Wednesday, January 20, 2016

UIS grad runs business school in Myanmar

Saw Golden Chit, who lives in the poor Southeast Asian country of Myanmar, also known as Burma, said he's wanted to run a business and be his own boss since he was a child.

In 2013, he enrolled in the Startup program through Opportunities NOW, a fledgling entrepreneurship school in Myanmar. The three-month program teaches students how to run a business before allowing them to come up with their own ideas. If an idea is approved, the student is given a small loan to get started.

Opportunities NOW was created in 2012 by Matt Wallace, a 2006 University of Illinois Springfield graduate, and his friend Ryan Russell.

Wallace, 31, said he wanted to start the school as a means to help alleviate the poverty in Myanmar, where half the 51 million residents live on as little as $2 a day and the unemployment rate is 70 percent in some areas.

“The education system is a wreck,” Wallace said. “It’s really a system based on rote memorization, and out of high school, people are not prepared to work. Small businesses were not going to grow. We’re there to help build the private sector to help empower people.”

A former resident of Trilla, Illinois, Wallace said he got the idea to start the school while he was an undergrad at UIS, working toward a bachelor’s degree in political science. He looked at different government structures in Southeast Asia, and by the time he had finished his studies, he decided he wanted to move to Myanmar to try to help the people there.

“When I graduated, no one was talking about Burma at the time,” he said. “It just seemed to make a lot of sense.”

This story was featured in The State Journal-Register on January 19, 2016.

Read the article online