Maybe you've thought of expanding your business to London or Hong Kong. But chances are, you aren't yet based in Kabul. For more than 20 years, John Bradley has been running IDAK Career Management Services, a Portland, Oregon, career consulting firm. But in his spare time, he's working on Afghanistan Rising (www.afghanistanrising.com), a nonprofit still in the planning stages. Afghanistan Rising's goal is to get entrepreneurs interested in doing business with and in the war-torn nation. Fueled by his desire to help in the aftermath of 9/11, Bradley has been immersed in all things Afghan, talking to interested government and business leaders in both America and Afghanistan, trying to get them connected.
Why are you interested in bringing entrepreneurship to Afghanistan?
John Bradley: The goal is to motivate the Afghan populace to believe they can make it on their own. The Afghan spirit is truly entrepreneurial, but they've been beaten up so badly that they're on the verge of becoming a welfare state. We would be a combination of an employment agency, translation agency and legal mentoring service. We would arrange the meeting, the American would fly over there, and boom! They'd only have to spend a week in the country, and something could be developed. That's our vision.
You could be working with businesspeople at megacorporations with millions in revenue behind them. So why are you approaching the average entrepreneur?
Bradley: There's more to life than running your business and reading the news. You can get involved in the news yourself. Entrepreneurs are the most logical people to do that. It's about giving people the dignity to be self-supporting, and we entrepreneurs are experts in that. There's a kinship when one entrepreneur talks to another in [a different] country. [They share] the same wild-eyed, "grab the bull by the horns" spirit. And our approach is not so much about the profit or new territory, but more [about] making a difference.
I agree you shouldn't try to start a business in Afghanistan with the sole goal of becoming rich, but is it possible to make money there?
Bradley: Absolutely. In Uzbekistan, I met two jet-set businessmen who were Afghans. They were excited Afghanistan was going to be free. They saw it as a phenomenal opportunity. Entrepreneurs are modern- day mountain men, and this is an incredible frontier for business. People pay money to climb Mount Everest. I'm saying to entrepreneurs, you can build a country, [at least] break even and have the thrill of a lifetime.
Geoff Williams is a writer in Cincinnati. He can be contacted at email@example.com.