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The hilarious story of two brothers, a truckload of batteries, and a brilliant plan to bring light--and new business opportunities--to Ghana At age 47, Whit Alexander, the American co-founder of the Cranium board game, decided to start a new business selling affordable goods and services to low-income villagers in Ghana, West Africa. His brother Max, a journalist, came alon The hilarious story of two brothers, a truckload of batteries, and a brilliant plan to bring light--and new business opportunities--to Ghana At age 47, Whit Alexander, the American co-founder of the Cranium board game, decided to start a new business selling affordable goods and services to low-income villagers in Ghana, West Africa. His brother Max, a journalist, came along to tell the story. Neither of them could have anticipated just how much of an adventure they'd find there. In Ghana, Whit's initial goal is to market a high quality rechargeable AA battery that off-grid villagers could use to power their flashlights and radios, as well as to charge their cell phones. If successful, he planned to grow a larger for-profit business based on those batteries--creating a trusted African brand that would provide life-enhancing products, services, and jobs, without relying on charity. Ghana, however, presents extraordinary challenges, and the brothers wage daily battles against deadly insects, insane driving conditions, unspeakable food, voodoo priests, corrupt officials, counterfeiters, and ethnic rivalries on their way to success. From signing up customers who earn a few dollars a month at most to training employees with no Western-style work experience, the brothers quickly learn that starting a business in Africa requires single-minded focus, a sense of humor, and a lot of patience. Along the way, Whit and Max relive their own childhood, bickering across the African bush and learning a great deal about Africans as well as themselves. Irreverent, hilarious, and ultimately inspiring, "Bright Lights, No City" challenges accepted notions of charity, shows the power of broadening your horizons, and suggests that there is hope and opportunity in Africa. Praise for "Bright Lights, No City" "An affectionate, good-humored and finally inspiring account of one American's determination to make good things happen." --Kate Braestrup, New York Times bestselling author of "Here If You Need Me" "My boss, Bill Gates, coined the phrase 'creative capitalism' to encourage the use of market forces to address the needs of the poor. But my friend, Whit Alexander, moved creative capitalism from ideas to bold practice. "Bright Lights, No City" will scratch your travel bug, tickle your business brain, and touch your heart." --Patty Stonesifer, former CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation "I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure, which helps to prove that what much of the developing world needs is a hand up, not a hand out." --John Wood, founder of Room to Read and author of "Leaving Microsoft to Change the World" "I loved, loved, loved "Bright Lights, No City." A tour de force! Bravo. It's perceptive, informative, thoughtful, engaging, funny." --Carey Winfrey, editor emeritus, "Smithsonian" magazine and former Africa correspondent, "New York Times" "Max Alexander has woven a compassionate and oft-times hilarious tale of the Brothers Alexander's attempt to save the world, one rechargeable battery at a time. If you have any interest in a great story or helping the other 4 billion, read this book, now." --W. Hodding Carter, author of "Westward Whoa" and "A Viking Voyage" "A lyrically written universal testimony to the humanity that binds all people together on this fragile planet, "Bright Lights, No City" is a deeply moving and funny, can't-put-it-down book." --Frank Schaeffer, author of "Crazy for God" "This book is filled with the passion and relentless pursuit that it takes to make dreams come to life, and reminds you that it takes compassion, luck, and humor to make history. A must read for every entrepreneur." --Richard Tait, Co-Founder, Cranium; CEO, Galazo


