While conducting impact analyses with microcredit borrowers in East Africa, Brigham Young University business alumnus Jason Fairbourne realized there was a problem. The people he met didn’t have the resources to become self-reliant. Microcredit loans, which were touted as an answer to poverty, helped but weren’t always effectively used. So Fairbourne developed a new concept — one he calls “microfranchising.”
Due to his groundbreaking idea and accompanying research, the Melvin J. Ballard Center for Economic Self-Reliance at the Marriott School of Management recently named Fairbourne its first Peery Social Entrepreneurship Research Fellow. Fairbourne worked in the Ballard Center for a number of years developing the concept of microfranchising and is now running his own consulting firm, helping to build and expand businesses in emerging markets.
“There’s a synergistic relationship between the center and Jason,” says Todd Manwaring, managing director of the Ballard Center. “We are interested in retaining the relationship that has worked so well.”
Microfranchises are ready-set businesses that have proven to be successful. It doesn’t take an entrepreneur to design, launch and figure out the details of starting a business — just someone who wants to join the workforce by carrying out the functions of an established company. Fairbourne recently had his study on this topic published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, a leading publication in the field of social innovation, entitled, “A Good Business for Poor People.”
“By having the steps outlined for you, complete with marketing and branding, jobs have been created for people who wouldn’t otherwise be self-reliant,” says Michael Gray, student programs manager for the Ballard Center. “Through Jason’s publications and field experience he has influenced more people to find innovative solutions that increase self-reliance in emerging markets, whether through microfranchising or other programs.”
As a Peery Fellow, Fairbourne received a grant to help perpetuate the success of his microfranchising and business development efforts in emerging markets. The grant will help fund his research by allowing him to conduct market analyses in developing countries, identifying businesses that will employ youth.
“Jason Fairbourne has been the thought leader behind the microfranchising initiative at BYU,” says Dave Peery, executive director of the Peery Foundation, sponsor of the Ballard Center’s Peery Social Entrepreneurship program. “His work is well-aligned with our foundation’s mission to encourage self-reliance for youth and families in poverty. As philanthropic investors, we look for innovations and models that can transform the lives of thousands, if not millions, of people. We believe microfranchising has that potential.”
It’s programs like Fairbourne’s that the Peery Social Entrepreneurship Program is working to develop, those that facilitate self-sufficiency by helping families remove themselves from poverty.
“We are constantly looking for fellows who fit well with our goals and vision,” Manwaring says. “We want to get behind intriguing new projects to help share innovative results with others.”
The Marriott School has nationally recognized programs in accounting, business management, public management, information systems, and entrepreneurship. The school’s mission is to prepare men and women of faith, character and professional ability for positions of leadership throughout the world.
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