Two local D.U.D.E.S., Peter McLean, 13, and Cristian Mendoza, 14, recently stood before the Noon Sierra Rotary Club and explained how they're investing their bird house sales profits in aspiring entrepreneurs in the United States and in under-developed countries around the world.
D.U.D.E.S. -- Dollars for Under-Developed Economic Societies -- was formed four years ago to assist people at a lower economic level that are trying to improve themselves and their families and do not have access to traditional banking systems.
D.U.D.E.S. is financed by McLean's and Mendoza's efforts building and selling bird houses and duck boxes. They work with KIVA -- a non-profit organization that provides loans internationally.
McLean and Mendoza don't blindly give money to organizations. They take an active role in researching those seeking assistance including how the funds are going to be utilized.
"I am proud to be helping people in other countries who are trying to start their own business to improve their lives for themselves, their family economics, and their community," said McLean. One of these entrepreneurs is Maritza, from Peru, who has a small grocery store in her hometown. Through the D.U.D.E.S. program, she was able to receive a $700 loan to increase her store merchandise. Maritza was 100% funded by the D.U.D.E.S. along with 22 other Kiva lenders.
Mentors have helped McLean and Mendoza began building birdhouses in 2008 and soon added bat houses and tool boxes to their list of products. They have sold merchandise through family, school, Rotary and other non-profit groups. They took tours of manufacturing companies such as Heinz Ketchup, Anlin Windows Co., Lyons Magnus and General Wood Products.
"On these tours we were not only able to tell them about our business, but we were able to meet and rub shoulders with some outstanding business people who took the time to share some of the qualities that have helped make their businesses successful," McLean said. "We learned that by being efficient with our time, tools and materials, we can be more productive without having any waste. Also, the importance of team work and how the ability to work with others is an essential part of a business' success."
Thanks to some community mentors, the boys were able to get a little help getting their business started. Sam Hill helped by donating lumber for their bird houses and duck boxes and Billy Lopez also donated plywood to the boys. Del Daubert gave the pair woodworking lessons and allowed them to use his tools.
"These special individuals have invested in us because they believe in what we are doing and want to see us succeed in our business and life," McLean said. "This has been a great experience for us. We have taken wood and built useful items to offer our community and we have made a profit to invest in the lives of other people."
The boys said none of this would have been possible without help and encouragement from their mentors.
"Our Mentors have shown us their unconditional commitment," said Mendoza. "They are outstanding leaders who each have shared a special skill with us."
One of those mentors is Peter's father, Oakhurst Rotarian Tony McLean.
"His sincere interest in our growth and success has made it possible for us to have the opportunities to learn both business and life skills," Mendoza said of Tony. "We are grateful for all of our mentors and for these relationships and experiences that we will take with us into our futures."
"Myself and other mentors receive great pleasure in providing the boys direction, coaching and support," said the elder McLean. "Empowering the boys to be leaders and take responsibility for figuring out how they will achieve their goals has been rewarding."
The boys encourage members of the community to be mentors to young people, sharing experiences and making a difference in their lives.
"We would like to see more youth start their own non-profit business to make a difference in people's lives and to help alleviate poverty around the world," Mendoza said.