Here, we talk with Stan Kriz, an entrepreneur and business owner who has played a big part in developing Five Talents' business training curriculum. Stan recently returned from a trip to Myanmar, where he and a team put on several business training seminars for local community leaders.
You began volunteering with Five Talents in 2004. What first drew you to the organization, and what has kept you active for so long?
The thing that drew me to Five Talents originally and still is the fire that has kept me interested and committed is the idea that as a Christian I am called by the Lord to care about poor people and do something. [With the business training curriculum], here is a way for me to give something that I have to poor people, directly, that they can use tomorrow after it's presented to them. And I can't think of any other mechanism that effectively puts me together with a crowd of really poor folks on the other side of the world. And when I look at these people and can see that lots of them are entrepreneurial , more than you might suspect, I say to myself and sometime I say to them, I am just absolutely delighted to have the fellowship of being with you as committed to Jesus Christ, and also the fellowship that we have in the way we think about business as entrepreneurs. Having both of those together in one package on the other side of the world is just astonishing to me.
So you see a bit of yourself in them?
In God's eyes, these people are just where I am. There isn't any difference. I just think that's unbearably cool. That's been and continues to be the driving force for me connecting with Five Talents. I told a joke once in Uganda, I said, "I have never been in a room before with 150 entrepreneurs. I had to come all the way over here to Uganda to be in a situation like this. And I really appreciate the fact that you all are here."
Tell us about your role with the Five Talents business training curriculum.
In 2006, I served function as a kind of general editor and made a new curriculum that was a composite of others. This curriculum allows us to present what amounts to a business seminar over a period of two days. The updated curriculum is divided into four sections -- Christian entrepreneurship and choosing a business, marketing, finance and record-keeping, and business planning.
What's the philosophy behind the curriculum?
There are two fundamental pillars for the way that Five Talents does training: the first is the holistic linkage between your faith and doing business – they are not separable. God cares about our work because it is part of His provision for us. The other pillar is participatory learning. We don't do lectures. Instead we get the groups together and ask lots of questions, get the groups to talk among themselves and to us. The intent here is to demonstrate that we the Westerners are not just coming in and pouring a body of knowledge onto the students, but instead we are pulling out of the students the business sense that they already have. They just don't know it.
Can you give an example of how this curriculum plays out in someone's business?
As I see it, the function of the Business as Mission curriculum is to introduce poor folks to some of the business ideas that you would need at the very beginning, and also to encourage [true] entrepreneurs, who are maybe 5 or 10 percent of the population, that they could do a small business themselves. For example, there's a lady we met last year who sells a rice and bean porridge which is kind of a staple breakfast food for folks in Myanmar. This lady goes out and has regular customers and she sells this breakfast to them. Having heard our marketing session last year, she decided that in order to expand her business she needed to get more customers to recognize that she was doing a good thing. So she started to give out free samples -- I assume during the day, and I assume with the slogan, something to the effect of, "If you were my customer, you could have had this for breakfast." Well, that's smart and she had never been clued in that that's something she needed to do.