Note from Shlomo: I heard my friend Kevin Dewalt speaking a couple of times about why other startup hubs should not be looking up to Silicon Valley .
The reason for that is because Silicon valley has Silicon valley’s problems , not other places problems. So, each place is special and can create it’s own unique eco system for specific problems they handle with.
This post will show you how particular you can be with your Eco system and how promising it is to any entrepreneur.
I decided to take some time off and travel to Myanmar together with my wife. It’s a special country that slowly opens up to the world, Internet is scarce…(Running AppInChina from here while traveling has it’s own challenges, but this is a subject to a different post. )
This country had less than 800,000 tourists coming in 2009 and more than 2.1 million tourists coming in 2013. It’s ~300% growth!
One of the most touristic places in Mynamar is a place called Inle lake with a small town of 19,000 people called Nyuang Shwe being the base for traveling around the lake. This town is expected to have 2.5 million tourists next year. You probably imagine how the streets look like. not a pretty sight… Resutarants and hotels all around.
Inle Lake has a unique culture of floating villages growing floting agriculture on the lake. When you take a boat on the lake you see mostly tourists and not really the villages and their uniqueness.
We almost left this area because of how touristic it is and how much we didn’t like it, until…the flight we wanted to schedule was fully booked and we were stuck there for another day.
We were strolling up and down the main street thinking of what to do and discovered a small office of Mr. Min cooking classes. Still frankly, these streets here are full with “tours”, so our expectations were not that high.
We spoke with Min understanding what his cooking class offers and decided to join a class along with another friend we’ve met on the trip.
I’m not going to tell you everything about the class which was great on it’s own. What was amazing here was the vision of one entrepreneur running a small low tech business with a great vision!
Min,27, who comes from one of the floating villages in Inle lake, also works as a guide. Sometimes his work is to bring his clients to a place also offering cooking classes. These cooking classes are VERY expensive ($100/person), and give less value to the clients. You would think he is only competing over the price (There is a lot of margin on a $100/person class, monthly Salary in Myanmar is about $100) which is pretty straight foreword.
The cooking class Min is compting with don’t take the clients and buy the groceries at the market together with them and offers only 4 dishes you make instead of 10-13 (!!) Min is making with his clients.
Now, here comes the best part. Min, is taking his guests to his village on the lake hosting people next to his parents house. He built a special place for the classes and the whole family is part of this business. His Sister is helping him while he is giving the class, his brothers are driving his clients to the village on their boat, his nephew is helping out with the Kanoo trip that is included, in their village.
The amazing thing is that this family of 10 siblings saved money to send Min to school who is the 2nd youngest. The rest of the family are not educated at all but they are all supporting his business and he is supporting them and his village.
It’s important for him to show the rest of the people in the village how education is important and can lead to a better life (for now most of the kids learn till 4th grade and then go to help their parents being farmers in the village. The parents don’t value education as they need their kids to work).
And it gets even better…
His vision for his cooking class goes beyond his family to the whole village. He wants to expand and have more families supporting themselves by hosting cooking classes in their floating village!
How do I know all this from a cooking class?
Min, is not selling a cooking class, he is actually not selling at all and this is what so great about it! After the cooking class is over he joined the meal and we spoke about his culture, the village and plans for the future. It was fascinating!
His story and the culture of Inle lake are hard to be seen if you are not a rich tourist. We got to know the real culture of the lake and learn about the villagers through the eyes of a local.
[Tweet “This story taught me how local and simple entrepreneurship can be, and how much vision there is behind it.”]
When talking to Min it feels like he can move mountains in the future just because of his vision.
Now over to you
What’s your vision behind your Startup? How “Local” is it? I’m curious to know and amazed to see such small businesses and stories. Share them here on the comments.
Anyway, I can’t do without a warm recommendation to this amazing guy who is a true entrepreneur. ‘Like’ his page and get in touch with him if you are traveling to Myanmar (AKA Burma)
Image Credit: Myself, Shlomo Freund