Social entrepreneurship workshops come to California in July

Social entrepreneurship workshops come to California in July

Originally posted on www.ncronline.org

The Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University in California has been running short workshops for social entrepreneurs all over the world. Now, through a partnership with Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County, a pilot program is coming to the United States. 

"Even in the worldwide capital of innovation, many suffer from lack of access to basic resources," said Cassandra Staff, chief operating officer of Miller Center.

The San Francisco Bay Area GSBI Boost is a free, three-day, workshop for up to 40 social entrepreneurs "who are positively impacting the lives of those in need in the San Francisco Bay Area." The workshop will focus on strategic thinking, business plans, growth and long-term financial sustainability. Plus, attendees will also have the opportunity to attend networking events.

"Not only will these leaders work directly with Silicon Valley mentors," said Gregory R. Kepferle, CEO of Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County, "they will have a rare chance to collaborate with and learn from other leaders who are working to create innovative solutions to poverty in our area."

Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County has deep rooted connections from its 12 years of working on this issue in the Bay Area. Kepferle wants to use these relationships to encourage organizations to get involved and ultimately help new groups.

"We believe that with their [Miller Center] global expertise and our connections to the local community that we could spark, hopefully, a revolution here locally," Kepferle said.

Organizations can be for-profit, nonprofit or a hybrid and do not have to be affiliated with the Catholic Church. The main requirement is that the organization focuses on solutions that impact "vulnerable, low-income and/or underserved populations."

After the event, the pilot program will continue for up to 20 organizations by extending its participation with a six-month online program to help organizations develop business models and strategies to continue to grow. In addition to the online program, each organization with also be provided with mentors and will have the opportunity to present at an Investor Showcase in Silicon Valley.

But, it won't stop in California. If the pilot program succeeds, Kepferle said there are dreams of expanding the program nationally, working with Catholic Charities all over the country.

"Just because somebody is poor today, doesn't mean they have to be poor tomorrow," Kepferle said. "Living in poverty, doesn't mean they don’t have ambition and drive. This gives people that opportunity to create work, create income and assets to get out of poverty."

Thane Kreiner, executive director of Miller Center, said the Miller Center began thinking about bringing this type of programming to the United States after the 2015 election, when they noticed people were feeling "disenfranchised."

"We asked the question of whether or not social entrepreneurial approaches might be a mechanism to heal some of the division in the United States," Kreiner said.

And that's how the Miller Center's programing under the umbrella of Social Justice in the United States got started, he said.

The Miller Center is currently hosting more programs than ever before, Kreiner said. Founded in 1997, it has raised $580 million in investments and helped 259 million people, according to the Miller Center website.

Applications are open until June 1, with the program taking place July 24-26, in San Jose, California.

Unique Accelerator Program for SF Bay Area Social Entrepreneurs Seeks Applicants

Unique Accelerator Program for SF Bay Area Social Entrepreneurs Seeks Applicants

SANTA CLARA, Calif., May 24, 2018—Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University and Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County are soliciting applicants for a free, three-day, capacity-building workshop for up to 40 social entrepreneurs who are positively impacting the lives of those in need in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The San Francisco Bay Area GSBI® Boost will take place July 24–26, 2018 in San Jose, Calif., and will allow participating social entrepreneurs to gain valuable business knowledge. With an emphasis on improving strategic thinking, social entrepreneurs will more effectively articulate their business plans to demonstrate impact, growth, and long-term financial sustainability. It also will bring together local Bay Area social business leaders for an unparalleled networking event.

Miller Center has 15 years of experience helping more than 800 social enterprises around the world attain operational excellence and prepare for investment through its signature Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) programs. Boost participants will be accompanied by Silicon Valley mentors with expertise in innovation and entrepreneurship.

“We are tremendously excited to partner with Catholic Charities to bring our time-tested GSBI approach for supporting social entrepreneurs to organizations here in the San Francisco Bay Area,” said Cassandra Staff, chief operating officer of Miller Center. “Even in the worldwide capital of innovation, many suffer from lack of access to basic resources.”

Social entrepreneurship helps impoverished communities in a way that is sustainable. Social entrepreneurs home in on opportunities to provide innovative, large-scale solutions to local and worldwide problems.