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The hilarious story of two brothers, a truckload of batteries, and a brilliant plan to bring light--and new business opportunities--to Ghana At age 47, Whit Alexander, the American co-founder of the Cranium board game, decided to start a new business selling affordable goods and services to low-income villagers in Ghana, West Africa. His brother Max, a journalist, came alon The hilarious story of two brothers, a truckload of batteries, and a brilliant plan to bring light--and new business opportunities--to Ghana At age 47, Whit Alexander, the American co-founder of the Cranium board game, decided to start a new business selling affordable goods and services to low-income villagers in Ghana, West Africa. His brother Max, a journalist, came along to tell the story. Neither of them could have anticipated just how much of an adventure they'd find there. In Ghana, Whit's initial goal is to market a high quality rechargeable AA battery that off-grid villagers could use to power their flashlights and radios, as well as to charge their cell phones. If successful, he planned to grow a larger for-profit business based on those batteries--creating a trusted African brand that would provide life-enhancing products, services, and jobs, without relying on charity. Ghana, however, presents extraordinary challenges, and the brothers wage daily battles against deadly insects, insane driving conditions, unspeakable food, voodoo priests, corrupt officials, counterfeiters, and ethnic rivalries on their way to success. From signing up customers who earn a few dollars a month at most to training employees with no Western-style work experience, the brothers quickly learn that starting a business in Africa requires single-minded focus, a sense of humor, and a lot of patience. Along the way, Whit and Max relive their own childhood, bickering across the African bush and learning a great deal about Africans as well as themselves. Irreverent, hilarious, and ultimately inspiring, "Bright Lights, No City" challenges accepted notions of charity, shows the power of broadening your horizons, and suggests that there is hope and opportunity in Africa. Praise for "Bright Lights, No City" "An affectionate, good-humored and finally inspiring account of one American's determination to make good things happen." --Kate Braestrup, New York Times bestselling author of "Here If You Need Me" "My boss, Bill Gates, coined the phrase 'creative capitalism' to encourage the use of market forces to address the needs of the poor. But my friend, Whit Alexander, moved creative capitalism from ideas to bold practice. "Bright Lights, No City" will scratch your travel bug, tickle your business brain, and touch your heart." --Patty Stonesifer, former CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation "I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure, which helps to prove that what much of the developing world needs is a hand up, not a hand out." --John Wood, founder of Room to Read and author of "Leaving Microsoft to Change the World" "I loved, loved, loved "Bright Lights, No City." A tour de force! Bravo. It's perceptive, informative, thoughtful, engaging, funny." --Carey Winfrey, editor emeritus, "Smithsonian" magazine and former Africa correspondent, "New York Times" "Max Alexander has woven a compassionate and oft-times hilarious tale of the Brothers Alexander's attempt to save the world, one rechargeable battery at a time. If you have any interest in a great story or helping the other 4 billion, read this book, now." --W. Hodding Carter, author of "Westward Whoa" and "A Viking Voyage" "A lyrically written universal testimony to the humanity that binds all people together on this fragile planet, "Bright Lights, No City" is a deeply moving and funny, can't-put-it-down book." --Frank Schaeffer, author of "Crazy for God" "This book is filled with the passion and relentless pursuit that it takes to make dreams come to life, and reminds you that it takes compassion, luck, and humor to make history. A must read for every entrepreneur." --Richard Tait, Co-Founder, Cranium; CEO, Galazo

30 review for Bright Lights, No City: An African Adventure on Bad Roads with a Brother and a Very Weird Business Plan

