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Major Components of the Curriculum:

  • The Business Start-up Process

    After receiving valuable insight from Salvael Ortega (BYU Marriott School of Business – Innovation Design Lab) and Rich Christiansen (Serial Entrepreneur and author of the book ZigZag Principle) M. van Duyse designed a step by step process that could be followed to start a successful business.  The objective of this process is to help entrepreneurs to be successful in launching a new business.  I am not talking about the Venture Capital type of launching a business, where an entrepreneur tries to start “something that has never been done” to attract large venture capital funds in order to start big.  Our entrepreneurial philosophy could be better described as a mixture of the lean methodology (build – measure – learn) and bootstrapping. We much prefer to see entrepreneurs who start a business with a first objective to becoming profitable and generating income by bootstrapping his way forward and systematically testing each idea and learn how to succeed.  Then with time, a profitable business becomes a new beginning position to move into a larger opportunity.  Our business start-up process is composed of 7 steps:



Stephen Gibson, the founder of The Academy for Creating Enterprises, has been teaching entrepreneurship in the Philippines for over 14 years. They have written a compilation of 25 Rules of Thumbs for Microenterprise Success. These rules are designed for entrepreneurs in developing nations. We have adopted these rules in our curriculum as they addresses crucial principles adapted to the cultural realities in western Africa. These rules are studied every semester and reinforced with activities throughout the curriculum. The form a powerful framework of ideas that help our students what they need to do and what they cannot do (like sell on credit) to be successful. Here are some of the rules (in no specific order):

Sell What the Market Will Buy
Practice Separate Entities
Start Small; Think Big
Don’t Eat Your Inventory
Buy on Credit; Sell for Cash
Hire Slow; Fire Fast
Work on Your Business Ten Hours a Day and 5 ½ days per week
Have Written Agreements
Use Multiple Suppliers
Turn Your Inventory Often
See appendix for a list and description of each rules.

The curriculum will continually change and improving but we do not expect a major pivot in the coming 2 or 3 years.

[1] The word curriculum here refers to the course of study for the first phases which is the educational phase of the program of the Institute.

[2] Kaufman, Josh; The Personal MBA; Penguin Books; 2010; p. 36

[3] Gibson, Stephen W. and Huntsman, Tina J.; Where There Are No Jobs: Volume 1 – 25 Rules of Thumbs for Microenterprise Success; The Academy for Creating Enterprise; p. ii. Available at:


The business portion of the curriculum is also centered on these 5 elements that every successful business must have. Josh Kaufman the author of The Personal MBA says it eloquently: “At the core, every business is fundamentally a collection of five interdependent processes, each of which flows into the next:

Value Creation – Discovering what people need or want, then creating it.
Marketing – Attracting attention and building demand for what you’ve created.
Sales – Turning prospective customers into paying customers.
Value Delivery – Giving your customers what you’ve promised and ensuring that they’re satisfied.
Finances and Accounting – Bringing in enough money to keep going and make your efforts worthwhile.”[2]
The curriculum covers many more subjects but these 5 basics skills remain the core of our program.


As mentioned in the Key Success factors this 4 week long activity where the students start with a small object like a paperclip and must learn to trade, buy and sell to create hundreds of dollars of value is fundamental to our program. We will be using the information that we learn from our students during the trading game to improve our selection process and to improve our curriculum.The trading game activity has 5 objectives:

It improves learning about the subject and creates an opportunity to re-emphasise what we teach;
It gives them a chance to practice and attain a certain level of competence and mastery especially since the trading game is repeated each semester;
They discover their own personal strengths and limitations and learn to overcome them. Many students have to overcome their fear of rejection, or laziness, or justification just to name a few.
They are confronted to the real world and the difficulty of competing in the market place and dealing with clients and suppliers. Failure is a powerful educator. They learn first-hand that the 25 rules of thumbs of entrepreneurship must be respected to increase the odds of success.
They learn to trust and collaborate with their fellow students which will lead to a stronger network of leaders in the future.