Vincent Kituku established himself as a motivational speaker in the Treasure Valley decades ago, but he always wanted to take his skills back to his native Kenya.
"Then when the economy changed, it gave me the opportunity to prepare to do something for the other countries," he said.
In January, Kituku taught his "How to Speak and Get Paid" seminar in Kenya. He spoke before several groups, from local Toastmasters chapters to ordinary people in his own village. Eight participants in Kituku's seminar paid about $375 each, about as much as those in the United States would pay, to hear him. He continues to coach several people there, has partnered with a lawyer to expand the programs, and plans to return in December to speak to employees of a large technology company.
"It's new ground," he said. "I'm not just developing speakers, but leaders. I'm teaching ethics in industry, which is lacking there."
The downturn in the local economy and the demand in overseas markets is spurring more Idaho entrepreneurs to think globally. Given less work by U.S. companies, they're diversifying to other continents.
"When they're laying off people, it's hard to keep us," said Ron Price of Price Associates, a business consulting firm in Nampa that now draws about 80 percent of its business from China. Its market previously was about 30 percent in Idaho and the balance in other states.
The Idaho Department of Commerce reports a recent increase in the number of business consultants, speakers and trade-show organizers peddling their services abroad . Idaho university professors, lab specialists, scientists and doctors also are exporting their knowledge. There are no statistics on the trend, but officials say they're a small fraction of Idaho's exports, which totaled nearly $4 billion in 2009.
"We have a lot of expertise in this state," Commerce spokeswoman Bibiana Nertney said. "These people are ambassadors for Idaho."
Stacy Tetschner, CEO of the National Speakers Association, said the demand for speakers globally is growing as businesses in underdeveloped countries grow.
"In Asia, the human-resource market is just really hungry for personal development for their employees and staff," Tetschner said. "They don't necessary have the expertise in the country right now."
Price owned an international nutrition company before founding Price Associates in 2004 in Nampa. In 35 years, he said, he has worked in 10 countries and served in almost every executive management capacity. Price is now an author, speaker and executive coach focused on strategic planning, business innovation, organizational growth, leadership integrity and talent management.
In 2007, he joined Gov. Butch Otter's trade mission to China to better understand the culture and make connections. Price spoke to business students at Fudan University in Shanghai and met with business leaders.
Since then, he has nurtured those relationships into consulting opportunities with CEOs and other high-level officials. They now keep him in China most of the year.
"It's always interesting how other cultures receive you," Price said. "You have to respond to the market, and you have to love what you do, not just for the money."
Both Price and Kituku said they found audiences hungry for the services they provide, and their information transferred easily.
"It was surprising," said Kituku, who earns his living from speaking to groups, giving seminars on public speaking and positive motivation, coaching individually and selling books in Idaho and other states. "They had never heard anything like" his presentation on how to become a public speaker and make money from it.
Kituku said Kenyans also embraced his stories linked to life applications.
Price said it is important that entrepreneurs go with the right motivation: to create value for others.
"When you go to another country, they can tell if you're there to help, not just take advantage," he said. "If you go to exploit, you hurt the American image."
Both men said working overseas demands cultural wisdom and flexibility.
"It's a new culture for me. I'm used to America," Kituku said. He came to the United States in his late 20s to complete a master's degree at the University of Wyoming. "You're dealing with a lot of unknowns."
For instance, American clients pay for Kituku's seminars in advance, but in Kenya, about half of those who attended paid right before the event began - one in American dollars. "The world is becoming so small," he said.
Price said expansion overseas occurred concurrently with a shift in the structure of his company. Where once he had employees and paid them salaries with bonuses and profit sharing, he now has subcontractors who work on a project basis in a virtual environment, meeting and working by phone or Internet. More of them live in China than the United States.
For Price, the new role means a lot of time in the air.
"I'm on an airplane every month," he said. "You have to be able to handle the travel part without it bothering you."
His bonus is getting to stay with his son, who has lived in Shanghai for the past 11 years, and his grandsons.
"That makes traveling a whole lot easier," he said.
Sandra Forester: 377-6464