Posts Tagged ‘Entrepreneurship’

Book Review: Confessions of a microfinance heretic

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

Sinclair, Hugh. Confessions of a microfinance heretic : how microlending lost its way and betrayed the poor. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2012.

Microfinance pioneer and Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus was the commencement speaker at Duke University in 2010 and he has been involved with Fuqua’s Center for Social Entrepreneurship since 2004.  The renowned “Banker to the Poor” has been one of the most successful social entrepreneurs of our time, beginning in 1976, when he loaned $26 to 42 women in rural Bangladesh to enable them to purchase bamboo to make and sell stools.   In 1983, he founded Grameen Bank to provide similar loans on a larger scale.  Soon after, international NGO’s with missions to serve the poor added microfinance programs as a simple and effective way to break the cycle of poverty.

Beginning in 2005, microfinance lenders began shifting their status as nonprofit organizations to commercial enterprises.  To make a profit on their loans, these MFI’s (microfinance institutions) raised interest rates – up to 100% in some cases — and hired aggressive loan collectors to hound borrowers– to the point of suicide for some.  In 2011, Yunus wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times, “I never imagined that one day microcredit would give rise to its own breed of loan sharks.”

In a new book, Confessions of a Microfinance Heretic, author Hugh Sinclair agrees.  Using his experience over 10 years with several MFI’s, he shows that what began as a good idea has been hijacked by large investors and banks.

In this fly-on-the-wall account, Sinclair begins his story in 2002 as a new MBA graduate from IESE in Barcelona, who accepts an offer as a consultant with an MFI in Mexico.  At the time, the industry is small, but through Sinclair’s daily interactions with executives, coworkers and clients at various MFI’s over the next decade, Sinclair shows how shady practices emerge as the sector grows and changes into the modern $70 billion microfinance industry.  His story illustrates a wide range of problems. As currently practiced, microfinance is  ineffective and most loans are made to buy consumer goods or to repay another loan.  Interest rates are usually over 30%.  Children are pressed into labor to repay the loans.  Borrowers are not protected in their unregulated economy.  Sinclair concludes that profit incentives and lack of oversight allow most MFI’s to ignore the negative impact they have on poverty.  This engaging book is recommended for anyone interested in emerging markets or social entrepreneurship.

© Reviewer: Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

Book Review: Joint Ventures

Monday, October 10th, 2011

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Regan, Trish. Joint ventures : inside America’s almost legal marijuana industry. Wiley, 2011.

Within the tranquil rolling hills of Northern California is an area known as the Emerald Triangle, where land is expensive, jobs are scarce and the politics are liberal.  The weather is perfect for growing marijuana, and there are more acres under cultivation in Mendocino County than anywhere else in the U.S.   Growers interviewed by Trish Regan for her book Joint Ventures report that the Reagan administration’s tough stand on drugs caused the price of pot to rise until it was obvious that residents could make a good living growing pot, which now accounts for 2/3 of the local economy.

Mendocino County is only one of the places that journalist Regan takes the reader as she investigates the Cannabis industry.  She begins by interviewing entrepreneurs of dispensaries in Denver and L.A. where medical use of marijuana is legal and regulated by the state, but is illegal at the federal level.  In Colorado, California and ten other states where medical marijuana is legal, there are many business opportunities, yet industry insiders maintain a low profile to avoid attracting the attention of DEA agents.

Author Regan also turns to the other side of the business, interviewing growers, brokers and investors, weaving their personal stories with facts about the marijuana industry.  Growing and selling on the black market is highly profitable, as expenses are low and profits are enormous.  Yet challenges abound.  Customers pay with small bills and banking the cash is a problem.  There is no legal recourse for bad products or shoddy service.  Crime is a risk at all levels. Regan ends her portrait of a fascinating industry with a discussion of the Portuguese experiment to decriminalize drugs.

© Reviewer: Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

Book Review: Start Something That Matters

Monday, September 19th, 2011

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Mycoskie, Blake. Start something that matters. Spiegel & Grau, 2011.

In this interesting and readable account , a young man decides to live a life of meaning by pursuing his passion, and by devoting himself to a social cause while simultaneously earning a living.  In the book Start Something that Matters, author Blake Mycoskie tells the story of TOM’S One for One, a start-up shoe company that gives one pair of shoes to a poor child for every pair sold to first world customers.

The story begins when Mycoskie, a 29 year old entrepreneur on vacation in Argentina, notices that few impoverished rural children there wear shoes.  With no experience in the retail business or in the footwear industry, Mycoskie learns to design, manufacture and sell Argentine alpargatas (espadrilles) for the US market.  The shoes become fashionable with young people, and at the end of the first five years, a million pairs of shoes have been given to destitute children in South America.

Mycoskie shares his story to encourage others to start something that matters and to lead a life of meaning.  He shares practical tips for getting started and discusses principles for sustaining the company.  He also tells the stories of other entrepreneurs who have led lives that mattered.  This inspirational book is about one man who created a movement and made a difference to a million impoverished children.