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nan

    I thoroughly liked this consistently fascinating and funny account of a smart, compassionate entrepreneur committed to starting a battery business in Ghana, Africa. The founder is Whit Alexander, but his brother Max comes along for the ride, which is lucky for us. Max's journalism and sharp eye for the interesting and absurd (to Western eyes) detail makes us want to read all about it. Whit, a co-inventor of the game Cranium, is convinced that Africa needs businesses that sell effective, essentia I thoroughly liked this consistently fascinating and funny account of a smart, compassionate entrepreneur committed to starting a battery business in Ghana, Africa. The founder is Whit Alexander, but his brother Max comes along for the ride, which is lucky for us. Max's journalism and sharp eye for the interesting and absurd (to Western eyes) detail makes us want to read all about it. Whit, a co-inventor of the game Cranium, is convinced that Africa needs businesses that sell effective, essential products to people who earn $1-2 dollars a day. His research tells him rechargeable batteries sold on a rental plan by local agents fit this model. He'll turn out to be right, but nothing in Africa is easy. Max's wonder at Ghanian driving habits/road conditions (deadly), restaurants (the menu has nothing to do with what's actually available, and watch out for cat dishes), languages, schooling, business practices, and pretty much anything else you can think of, is rendered in a wry, understated tone that's bemused and gradually, charmed. It's this on-the-fly description of the culture and history of Ghana, interwoven with a readable business primer on the manufacturing/sales/marketing twists and turns the Burro company takes to better reflect Ghanian reality, that makes the book so valuable. The business lessons are great for those wanting to start a business overseas, or those who'd like to fight poverty more effectively and permanently than massive infusions of aid have done. (It's clear that most entrepreneurs would quit at any one of the obstacles Whit encounters; but he just figures out an alternative approach and goes on.) But the details of individual people and their daily life in Ghana--the food, medicine, advertising, manners, customs--are what will earn this book a wide general audience. It's great preparation for eager entrepreneurs packing to go save the world. But it's mind-expanding, too, for those of us who wish them well from the comfort of our air-conditioned, flush toilet-equipped homes.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Cindy K

    Wonderful writing- a bit filled with facts for PURE entertainment, but that's what makes this book rich - it really takes you past the stereotypes and statistics, and helps picture an africa that is both vibrant, innovative, and persevering..... from the roads along which disconnected telephone lines pass over villages and outposts, to the cities that are crowded- this is an africa I didn't know! an emerging company! read first 1/4, scanned the rest and the end during Christmas break.... for a lon Wonderful writing- a bit filled with facts for PURE entertainment, but that's what makes this book rich - it really takes you past the stereotypes and statistics, and helps picture an africa that is both vibrant, innovative, and persevering..... from the roads along which disconnected telephone lines pass over villages and outposts, to the cities that are crowded- this is an africa I didn't know! an emerging company! read first 1/4, scanned the rest and the end during Christmas break.... for a longer reviews of the book - and the journey- http://features.blogs.fortune.cnn.com... http://www.marketplace.org/topics/lif... (july 2012)

  3. 5 out of 5

    Brenda J

    Loved this book; a great story of the Alexander brothers, their business adventure (Whit's Burro Battery Brand enterprise) in Ghana and reconneting as brothers. It is an insightful and at times humours look at reconnection for the brothers and connecting a business plan in Ghana to give the poor people some that was tangible and worked. Loved this book; a great story of the Alexander brothers, their business adventure (Whit's Burro Battery Brand enterprise) in Ghana and reconneting as brothers. It is an insightful and at times humours look at reconnection for the brothers and connecting a business plan in Ghana to give the poor people some that was tangible and worked.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    I really enjoyed this look at Ghana, the beginnings of a U.S. start up in Africa and the inherent challenges to success. But just as much, I loved reading about my former boss, Whit Alexander. The author, his brother, does an amazing job of capturing his voice, which brought this whole book to life for me.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    I left this book in the "currently reading" category but have never gotten around to taking the time to review it properly - I might as well accept I am not going to and get something down. I bought this in Seattle several years ago when it was newly published. The bookstore didn't know where to put it - it was in with travel books. It is really an informal business case study for Ghana. I think the publisher didn't do the book much good with the title - "Bright Lights, No City: An African Advent I left this book in the "currently reading" category but have never gotten around to taking the time to review it properly - I might as well accept I am not going to and get something down. I bought this in Seattle several years ago when it was newly published. The bookstore didn't know where to put it - it was in with travel books. It is really an informal business case study for Ghana. I think the publisher didn't do the book much good with the title - "Bright Lights, No City: An African Adventure on Bad Roads with a Brother and a Very Weird Business Plan" - ??? Apparently the "bright lights, not city" part is intended to connect with their attempt to rent (in effect) rechargeable batteries in rural areas of the country, but this only came to me much. I guess it is an adventure, but to then emphasize the "bad roads" aspect in the subtitle seems ill advised - is that really the most striking thing about doing business in Africa? The road trip aspect is secondary to the description of trying to apply western business start-up techniques in Africa (in contrast to assistance from NGOs) and the relationships between the Africans and the North Americans. And the "very weird business plan" - that is simply wrong. It was not weird, it was ambitious. All that said, the book is very well written and is the kind of book I am glad I bought because I will likely read it again.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This book was very intriguing, the plot is very good: two brothers whom have not seen each other in awhile try to reconnect by selling batteries in Africa. The humor was a nice touch so the readers would not get bored. Although the beginning was boring was somewhat boring but somewhere towards the middle it becomes interesting. It is a really cool book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jarrod

    Max is continuously funny and the book really teaches a lot about what life is like for many in Ghana. Some of the sections were really dry though, notably the copied emails about developing the lanterns.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Interesting, humorous, engaging, informative. Well-written but an easy read. I expected it to just be a funny fish-out-of-water travel story, but actually it illustrates important lessons in business and marketing.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Nataly

    The book is very informative and somewhat interesting. Although I've never found these certain type of books intriguing this one was an exception. It gives insights as to what life in Ghana is like and that was very entertaining. The book is very informative and somewhat interesting. Although I've never found these certain type of books intriguing this one was an exception. It gives insights as to what life in Ghana is like and that was very entertaining.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    The author is a journalist so I like that style, he is also witty and that makes the reading fun even if the topic is not always so. A great story about how a few people can make a big difference.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Katherine

    This book makes me want to start a business or pack up and go to Africa, neither of which are things I've wanted to before. It is very interesting and informative to read as well as funny. This book makes me want to start a business or pack up and go to Africa, neither of which are things I've wanted to before. It is very interesting and informative to read as well as funny.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Excellent book about one man's goal to not just help the people in Africa but to make that help sustainable in the form of rechargeable batteries. Definitely a book worth reading. Excellent book about one man's goal to not just help the people in Africa but to make that help sustainable in the form of rechargeable batteries. Definitely a book worth reading.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Alison

    I loved Bright Lights, No City: An African Adventure on Bad Roads with a Brother and a Very Weird Business Plan - a business book and travel book wrapped up in one. Max and his brother, Whit, have a great understanding of Africa. There is no phony American rescuing the "poor Africans" sentimentality in this book. Whit has made his millions through a couple of previous businesses in the US. Now he returns to West Africa, where he worked and traveled after university, to start a grassroots busines I loved Bright Lights, No City: An African Adventure on Bad Roads with a Brother and a Very Weird Business Plan - a business book and travel book wrapped up in one. Max and his brother, Whit, have a great understanding of Africa. There is no phony American rescuing the "poor Africans" sentimentality in this book. Whit has made his millions through a couple of previous businesses in the US. Now he returns to West Africa, where he worked and traveled after university, to start a grassroots business in Ghana. This is social entrepreneurship in action. And its tough. Max's telling of the story is humorous, informative and inspiring. I was captured from the beginning and finished in a few days. This is one of my very top reads from 2016. I'd recommend Bright Lights, No City to anyone who wants to get past the theory and learn the fundamentals of building a business. And I'd recommend it to anyone who wants a peak into daily life in West Africa, not as a tourist but as a resident.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Leanne

    This guy gets Ghana. It is fun to go along with him as he navigates the country with his brother (a brilliant entrepreneur with a plan). The Ghana he describes is exactly right (he moved there just as I was leaving) and his experience made me so homesick for my second favorite country on Earth. Their business idea is a useful one for a country so riddled with electrical problems, and his sense of humor will keep you chuckling. Really good snapshot and a good read - hardly a slow moment in the wh This guy gets Ghana. It is fun to go along with him as he navigates the country with his brother (a brilliant entrepreneur with a plan). The Ghana he describes is exactly right (he moved there just as I was leaving) and his experience made me so homesick for my second favorite country on Earth. Their business idea is a useful one for a country so riddled with electrical problems, and his sense of humor will keep you chuckling. Really good snapshot and a good read - hardly a slow moment in the whole book and even those were just spots where you needed to concentrate so you could learn something. :)

