determine that the co-op could produce their own food at a higher quality and lower cost than what they previously had available. In addition to the analysis, the group also launched a crowd-funded campaign to acquire the funds necessary to purchase the machines for the co-op. Working with the host non-profit in Peru, these funds will be used to maximum effect, and status updates will be provided back to the students and donors.
The experience of working with these women was an amazing opportunity for the students involved and lasting friendships and memories were forged. Work like this is incredibly meaningful to both the volunteer and recipient and has a measurable impact in bettering the lives of those in the developing world and improving their situation. In this case, the students estimate that profits will increase from $3.75 to $5.13 per guinea pig produced. This 37 percent increase will empower these women to better provide for their families. For example, one family currently earns $187.50 a month through their guinea pig production, but under this new model, this amount would increase to $256.50. This extra $69 is enough to provide a family of three with an entire month’s worth of food.