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A World Of Difference A microfranchise program seeks to reduce poverty in underdeveloped countries.

By Talicia A. Flint

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Working to bring the franchising model to underdevelopedcountries, Microfranchise Development Corp.'s new program willallow entrepreneurs to make a difference with their businesses inways that go beyond their pocketbooks. Developed in cooperationwith the Organization of American States: Trust for the Americas,the Micro-franchise Education and Loan (MEL) Program will operatefrom MEL Business Centers. The idea: Take existing products andservices and bundle them as stand-alone microfranchises that serveas easily managed business opportunities for citizens ofpoverty-stricken countries.

"Often [these] people aren't trained to beself-employed and have no cutting-edge ideas for business availableto them," says program creator Marc Blumenthal. "Ibelieve franchising can offer them a sustained approach toemployment that will have an impact on [theircommunities]."

Microfranchise Development will identify microfranchises thatrelate to one of five areas reflecting the most pressing needs ofthe communities: technology, environment, agriculture, health andcultural preservation. Local entrepreneurs will have theopportunity to go into business for themselves, while earningprofit from businesses that benefit the culture as a whole. Whilethe program will target poor youth and school dropouts aged 16 to25, Micro-franchise Development plans to deploy MEL BusinessCenters in association with high schools in developing countries toserve not only as training facilities, B2B revenue centers andvirtual offices for the franchisees, but also as locations forevening adult education programs.

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