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Anderson

    Funny and inspiring. I laughed so hard in the first half of the book. The second half was slightly boring. It was a great peek into Ghanaian culture and it led me to think deeper about aid and charity.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Eric Cholminski

    These guys were insane! Loved this

  17. 4 out of 5

    Carl Gauger

    A very interesting book. If you are at all interested in global business or global design, this is a worthwhile read. It is not, however, a book about these things as such. It is instead a personal narrative about starting a business in Ghana, on the west coast of Africa. Specifically, it is about the rise of Burro batteries, the brainchild of Whit Alexander, who happens to be the brother of the author. Whit was the developer, along with Richard Tait, of the board game Cranium, which was sold to A very interesting book. If you are at all interested in global business or global design, this is a worthwhile read. It is not, however, a book about these things as such. It is instead a personal narrative about starting a business in Ghana, on the west coast of Africa. Specifically, it is about the rise of Burro batteries, the brainchild of Whit Alexander, who happens to be the brother of the author. Whit was the developer, along with Richard Tait, of the board game Cranium, which was sold to Hasbro for a tidy profit. Max Alexander, who was involved in this venture with his brother, gives a detailed look at Ghanian culture, their attempts to understand it, build a market there, and the pitfalls and successes that chronicle the process. The idea was to build a business selling rechargeable batteries (NiCd) in a country that has, depending on the area, either no power grid at all or an exceedingly fragile one. This is, needless to say, a nation that uses a lot of batteries, mostly carbon-zinc AA batteries. Further, the idea was to build a profitable business that relied on delivering real value to the majority of Ghanian people--that is to say, mostly poor people, and providing a cheap, renewable, and enhanced method of powering lights, radios (lots of these in Ghana), and cell phones. The story of this book is the story of the clash and subsequent refinement of this idea as it comes into conflict with the culture. Like any start-up, the road is a lot longer than anticipated. In fact the book bogs down a bit in the middle, but probably this is just an accurate portrayal of what starting a business is really like. Chapter 18 comes as a real relief as the business starts to come into its own, and provides some real insight into how design responds to culture, but also how innovation can enhance culture. \n \nDealing with the (lack of) infrastructure--roads, housing, services, food, etc., learning the nuances of Ghanian language, thought and behavioral patterns, overcoming the difficulties of cost and pricing, and crafting a business model that really works with all of these--makes this story compelling and carries you through the book. I was particularly engaged by the determination to design a quality product in market that is largely dominated by cheap Chinese goods (no implications here, just facts). \n \nAfter finishing the book, I did some follow-up to see the state of the company today and it seems to have a strong presence and brand--even an enhanced product line. It's gratifying to see success in what is arguably a clever idea and witness a demonstration that profits and altruism can be complementary and co-existent. \n \nIf you want to look at some of the on-line resources, I recommend these: \nhttp://www.burrobrand.biz/ (the company website) \nhttp://burrobrand.tumblr.com/ (Burro's blog) \nhttp://gonggongman.tumblr.com (Max Alexander's blog--read the book if you want to know what a Gong Gong man is)

