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McGuire Center Mentor Helps Kyrgyzstan Jewelers

Jewelers from Kyrgyzstan were in Tucson in
Jewelers from Kyrgyzstan were in Tucson in
part to visit the internationally acclaimed
Tucson Gem and Mineral Show.

Image courtesy Tucson Gem and Mineral Show.

Mentors with the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship are accustomed to fielding inquiries from area entrepreneurs who are seeking resources to get their ventures off the ground. But in February, mentor-in-residence Jim Jindrick and a trio of students hosted a workshop for entrepreneurs from farther afield — Kyrgyzstan, to be exact.

As part of a partnership between the Community Connections Program of the U.S. Agency for International Development and International Training & Consulting Inc. (ITCI), a group of ten jewelry industry professionals from Kyrgyzstan came to the U.S. for a three-week cultural exchange.

The group visited Albuquerque and northern Arizona as well as Tucson, where they attended the annual gem and mineral show. The aim of the trip was to learn about new jewelry-making technologies, observe successful jewelry fairs, and network with American counterparts.

“There’s a lot of interest from other countries about conducting business in the United States,” says Jindrick, who hosted a workshop in January for a group of travel industry professionals from Kazakhstan, also through ITCI. “They’re looking to establish partnerships with local companies and develop marketing and sales channels in the U.S.”

“I contributed to the workshops by researching material on-the-fly as the conversation necessitated, while Jim led the discussion, focusing mainly on researching trade associations that operate in the jewelry industry on a national and international level,” says Nathan Canright, (BSBA Business Economics and Entrepreneurship ’10). “I was not at all familiar with the structure of the industry, so I was pressed to quickly familiarize myself with it in order to conduct effective research.”

Canright helped in a similar capacity in Jindrick’s earlier workshop. “While the focus of the Kyrgyzstan workshop was a bit different, I learned some interesting things about how to teach the entrepreneurial process, and how it can be applied to all different types of new-venture situations,” he says. “Regardless of whether or not Jim knew about their industry, he was able to lead them through an effective discussion on formulating a business plan, market entry strategies, etc. The process is applicable in almost any entrepreneurial venture.”

Jim Jindrick
McGuire Center mentor-
in-residence Jim
Jindrick also hosted a
workshop in January
for a group of travel
industry professionals
from Kazakhstan.

“It’s definitely interesting to see how the basic principles of entrepreneurship apply to a specific field,” says Nathan Christensen, who came to the UA for the entrepreneurship program after earning his MFA in musical theater writing from New York University. “Because the visitors from Kyrgyzstan are jewelers, and because they have a certain business environment in their country, their needs and concerns are quite different from my own. But they still build on the same framework of solving customer needs and creating innovation.”  Christensen says his goal is to apply entrepreneurial thinking to the theater industry. “If these principles can help them, I know they can do the same for my projects.”

“The Kyrgyzstani businesspeople are concerned about their biggest competitor in the jewelry industry, which is Turkey,” says Hannasela Brakey (BSBA Marketing and Entrepreneurship ’10). “Jim taught them to not fear the competition, but rather learn from what they do and do it better.”

“There was a lot of concern expressed about the lack of intellectual property protection in Kyrgyzstan,” Christensen adds. “I assumed that protecting IP was one of the roles of a government. It's hard to imagine working in an environment where any design you create could be duplicated by anyone else, and probably for less money because they didn’t have the expense of designing it in the first place.”

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