Taking the Leap was the focus of MEDA’s 2019 Business as a Calling convention in Tucson, Arizona.
The four-day event featured stories from pastors, entrepreneurs, MEDA clients and start-up companies.
Pastor and author Tim Dearborn encouraged attendees to view their work in business as a spiritual calling, recognizing that profit is a means rather than an end.
Entrepreneur Angie Bastian and her husband started a kettle corn business in their garage to raise money for their children’s college fund. Over 16 years, they built the Angie’s BoomChickaPop natural popcorn company into an international success. They also used their product to promote women’s empowerment. The firm was purchased by a multinational food processor in 2017, for $250 million.
MEDA clients from Ukraine, Ethiopia and Myanmar discussed challenges related to innovating and growing their businesses. All explained the difference that financial and technical support from MEDA has made.
“We’re grateful to MEDA that they do so much for a small entrepreneur’s life,” said Nataliia Sudarkina. She owns Agro-Patriot, a Ukrainian garlic exporter.
The MEDA pitch competition saw five finalists from the US and Canada compete for the $10,000 Allan Sauder Social Innovators Award. The award is sponsored by Ron and Barb Schlegel and family. It was named in honor of former MEDA president Sauder. He worked for the organization for 31 years, serving 16 years as president before retiring in late 2018.
Competition winner, Emergency Response Africa is developing an affordable, fast and safe ambulance system in Nigeria. The Waterloo, ON-based company is aiming for a system that will cost 70 percent less than traditional ambulances.
The competition runner-up, RollUP Solutions Inc, is a London, ON-based social enterprise. RollUp “upcycles” used wheelchairs and sells them at a 90 percent discount for people who couldn’t otherwise afford them. They received a $5,000 award.
In the last fiscal year, MEDA worked with 543 investment and project partners, with 26 active projects making positive impacts on the lives of over 842,000 clients. Once investments, long-term projects and consulting are considered, MEDA worked in 76 countries.
The organization reported record donations from supporters for the third consecutive year. For the fiscal year ended June 30, private contributions totalled $10.8 million. MEDA also celebrated the end of its Building Enduring Livelihoods fundraising campaign, which met its $50 million goal over six months early. Those funds, combined with $300 million in contracts from institutional partners, allow MEDA to reach 10 million clients. About seven million of those clients are already being helped through projects that are underway.
MEDA’s 2020 convention will be held in Montreal, Quebec from Nov. 5 to 8.