“Not only will these leaders work directly with Silicon Valley mentors, they will have a rare chance to collaborate with and learn from other leaders who are working to create innovative solutions to poverty in our area,” said Gregory R. Kepferle, CEO of Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County.

After the Bay Area GSBI Boost program, up to 20 participants will have the opportunity to matriculate into the GSBI® Online accelerator—a six-month, mentored, virtual program where organizations develop business models and strategies to sustainably grow their enterprises. Those selected for the GSBI Online accelerator program will have an opportunity to showcase their plans for scaling with a justifiable ask at a Silicon Valley event.

The Bay Area GSBI Boost seeks social venture leaders who:

  • Lead an existing for-profit, nonprofit, or hybrid social enterprise
  • Deliver solutions that impact vulnerable, low-income, and/or underserved populations in the Bay Area
  • Have, or plan to have, an earned income component to their business model

Applications close June 1, 2018, and can be accessed at: www.scu-social-entrepreneurship.org/bayareaboost/.

About Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship
Founded in 1997, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship is one of three Centers of Distinction at Santa Clara University in California. Miller Center accelerates global, innovation-based entrepreneurship in service to humanity. Its strategic focus is on poverty eradication with an emphasis on climate resilience and womenís economic empowerment. To learn more about the Center or any of its social entrepreneurship programs, visit www.scu.edu/MillerCenter.

About Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County
Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County has worked to strengthen families and build economic self-reliance for the poor and vulnerable in the county for more than 62 years. Each year, more than 500 employees and 1,000 volunteers serve more than 40,000 individuals of all cultures and beliefs through 34 programs. Program areas include behavioral health, youth and family services, economic development, employment, housing, immigration legal services, older adult services, refugee resettlement, refugee foster care, emergency services, and more. Catholic Charities is working to reduce poverty with social change goals that target the alleviation, prevention, and reduction of poverty in our communities. To learn more, please visit www.catholiccharitiesscc.org.

About Santa Clara University
Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in Californiaís Silicon Valley, offers its more than 9,000 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business, and engineering; masterís degrees in business, education, counseling psychology, pastoral ministry, and theology; and law degrees and engineering doctoral degrees. Distinguished nationally by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. masterís universities, Californiaís oldest operating higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. For more information, see www.scu.edu.

Media Contacts
Deborah Lohse | SCU Media Communications | dlohse@scu.edu | 408-554-5121
Caroline Ocampo | Catholic Charities SCC | cocampo@catholiccharitiesscc.org | 408-325-5122
Adelene Gallego Ramos | Catholic Charities SCC | aramos@catholiccharitiesscc.org | 408-325-5123 

Entrepreneurs and investors mobilize to tackle challenges of refugees, migrants and modern-day slaves

Entrepreneurs and investors mobilize to tackle challenges of refugees, migrants and modern-day slaves

Original post from ImpactAlpha

ImpactAlpha, May 23 – An emerging ecosystem is beginning to move capital for people on the move.

Where others see refugees and other migrants as liabilities, a growing group of investors and entrepreneurs see assets: customers, talent and next-gen leaders.

Stocking the pipeline of ventures targeting “the migration market” with solution-oriented approaches is the Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins accelerator at the Miller Center at Santa Clara University. Among the 21 enterprises in the new cohort is a Nashville company using blockchain to help refugees secure their assets and firms that help refugees make a living through business services they can provide with only an internet connection.

As they grow, ventures that benefit people in forced-labor supply chains can look to a dedicated venture capital-style fund. Humanity United, the Omidyar Group organization, has done at least two deals from its $23 million Working Capital fund for solutions to forced labor and modern slavery. Provenance uses, yes, blockchain, for product traceability; Ulula’s software engages workers across supply chains.

And capital has begun to flow from billionaire George Soros’s $500 million commitment to drive business solutions to refugee challenges. Last year, Soros gave $50 million to Humanity Ventures, a partnership with Mastercard to develop financial tools and services to serve refugees.

To help pull that financing ecosystem together, a group of funders and investors are forming the Refugee Investor Network to connect investors with investable opportunities that benefit refugees. The network, developed by Alight Fund’s John Kluge and Andrew Stern at the Global Development Incubator, aims to help bridge the gap between private investors and non-governmental organizations and advocates. The goal: economies of scale, risk-mitigating partnerships between donors, governments and businesses, and local expertise on refugees and forced migrants.

