A year ago, visiting executive and serial entrepreneur, Colleene Isaacs, followed her heart and took a trip of faith to Rwanda. She was introduced to an Investment Expo being hosted by BDC Rwanda, through a fellow kingdom business organization, Global Advance. Her time there proved to be a divine opportunity she’d felt God calling her to. This past week, Colleene just returned from her second visit to the BDC and caught up with us about the what, why, and how of that powerful trip.
Background – Colleene has an impressive business background that humbly boasts a breadth of different experiences—from curriculum development, founding an internet company, starting her own restaurant, doing missions-based work, consulting for accelerator companies, to being a contributing author for sites like the BAM blog and Grit & Virtue. Even with all of that, what has to be most intriguing is the way she’s been able to weave it all together, staying open to what’s in front of her, and where she can continue to give back.
When asked what motivates her to get involved in kingdom business, especially traveling internationally, Colleene tells us:
“At this stage in my life, after going through those periods of identity-discovery and “why”, or understanding how God created me with the various gifts, skill sets, and passions I have; I had to really step back from opening other businesses of my own and just pour into others. What I discovered, is there are a lot of people in need. Particularly women. They often don’t avail themselves or have the opportunities for mentorship like men do. Particularly women of faith. Helping others do what they’re doing—and do it well, in a manner that speaks from our faith, is what motivates me.”
Back Again – After meeting BDC licensee, Patrice Habinshuti, at the BDC’s first Investment Expo last year, Colleene and Patrice were able to reconnect, where he invited her to come back and spend some time with their current cohort. While there, she was able to speak to the group of students, spend some 1v1 time with them, network with a group of women, and dig in more with all the entrepreneurs; getting their perspective on the BDC’s efforts, their needs, and the effectiveness of what we’re attempting to do.
Colleene goes on to explain how:
“Rwanda is still desperately needing infrastructure. It’s a cash-based society, with a lot of novice entrepreneurs trying to start businesses, who are really desirous of more mentorship and visiting executives who can encourage and support them. Some of the most rewarding parts of being there is just knowing how ready and willing they are for growth.”
The BDC itself, under the leadership of Patrice and Anatole, is able to teach a sense of ownership by example, as they’re constantly looking for ways to build up the program and be sustainable. The BDC is unique in that, it allows one to be part of a group where students, leaders, and mentors are all in it together, with the same values, goals, and principles for doing business well.
Patrice echoes the same sentiments back to Colleene as he shared: “All our entrepreneurs who met with her affirm that she gave them incomparable advice and ideas on how to improve their businesses.” He went on to state how, “her ideas have given an insight to the BDC team on how we can strengthen BDC programs and especially the mentorship program; on which she intends to continue to provide inputs and assistance. With Colleen as a BDC advisor, we can surely anticipate a big success of this mentoring program.”
International Investing – Attending an international Investment Expo is certainly opportunistic, but also comes with great responsibility. Colleen stresses the importance of understanding the investment landscape, and knowing what it takes to invest in a company. “[It’s different than how we might approach it in the States], because you really have to look at it more from a time and building-up perspective, versus a strict financial opportunity. It’s vital that you put the entrepreneur first and ensure what you can offer is also helpful and best for them in the long run”. She suggests teaching them “smart money” principles – money that comes with advice and mentorship.
“Investment is more than a dollar symbol. What sets you apart from people in the world is practicing good stewardship and put people first in a way that builds the Kingdom.”
Get Involved – When also asked what advice she’d give anyone considering get involved, she shares:
“[Understand] the need to go, and the need to be more willing to move into areas outside of your comfort zone. There is such a desire within each of these entrepreneurs to soak up the value we can provide. It is invaluable to them for someone to speak into their lives and have someone to walk them through the tough questions. They are so thankful. It may not seem like much to you, but whatever you have to give speaks volumes into their situations. The assistance we can offer is significant.”
BDC Rwanda sends its sincere thanks to Colleene and her family, who allowed her to spend the week with BDC Rwanda. “It was a very impactful time. We can’t wait to have her returning again.”