Entrepreneurship lessons for peace and profit

Karina Koper
 pays for cabs for her employees to keep them safe from gangs when they go to and from her 53 shops in Guatemala. She also pays extortion money so gangs won't attack her stores.

Koper was one of 28 business owners recently in the U.S. under a program sponsored by the Business Council for Peace, or Bpeace, an organization that helps provide mentoring for entrepreneurs from countries torn by war or violent crime. If companies in those countries become more profitable, they can hire more people and lessen the likelihood of civil war and violence, Bpeace CEO Toni Maloney says. The program, which receives State Department funding, has also helped owners in Afghanistan and Rwanda.

At Chop't, a salad store in Manhattan, Koper learned some of the finer points of being an employer. For example: It's part of a store manager's job to foster a good working atmosphere, unlike in Guatemala, where managers tend to be aloof and distant from their employees.

Koper learned stores perform better when managers monitor sales, profit and expense figures. In Guatemala, owners usually don't share financial data with managers, Koper said. She also picked up pointers on how to make salads and serve customers. For instance, when employees pour dressing, they shouldn't look at the salad bowl. They should make eye contact with customers to get a "that's enough" signal.

Bpeace brought the owners to the U.S. for four weeks for classes on running a business and then matched them with small businesses that mentored them and helped them network. After returning home, they can get more help online, and Bpeace will send mentors to help them work on their individual challenges, CEO Maloney says.

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