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ariel

    Whit, the creator of Cranium and his younger brother Max attempt to start up a battery business called Burro in Ghana, Africa. Brother Max does the narrating of the story. The brothers are met with many challenges along the way not the least being the unreliable work ethics of some of their employees as well as their competition, the Chinese made Tiger Head batteries. Still the brothers are determined to persevere because their underlying principle is that it will be better to give the people of Whit, the creator of Cranium and his younger brother Max attempt to start up a battery business called Burro in Ghana, Africa. Brother Max does the narrating of the story. The brothers are met with many challenges along the way not the least being the unreliable work ethics of some of their employees as well as their competition, the Chinese made Tiger Head batteries. Still the brothers are determined to persevere because their underlying principle is that it will be better to give the people of Ghana a business that works instead of just doling out more charity. The problem is that for the customers of Burro price is always the bottom line. Through a recharging program, a person will put down a deposit, get a battery and when it runs out exchange it for a new one. Although this is cheaper in the long run a lot of people can't grasp the concept and still chose to buy the initially cheaper Tiger Head's even if they have a shorter, dimmer life. Batteries are important in Ghana because for a lot of people it is their only source of power. I find it ironic that Whit's biggest competition is the Chinese market yet whenever he needs something for his business that is exactly where he turns to purchase. Whit values the productivity of the Chinese. While I enjoyed the concept of this book the actual execution was dragging in places. I wanted to learn more about Ghana and it's people but major parts of this book were about the business plan, which is fine if you are into reading books about business. Those parts were extremely dull for me though. As far as books about American and Ghana culture clashing, I enjoyed King Peggy far more. I love reading about African people and traditions and King Peggy portrayed her country in a more entertaining way.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Tinika

    Bill Gates popularized the notion of "creative capitalism," helping the poor through the demands of the marketplace rather than through hand-outs. It initiated a lot of talk but Whit Alexander takes it a step further by going to Africa to put the idea into practice. Many in Ghana live "off the grid" (without electricity) and rely on cheap throwaway batteries for lighting and listening to the radio. By renting them the use of rechargable batteries, Whit gives the consumer something more cost-effe Bill Gates popularized the notion of "creative capitalism," helping the poor through the demands of the marketplace rather than through hand-outs. It initiated a lot of talk but Whit Alexander takes it a step further by going to Africa to put the idea into practice. Many in Ghana live "off the grid" (without electricity) and rely on cheap throwaway batteries for lighting and listening to the radio. By renting them the use of rechargable batteries, Whit gives the consumer something more cost-effective and environmentally friendly. The use of cell phones is extensive here but, for those in rural areas, it can be difficult to get their phones recharged. Whit develops a cell phone recharger (running on his batteries, of course) that is again cheaper for the consumer and far more convenient than sending the phone out by taxi or "tro-tro" to be recharged. Should be a no-brainer, right? Did I mention this was Ghana? Whit's brother Max goes along and, with a great deal of humour, records the birth of the new company. He also regales the armchair traveller with a vivid picture of present day Ghana: the country, the people, the villages, the customs, the roads (or lack thereof.) For most of the book he keeps the technical details to a minimum as he concentrates on the day to day challenges. This changes in the final chapter. The trials and details of manufacturing batteries, battery sleeves, flashlights, etc. takes centre stage and the book finishes off in an area of little personal interest. A pity as it was my final impression of the book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Anyone who loves books has certainly had this happen. You buy a book and put it in the to-read pile/shelf/shelves, and for one reason or another it slips through the cracks. That happened to this book for me, but in a way I am glad, as I could go on line and see if the company were still in business and how they were doing, like having a 4 years later epilogue. I can't say enough positives about this book. It is funny, extremely readable, and more important it is about a guy who didn't just think Anyone who loves books has certainly had this happen. You buy a book and put it in the to-read pile/shelf/shelves, and for one reason or another it slips through the cracks. That happened to this book for me, but in a way I am glad, as I could go on line and see if the company were still in business and how they were doing, like having a 4 years later epilogue. I can't say enough positives about this book. It is funny, extremely readable, and more important it is about a guy who didn't just think he had an idea but instead acted on it, in a less than easy environment, and did good for the people he marketed to. I also learned far more about business and making things happen Thani ever did getting my business degree. This is a phenomenal book, that is told by the brother of the man who brought quality affordable batteries to rural Ghana, which is most of the country. This is not some charity or NGO, with people spending millions, driving around in brand new Land Rovers, and accomplishing nothing like most projects that involve Africa do. It touches on what a mess European and western guilt has done to Africa by turning it into a massive welfare state. I could go on forever about why this book should be read by everyone, but instead I will just say, Read this book!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Henry

