Business Research

Social Entrepreneurship in Action

Marlene Reed, professor of Entrepreneurship, is looking to bring hope through social entrepreneurship efforts to a country with impoverished people and underutilized resources.

Reed received a grant from the Organization of American States to continue her work with social entrepreneurship and sustainability efforts in helping alleviate poverty and economic problems in the Dominican Republic (DR). Her grant request, "Mata de Palma, Dominican Republic: Utilizing Innovative Technology to Improve Living Conditions of Surrounding Communities," outlines initial steps that support an ultimate goal of establishing bio-sustainable communities in the DR.

Reed is working on the project with Baylor colleagues Kendall Artz, department chair of Management and Entrepreneurship; Les Palich, associate director of Entrepreneurial Studies; and David Allen, director of the John F. Baugh Center for Entrepreneurship.

The catalyst for the project is Omar Bros, Dominican entrepreneur and CEO of Consorcio Tecno DEAH (CTD), a for-profit company with a vision to encourage sustainable development within the DR. Bros also serves on the board of the Dominican Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to improving living conditions of people in the sugar cane and sweet sorghum agricultural areas of the DR. An organization of local farmers known as COOP Cana is also involved with the project, as the farmers' land will produce crops used for bio-fuels.

Reed and the team began work with Bros in the fall of 2007. A student team led by Reed and featured in the article "BEST Student Projects in Energy" from the spring 2008 issue of the Baylor Business Review, first researched operational possibilities and developed a business plan for a mobile sugar mill, which was developed by Bros. The team's business plan focused on the mobile mill benefitting two local communities of Mata de Palma and Guayubin.

"We were first approached by Omar to devise a business plan for the mobile mill," Reed said. "He then asked if we were interested in following through with implementation of the plan; we immediately agreed."

Although the DR's economy depends heavily on growth and harvesting of sugar cane and sorghum, Reed said the land has been underutilized.

"At the present time, 50 percent of the land historically used for growing sugar cane is not being cultivated," she said. "The primary reasons for this inactivity are the high cost of transporting sugar cane and sorghum to the stationary mills and the low level of demand for bio-fuels in the past."

Reed and the team are treating the uncultivated land as an opportunity to implement the technology of the mobile mill. The mobile mill will process the sugar cane harvest in Mata de Palma, then six months later, be relocated to process the sweet sorghum harvest in Guayubin. According to the students' research, the mill has the potential to harvest 15 tons of sugar cane or sweet sorghum per hour, processing up to 360 tons of cane per day. The processed crops provide year-round production of molasses, which is then sold to distilleries to produce bio-fuels such as ethanol.

This production will help provide a stable income for sugar cane and sorghum workers, whose living conditions are indicative of the poor quality of life. These workers, who are primarily Haitian immigrants, and their families live in "bateyes," which are inadequate and unsanitary tin lean-tos.

"These people have very few resources," Reed said. "Omar asked our team to help develop a strategy for dispersing 30 percent of the profits from the mobile mill to improve the level of living for the people who work for his mill."

By allocating profits to improve living conditions, the team hopes to see an increased level of health care, education, running water and electricity in the communities. Bros also proposed placing 70 percent of the profits in a fund to duplicate the mobile mill project in other regions of the DR, and ultimately other countries.

"The main focus right now is establishing a baseline for the standard of living in the mill areas," Reed said. "From that, we will have quantifiable measures of progress for the quality of life in Mata de Palma and Guayubin."

Lydia Rogers, BBA '09, was involved with the Mata de Palma project as a student team member and has seen it continue to progress.

"What is so special about Baylor's involvement with Mata de Palma is how each year students add upon the work of previous students," Rogers said. "This continuity brings a sense that our work is truly contributing to the success of this project. I am excited to see how this next group of Baylor students takes our work to the next level."

Baylor's work in the DR has not gone unnoticed. Reed said the U.S. State Department contacted her when it heard of the project and notified the American Embassy in Santo Domingo, DR. The team met with the Embassy this fall, and Reed then traveled to Washington, D.C., to inform the State Department of the team's work in the DR. Reed and the team are also working on a documentary, which will monitor the progress of the mill project and its social impacts.

"Traveling to the Dominican Republic and working in that environment is great exposure for the students," Reed said. "The business documents they prepare will have a lasting, positive impact on the lives of DR citizens. This is a business project, but more importantly a humanitarian effort. We look forward to continuing our work in the DR."

Marlene Reed
Baylor University