Notes from a Field Officer: Building Community with Entrepreneurs in Southern Iraq

[Preemptive Love has always provided life-saving care, first with heart surgeries, later with emergency food aid. But to help in post-crisis situations, where needs can still be overwhelming, we work with and empower families to provide for their own needs. One way this happens is through job creation, working with potential business owners on a one-to-one basis, and coaching them to success. Below, one of our Program Officers reports on a recent meet-up with new business owners.]

Dec 14, 8:00 PM, Entrepreneurship Circle, southern Iraq

On 12/9/2021 the team held an entrepreneurship workshop in which our new business owners participated. The session lasted for two hours, in a hall in the city center.

This is the first time the participants met face-to-face, after communicating through a WhatsApp group used for discussions, ideas, possible solutions about work, and advice from specialized entrepreneurs who volunteered to help our new business owners become successful.

At the start of the meeting, we welcomed the attendees and shared information about Preemptive Love’s mission in Iraq, its goals, and the procedures behind their selection in the job creation program.

Attendees introduced themselves and the types of businesses they run, shared the successes and challenges they faced in their work, and the impact of market changes on their businesses was identified.

Regardless of whether the business is agricultural or service-based, new business owners support each other to encourage community success. Photo by Ghassan Ibraheem / Preemptive Love.

We discussed the impact of covid-19 on the local community generally, and our business owners in particular. We covered the most important ways to deal with the pandemic at home and at work.

Economic issues were raised for discussion, the most important of which was the increasing difference between the value of Iraqi dinar against the US dollar, and the need to find ways to reduce the impact on income for business owners.

The projects of all participants were also discussed. They talked in detail about the beginning of the work, their initiatives, and the challenges they faced.

Dhia talked about his sewing business, started at the end of last year. He said that he earned more than $400 within two months of opening his new business and receiving coaching. This supports his independence at work and will provide an additional job opportunity for another person. He is also thinking of buying an embroidery machine to expand his business.

Ahmed talked about a problem he faced in raising sheep, which is the difficulty of reproduction and the high price of feed, which has him attempting to cultivate fodder on his own land. The salinity of the soil prevented that so far, but by raising his problem in our entrepreneurs’ WhatsApp group for support, colleagues suggested potential solutions, including the use of material to treat salinity. He was able to get the material for free from one of the agricultural specialists advising the WhatsApp group and was able to start cultivating his land to grow fodder.

Our business owner Fakher had good experience in animal production, but his financial condition did not enable him to fund his business ideas. After getting a grant from Preemptive Love, he made a pond to raise fish, and he anticipates seeing profits within two months of more than $2500. He said also that this session is good for cooperation between the beneficiaries and the exchange of ideas, and he is ready to help.

Apps like WhatsApp aren’t only valuable for personal communications. They’re vital for program success, and allow face-to-face meetings to be more efficient. Photo by Ghassan Ibraheem / Preemptive Love.

Through talking with our new business owners who run poultry businesses, a preliminary agreement was reached between Kadhum and Sajjad for the purpose of obtaining hatching eggs of good quality from a more reputable source, to avoid losses. 

Our new business owner Ali has a job that has an environmental impact, where he collects cardboard waste using a three-wheeled cargo motorcycle he bought and sells the cardboard waste in the market to be recycled. We asked our business owners who work in groceries to reach out to Ali, and provide him with their cardboard waste to collect and sell in the markets.

Zainab gave a brief about her natural soap business, and her marketing methods after she received packaging from the printing shop.

At the end of the session, we asked our new business owners and entrepreneurs to continue communicating: to share their successes and experiences in the market, develop their skills, help the community to reduce poverty, employ the jobless, and to spread love and promote civil peace.