Growing pools of capital reflect, for better or worse, a growing refugee and migration market. The world’s 22.5 million refugees and as many as 46 million people still forcibly enslaved are only the starkest examples of populations in need of fresh solutions. Another 65.6 million people have been “forcibly displaced,” meaning involuntary driven from their homes. And fully 224 million people, an all-time high, can be called “migrants,” or people living or working outside their homeland.

That’s not only a humanitarian crisis. It’s a staggering supply of untapped talent and leadership, and a demand for housing, healthcare, education and financial services from a population bigger than that of the United States.

By 2030, the new Refugee Investor Network aims to unlock at least $1 billion in new refugee-focused investment deals that, in turn, create at least a million new jobs and livelihood opportunities for refugees and host communities.

“It’s important not just to invest in firms but also in the sector itself,” Kluge told ImpactAlpha in an email exchange. He says there still is a disconnect between investors and deal opportunities. “We want to fix that and make it easier for private investors to put their capital to work supporting both displaced people and the communities hosting them.”

Seed stage

In short-term refugee solutions alone, estimates the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, there is an estimated financing gap of $3.1 billion. Many more billions are needed to ensure refugees and other migrants not only survive, but thrive and lift up the communities and economies around them.

That financing gap presupposes a more traditional foreign-aid approach. The migrant solutions represented by the cohort of early-stage enterprises selected for the “Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins” accelerator at the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University, showcase a more investment-driven approach

Leaf Global Fintech out of Nashville, Tennessee is using blockchain to help refugees “bank beyond borders.” Destiny Reflection in India provides court services for rescued women and then trains them for artisan jobs. WorkAround, in Boston, distributes piecemeal work digitally to migrants and refugees with an internet connection. Re:coded, an Iraqi nonprofit, is training young Syrian refugees to code so they can secure work wherever they end up.

The six-month business accelerator will work with 21 organizations focused on training and jobs, business services, food and education, energy access, health insurance and financial services to migrants, refugees and survivors of human-trafficking

Fintech revolution

Kiva’s World Refugee Fund, launched last year, is tapping crowd-sourced investments and funding from corporations and foundations to make $9 million available to refugees to borrow in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and other countries.Kaah International Microfinance Services in Somalia has provided over $8 million in financing to 8,000 Somali entrepreneurs and small business, including many refugee returnees.

Continuing up the capital continuum, the Ascend Venture Fund in Greece, a project of the Radcliffe Foundation, has raised $5 million (of a planned $20 million) to make commercial and sub-commercial investments into ventures in labor-intensive sectors such as agriculture, food, hospitality and tourism. Kuala Lumpur-based Cradle Fund and Hong Kong-based JC Management backed MyCash, which provides financial services to the more than three million migrant worker in Malaysia. Kois Invest is moving ahead with a livelihood bond for Syrian refugees.

Growth capital

Through it’s Working Capital fund, Humanity United is cutting larger checks to ventures in the emerging ‘labor-lens investing” category. Labor-lens investors seek to disrupt the $51 billion in profits reaped from goods made with forced labor. The fund, which raised $23 million in January from Walt Disney Company, Walmart Foundation, C&A Foundation and several impact investors, has backed Provenance, a blockchain-based startup for product traceability and Ulula, a software firm that allows for worker engagement in their supply chains.

Looking for large-scale impact, the hedge fund billionaire George Soros made a $500 million pledge to reshape the global response to refugees. In January, Soros invested $50 million in Humanity Ventures, an education and healthcare-focused partnership with Mastercard. Mastercard will develop products and services that can reach refugees on the move. The Soros Economic Development Fund is an investor in Humanity United’s Working Capital fund.

Corporations like IKEA and Starbucks are intentionally hiring refugees. Airbnb is attracting new hosts eager to house them. A Massachusetts workforce development pay-for-success program is trying to improve employability and skills for adult refugees and other immigrants.

Private capital, public good

The follow-on benefits from helping refugees and migrants build successful lives are huge. With nine out of 10 migrants on the move voluntarily and for economic reasons, each migrant family is its own engine of growth. The IMF says increasing the share of migrants in a population drives per capita GDP growth. Another report found a dollar spent welcoming refugees returns $2 within five years.

