Bob Moncrieff, International Management Consultant, DBI Network

Imagine a room buzzing with energy and ideas, excitement and nerves, a room full of budding entrepreneurs, all waiting for a turn to present their business ideas to a panel of retail industry leaders. In this room, dreams can be realized or sent back to the drawing board. If it sounds a lot like Shark Tank or Dragon’s Den, that’s because the setup is similar, but that’s where the similarities end.

There is no L.A. sound stage, rather a school gym in La Entrada, Honduras; all the business presenters are high school students; and, yes, there are judges who decide whether an idea makes sense or not. But it doesn’t end with “I’m out” or a quickly negotiated deal – the top teams and their ideas are recognized, rewarded, and potentially turned into real business opportunities. All are encouraged to continue refining their ideas to create greater economic value for their community and, hopefully, Honduras. There’s no brutal cutting down here; instead, there is encouragement and building up, with a goal for every child to succeed. This is Shark Tank, Honduras style.

Bob Moncrieff, International Management Consultant for DBI Network, details his experience below:

It all started innocently enough while on my first trip to Plan Escalon in Honduras when asked to talk with the students about business. Many students had the energy and drive to be entrepreneurial, but their ideas focused on trading with each other rather than creating real economic value and, consequently, economic growth to the community. Sharing this observation with the team during our trip wrap-up, I suggested that the school needed to focus on helping students understand what creates lasting economic value that can help grow their community. As soon as I opened my mouth, Guy Henry, the director of the school, cornered me on how I was going to help him do that.

I have to admit that I had a “How in the heck am I going to do this?” moment, but it turned into an incredibly rewarding experience. These kids have an enthusiasm and energy that is not only exciting but infectious – they have such drive – they just need some direction and guidance to make sure that it is channeled to maximize value to their communities and financial business return for them.

You soon realize that it takes more than an individual, and collaborating with both family and colleagues, it was amazing what we could accomplish. I was able to work with my father – a former teacher and school principal, who helped me kick around some ideas that resulted in 12+ class hours on fundamental economics and entrepreneurship – and my kids, who helped me put the class together. Collaborating with Victoria Rose as my co-developer of the materials, Glenn Schultz and John Geyerman, who were additional business coaches from RetailROI, and the Sharks (Jeff Roster, Randy Cucerzan, and Vicki Cantrell) has been fantastic. But the real stars of this exercise were the Plan Escalon teachers, who took the materials we developed, studied and understood them, and educated the two senior classes every week with several of us listening in via Skype. The wonders of modern technology!

The wonderful news is that we believe this will keep going forward, but not just on the backs of the original group. Class materials have been created, which others can use from year to year, and new class ideas are being generated that can expand the offering. We believe this class will just keep growing as others step up.

And if you decide to go on a trip, you might end up like I did – going from a one-off trip out of curiosity, to visiting regularly and wondering what more can be done next year. Just be careful about the observations you make because you will very likely end up acting on them!