Making a case for more drama
By Anne Wallace Allen, Managing Editor of the Idaho Business Review
When Shari Herrera took over the helm of the Idaho Women’s Business Center five months ago, one of her chief ambitions was to extend the services of the center from her Boise office to more remote areas of Idaho.
The business center, a three-person operation funded by the SBA and private grants, was serving entrepreneurs in Ada and Canyon Counties with business counseling. But Herrera, a native of Parma who had lived in Latin America for 15 years, wanted to reach the entrepreneurs who live in tiny towns miles from the capital city.
Logistics quickly cut back those plans. There isn’t funding to open another office in northern Idaho, Herrera said. The same problems limit the WBC in other cities in southern Idaho.
So Herrera decided to use the telenovela approach. While there are plenty of business plan creation programs available in classes, in person, and online, not everybody learns best through those methods. The programs can be dry and factual, and sitting through a class on building a plan after a day of hard work is hard work itself. Many entrepreneurs just don’t create a business plan at all.
Herrera had learned at a national women’s business conference in July about a new program called Dreambuilder. The program, available in Spanish and English, uses a format that has proven itself to be a hit with many people. Say what you want about telenovelas, the overheated Spanish soap operas that dominate Spanish-language television: They attract millions of loyal viewers. Dreambuilder, created by the Phoenix-based mining company Freeport-McMoRan, uses a real-seeming telenovela for its Spanish-language program, and a reality show for its English-language program.
Here’s how the Spanish one works. Entrepreneurs watch a telenovela about five women going through the ups and downs of business. Each module has a portion of televised drama, and a learning piece, with questions that the viewer must answer about his or her own business. The modules gain sophistication as the telenovela goes along. At the end of 12 weeks, the program populates a business plan with the input the viewer has been entering, and the plan is ready to be printed out.
Freeport-McMoRan hired professional actors to create Dreambuilder and partnered with the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, Ariz., and the Canadian company Bluedrop Performance Learning for the creation of the educational material.
“The mission was to give back to the world,” said Herrera of Freeport-McMoRan, explaining how a copper and gold mining company came to produce a movie for entrepreneurs. “They decided the most vulnerable people on the planet are women in Third World countries. They picked Latin America and created a program that’s engaging to keep these women moving forward with their dreams.”
Herrera is still undergoing training to set up the Idaho version of Dreambuilder, and plans to launch it to WBC clients in Meridian, Nampa, Emmett and Payette in January. A local supporter, Lynette Bushman of LJ Sourcing in Boise, donated money to sponsor the program, but users will still have to pay $97 to build their business plan with it.
Herrera’s original goal of taking WBC programs statewide is intact, though she expects the process to take some time. WBC offers all types of training, counseling and workshops for entrepreneurs. Dreambuilder is the only one based on a telenovela or a reality show.
“Here’s the truth,” she said. “If you have someone who is intimidated by the process of building a business, we want to keep it as engaging as we can.”