    This goes to show how much better it is to bootstrap people in Africa is than to keep giving them charity or setting up programs that work till they are abandoned by the agencies. Everybody wins in this enterpreneurial gamble to provide rechargeable batteries to Ghananians who for the most part have no electricity. Cleverly, the entrepeneur rents the batteries, and then charges a fee for the recharge. As the team coalesces, they develop their marketing and services using the mindsets of the people This goes to show how much better it is to bootstrap people in Africa is than to keep giving them charity or setting up programs that work till they are abandoned by the agencies. Everybody wins in this enterpreneurial gamble to provide rechargeable batteries to Ghananians who for the most part have no electricity. Cleverly, the entrepeneur rents the batteries, and then charges a fee for the recharge. As the team coalesces, they develop their marketing and services using the mindsets of the people, keeping things experimental. The users get good batteries, the agents make a percentage, and the entrepreneur gets his share. His brother, a journalist, records actual events, with lots of humor and makes no bones about mistakes made along the way. Read this along with another book which deals with encouraging Africans to farm "green" and plant trees to stop the deserts from encroaching. I forget the author, but it is a good insightful read with photos of the various successful farmers.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Mac

    Whit Alexander, creator of the Cranium game, attempts to start up a sustainable, profitable battery business in Ghana. Whit was inspired by the "creative capitalism" concept that Bill Gates discusses (helping the poor through a good business model vs. handouts) and found that people in Ghana use a lot of batteries. Whit's journalist brother Max comes along to see how it goes and to spend time with his brother. The concept was good and the book was interesting in several parts. I just found the ex Whit Alexander, creator of the Cranium game, attempts to start up a sustainable, profitable battery business in Ghana. Whit was inspired by the "creative capitalism" concept that Bill Gates discusses (helping the poor through a good business model vs. handouts) and found that people in Ghana use a lot of batteries. Whit's journalist brother Max comes along to see how it goes and to spend time with his brother. The concept was good and the book was interesting in several parts. I just found the execution could have been better. The heavy business plan sections dragged a little and it felt like the book bounced around quite a bit. The author's descriptions of Ghanian culture, the countryside and the people who live there were easily the best parts of this book. Uneven but still a pretty good read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    I really enjoyed this. Full disclosure: I worked for Whit, the 'brother', at Cranium, which is before the events in the book take place, and know some of the other people featured in the book. In any case, it's very well written, an insightful look at the adventures involved in starting a business in Ghana. Knowing very little about Africa in general, I learned a lot about the culture of Ghana, and how the proliferation of NGOs provides an additional challenge to the Burro team in their efforts t I really enjoyed this. Full disclosure: I worked for Whit, the 'brother', at Cranium, which is before the events in the book take place, and know some of the other people featured in the book. In any case, it's very well written, an insightful look at the adventures involved in starting a business in Ghana. Knowing very little about Africa in general, I learned a lot about the culture of Ghana, and how the proliferation of NGOs provides an additional challenge to the Burro team in their efforts to build a for-profit business that provides income and opportunity to the Ghanaians that become resellers of the Burro products. In addition, it is both extremely funny and touching at moments, and a book I'm sure I'll reread in the future.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Nina Chachu

    I read this partly because it is about Ghana, and there aren't many books about doing business in Ghana. Also, because I knew that there were some Ashesi [http://www.ashesi.edu.gh] graduates working with this company, and additionally because I had actually met some of those working for Burro at a couple of Ashesi's career fairs. Lastly I bought some of the rechargeable batteries and the solar powered lamps. Generally rural/small town Ghana comes off much better than Accra. I suspect that some G I read this partly because it is about Ghana, and there aren't many books about doing business in Ghana. Also, because I knew that there were some Ashesi [http://www.ashesi.edu.gh] graduates working with this company, and additionally because I had actually met some of those working for Burro at a couple of Ashesi's career fairs. Lastly I bought some of the rechargeable batteries and the solar powered lamps. Generally rural/small town Ghana comes off much better than Accra. I suspect that some Ghanaians might feel a little ambivalent as to how some of their country people come over, but this does not pretend to be a totally objective account of Burro.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dana Schroeder