© Reviewer: Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

Book Review: Rework

Monday, August 29th, 2011

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Fried, Jason and David Hansson. Rework. Crown Business, 2010.

Two founders of the successful software company 37signals, Jason Fried and David Hansson, draw on their experience to teach entrepreneurs how to run a company without meetings, budgets, advertising or a board of directors.  They prove that a company can be successful by remaining small, lean and fast; by selling to smaller firms instead of the Fortune 500;  and by staying competitive by making the product unique.

Fried and Hansson encourage readers to focus on core principles, such a reliability, affordability and practicality. They discourage long-term contracts, permanent decisions and thick processes, which hamper the ability to change.   Using their early experiences at 37signals as examples, they recommend doing product launches “on the cheap” and they question whether small companies need an accountant when they can use Quicken, or whether they need an IT department when they can outsource.

This book is organized into 87 chapters, each two pages in length.  This straightforward book is an easy read for anyone interested in starting a business.   Available in both print and audio CD at the Ford Library.

© Reviewer: Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

Book Review: Delivering Happiness –

Monday, November 29th, 2010

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Hsieh, Tony. Delivering happiness : a path to profits, passion, and purpose. Business Plus, 2010.

Monday evening, a new pair of Dansko clogs appeared at my door. I had ordered them two days earlier from Any customer will tell you that Zappos has great selection, free shipping and problem-free returns. But the reason that customers keep coming back is their service.

Entrepreneur Tony Hsieh, CEO of, has written a new book, part autobiography, part company history, part business advisory. He tells how he built a dot com business, LinkExchange, which he sold in Microsoft for $265 million, when he was only 24 years old. Then he used the money to fund a start-up, Most of the book is the tale about Zappos, how the company survived on the brink of bankruptcy for years, barely making payroll, then became an overnight success.

Author Hsieh explains that he cultivated his business by combining profits, passion and purpose. He says his company was successful because they invested their time and money into three areas: into customer service to build the brand; into corporate culture and development of core values; and into employee training and development. Hsieh feels that those three areas are’s only competitive advantages in the long run.

The book closes in 2009, the year that Fortune rated Zappos as one of the best companies to work for. That same year, acquired Zappos for $1.2 billion. Hsieh explains how he made that happen in this entertaining and easy read.

© Reviewer: Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

Book Review: Revolution in a bottle …

Monday, June 8th, 2009

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Szaky, Tom. Revolution in a bottle : how TerraCycle is redefining green business. Portfolio, 2008.

Once I carried some bags of semi-composted leaf litter from our neighbor’s curb to mulch a new garden bed in front of our house. The neighbor was furious. “I paid good money for those bags,” he shouted.
So when I read in Tom Szaky’s Revolution in a Bottle, that his neighbors called the police because he took plastic bottles out of their recycling bins on the curb, I was totally sympathetic. But I was already hooked on this account of the first product in the world that was made entirely from and packaged entirely in waste.

Author Szaky dropped out of Princeton in 2002 and founded a company that makes products from waste. Szaky’s company TerraCycle uses worms to recycle garbage into fertilizer, which is bottled into used plastic liters found in the trash. This is the story about a green entrepreneur and his company — how it started, overcame many challenges and grew to a successful venture. A company that began with garbage from Princeton Univ.dining halls grew to a company that produced 100 products in 15,000 big box stores. (more…)

Book Review: The Pirate’s Dilemma

Monday, April 27th, 2009

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Mason, Matt. The pirate’s dilemma : how youth culture is reinventing capitalism.. Free Press, 2008.

We are living in a time when music and art can be infinitely reproduced and instantaneously distributed all over the planet without cost. This book is about a new set of market conditions that are emerging, where piracy is just another business model and where remixing is a tool used to create change. Boundaries are coming down. Technology has removed old restrictions on new ideas. The Pirates Dilemma is essentially about sharing and using information in new ways.

Author Matt Mason is unconcerned with file sharing and downloading. File sharing sites make an abundance of music available from aspiring musicians and niche artists. He cites a study that shows downloading has boosted CD sales, and claims that file sharing has attracted a new type of music fan. And iTunes made the music industry more democratic.

This book is an interesting read, but it should not be attempted by readers who don’t know P. Diddy from 50-Cent, or Sex Pistols from the Ramones. Author Matt Mason makes his points through dozens of stories involving cultural icons, most of them from the music industry.

© Reviewer: Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

MIT Case Studies Online

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

MIT Sloan is now offering free case studies through their new web site called MIT Sloan Teaching Innovation Resources. The case studies cover the following management areas: industry evolution, sustainability, and global entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurship Week @ Duke begins today

Monday, November 17th, 2008

Entrepreneurship Week at Duke November 17th-23rd

Are you ready for Entrepreneurship Week (Nov. 17th-23rd)?

Ford Library is here to help.

Check out these great titles on entrepreneurship and start-ups. Click on the link to check availability or to place a hold.

Entrepreneurship Guides:

Start-ups and New Business Ventures: