After the EoC Startup Lab in Fontem promoted by the EoC-IIN this past June, the Malagasy company AMI tells us about their progress
by Francesca Giglio
Among the protagonists of EoC StartUp Lab last June in Fontem, in the Cameroonian forest, there were also two of the founding members of AMI (acronym in the local language for "Call to Communion"). They are Malagasy young people who formed to a solid reciprocity with their neighbours, sharing the desire to live this "culture of giving" also through an entrepreneurial initiative.
AMI is a new start up that was born as an organic micro farm, specialized in the production of Madagascar foie gras (goose liver), an local variety that’s much valued at an international level, since it is obtained from a special breed of two particular species of duck, fed only with corn and organic oil. The Cameroon meeting took up the legacy launched by the International Congress of Nairobi in 2015 (in which one of the members of AMI had participated) and, two years later, it created a valuable laboratory which, also supporting this new way of doing business in Africa, hosts innovative business projects presented by talented and motivated young people from different countries of the continent.
The adventure that had already started in AMI was reinforced and recharged with stimuli and skills during the training at Fontem. ‘As soon as we returned from Cameroon,’ says Haingo Rasoarinoro, one of the founders of the company, ‘we immediately wanted to share our experiences with those who were not present and potentiate the company by strengthening the spirit of communion among our members and dedicate more time and resources to the project, inducing it with our primary work, however small and artisan it may still be. Each of us sees great potential in the activity undertaken, both as a generator of work for the local community and as a gap to be filled in a niche market in the tourism catering services of the country. Within this increased responsibility, one of the partners will follow the breeding of animals and the other will teach employees the specific process of producing foie gras, in order to train more and more competent technicians". In addition, all the entrepreneurs are taking turns in visiting the company during the week, which is another element that strengthens relationships of collaboration at all levels and allows greater involvement in the various stages of production, to monitor and improve them, if necessary.
Until now, providence has been generous, through providing opportunities for learning production techniques and meetings with those who had granted the first land to start the activity. However, phases of difficulty have not been lacking, either: the breeding of these ducks is in fact a delicate process and during some seasons of animal diseases, production had to be stopped or the scarcity of raw material had to be faced, resulting in phases of alternative, less profitable production.
However, with the StartUp Lab AMI shareholders have also enriched themselves with some clear tools to improve the profitability, competitiveness and durability of the company: thanks to the theoretical and practical training, it has been understood, for example, that if production is not interrupted, profitability in the medium-long term can benefit from it; more efficient business models and communication strategies (such as branding and targeting customers) have been considered; that is, a better studying of the project has started from the legal, legal, fiscal and financial points of view, addressing fundamental steps that will lead to a more complete and professional management of the company.
Also, the enthusiasm with which Haingo describes how they have now become a team of 9 from the 4-5 initial members, the new additions being the fruit of the "joyful stories" of the workshop they participated in together, and the two Mariapolis1 during the year, in which the ample space given to present the values of the Economy of Communion, has generated a deep interest in orienting entrepreneurship in Madagascar towards these principles. The new members are as follows: a lawyer, an import-export expert and 2 more partners for the production and direct supply of ducks. But there are some others interested in collaborating, too, in modalities still to be defined. All this is contributing to an expansion of the company organisation and activities!
In the growing interest in the development of the EoC world in the country, some AMI representatives have also made themselves available for lessons through the EoC-IIN platform (which has promoted the StartUp Lab itself and today works to incubate companies in various countries of the world), to support those who want to orient some activities according to these values and respond to the call to become a new "entrepreneur of Communion".
1 A summer gathering of the Focolare Movement (the ed.)