    Alexander's retelling of his time in Ghana with his brother as he starts a business selling battery plans was alternately engaging and dull. I found the cultural information about Ghana very interesting and enjoyed the author's voice, but often counted pages to get through the information regarding his brother's business plan. I'm sure other readers would have found the founding of a business and its challenges in a developing country interesting information in deed, but I felt the only redeemin Alexander's retelling of his time in Ghana with his brother as he starts a business selling battery plans was alternately engaging and dull. I found the cultural information about Ghana very interesting and enjoyed the author's voice, but often counted pages to get through the information regarding his brother's business plan. I'm sure other readers would have found the founding of a business and its challenges in a developing country interesting information in deed, but I felt the only redeeming quality about this book was the world of the locals

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jonny

    This book tells the story of a late-career American who travels to Ghana to start a battery business that benefits the poor. I loved this book, though I think much of that was because I have lived and worked in Ghana and many of the stories resonated with me and made me laugh. A great read for those who have traveled to sub Saharan Africa, but it might resonate less with those who haven't traveled much. This book tells the story of a late-career American who travels to Ghana to start a battery business that benefits the poor. I loved this book, though I think much of that was because I have lived and worked in Ghana and many of the stories resonated with me and made me laugh. A great read for those who have traveled to sub Saharan Africa, but it might resonate less with those who haven't traveled much.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Adriana

    I didn't like this book.This book had a lot of high vocabulary and i didn't understand and the setting changed a lot throughout the book.The first few chapters are very boring and i started to lose interest.I ketp reading but i didn't understand what people found that was so funny in the book.It might just be i don't have the right comprehension of the book.I tried reading summaries about the book but i still found it hard to understand and i didn't like the book. I didn't like this book.This book had a lot of high vocabulary and i didn't understand and the setting changed a lot throughout the book.The first few chapters are very boring and i started to lose interest.I ketp reading but i didn't understand what people found that was so funny in the book.It might just be i don't have the right comprehension of the book.I tried reading summaries about the book but i still found it hard to understand and i didn't like the book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    Somewhat interesting story.....I was interested in the topics, sustainable business and brothers relationship. The writing was lighthearted storytelling, but not a style I liked very well. It is a book worth skimming, but not much more. It was a weird business plan and they wroked very hard at it. In the end, I don't know if it succeeded because I skimmed the last part of the book. Somewhat interesting story.....I was interested in the topics, sustainable business and brothers relationship. The writing was lighthearted storytelling, but not a style I liked very well. It is a book worth skimming, but not much more. It was a weird business plan and they wroked very hard at it. In the end, I don't know if it succeeded because I skimmed the last part of the book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

    This was a really enjoyable book for me - I think anyone who has spent time in Ghana would agree, maybe even those who have visited other West African countries (e.g. Togo, Ivory Coast). I learned some new things - got to ask our son who was adopted from Ghana about eating "Joseph". ;) (Incidentally, he confirmed that "Joseph" really is consumed by people of the Ewe cultural group.) This was a really enjoyable book for me - I think anyone who has spent time in Ghana would agree, maybe even those who have visited other West African countries (e.g. Togo, Ivory Coast). I learned some new things - got to ask our son who was adopted from Ghana about eating "Joseph". ;) (Incidentally, he confirmed that "Joseph" really is consumed by people of the Ewe cultural group.)

  30. 5 out of 5

    Brian T

    I really enjoyed this book! I loved the message that doing sustainable, profitable things in Africa far supersedes NGO charity. To think that batteries, disposable batteries and rechargeable batteries play such a crucial, critical role to every day life in Africa! The scenes of Africa were dramatic and fascinating. The people were remarkably portrayed. This is a wonderful book!

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