Helping refugees resettle in host countries pays off in economic progress and education, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. UNHCR notes that refugees resettled in the U.S., for example, settle quickly and that their income progression outpaces economic migrants.

Eradicating modern day slavery will bring millions into the formal economy and help avert any “race to the bottom” in global labor standards. Migrants rising lifts all boats.

California executives mentor businesses helping migrants and slaves

California executives mentor businesses helping migrants and slaves

Original post from Thomas Reuters Foundation News

LONDON, May 15 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Top Silicon Valley executives will help to grow the businesses of 21 entrepreneurs helping migrants, refugees and trafficking survivors, California's oldest university said on Tuesday, as companies with a social mission increase around the world.

The 21 social enterprises selected to join Santa Clara University's six-month online programme include a coffee company that uses its profits to educate South Sudanese refugees and a health insurance company for unregistered migrants in Thailand.

"We are inspired by the geographical diversity of over 100 applicants and the imaginative solutions they have developed to restore dignity to the most marginalized," said Thane Kreiner, director of the center that runs the programme, in a statement.

Entrepreneurs using businesses to help tackle social problems are emerging across the globe - improving communities, breaking the cycle of re-offending, solving education issues and reducing isolation amongst elderly.

The Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University says it is the world's largest social enterprise accelerator, having supported almost 900 young companies with the connections and knowledge they need to succeed.

It is the first time that the center, some 80 km south of San Francisco, has run a programme to boost the business skills, investment readiness and social impact of organisations that serve migrants, refugees and human trafficking survivors.

Mentors include executives from Google, LinkedIn and Paypal.

"Given the Syrian war and impact of climate change on poor communities around the planet, a lot of our mentors are interested in this cohort because they realise there are big problems that are growing in size," said Kreiner.

Worldwide, 258 million people are international migrants, according to the United Nations (U.N.), about 22 million of whom are refugees.

Manyang Reath spent 13 years in refugee camps in Ethiopia after fleeing civil war in Sudan. Now 29 years old and based in Washington D.C., he started 734 Coffee in 2015, using the profits to pay for the education of displaced children like him.

The coffee comes from Gambella in Ethiopia where more than 400,000 South Sudanese refugees live in camps, the U.N. says. Gambella's geographical coordinates - 7˚N 34˚E - give the coffee its name.

Reath has gone from selling 10 bags a month to about 4,000 bags currently and is hoping the business advice will help him create new markets for his coffee and raise awareness.

"There are people who want to do good for refugees but they don't know what to do," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"Maybe if they see all these projects, it will shed light on this issue."

(Reporting by Lee Mannion @leemannion, Editing Katy Migiro. (Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)

Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship Selects 21 Social Enterprises for Accelerator Focused on Refugees, Migrants, and Human Trafficking

Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship Selects 21 Social Enterprises for Accelerator Focused on Refugees, Migrants, and Human Trafficking

SANTA CLARA, Calif., May 15, 2018— Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University has selected 21 organizations to participate in its pioneering Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins (SEM) accelerator program, focused on social enterprises serving migrants, refugees, and human trafficking survivors around the world.

Leveraging 15 years of experience accelerating over 890 social enterprises in 65 countries, Miller Center will accompany the SEM cohort through its world-class Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) Online accelerator program and host an SEM Showcase on October 23 in the San Francisco Bay Area, preceding the Social Capital Markets (SOCAP) conference.

“Climate change and conflict are driving more families from their homes; poverty continues to place young women and men at risk of modern-day slavery,” remarked Thane Kreiner, Ph.D., executive director of Miller Center.  “We are inspired by the geographical diversity of over 100 applicants and the imaginative solutions they have developed to restore dignity to the most marginalized among our common human family.”

Globally, there are 22.5 million refugees, 65.6 million people who have been forcibly displaced from their homes, and a record 244 million migrants, according to the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees. Estimates of the number of modern-day slaves range from 21 million to 46 million.

The SEM accelerator program will be the fourteenth GSBI Online accelerator cohort since its 2011 pilot with the World Bank. The finalists have impact in 24 countries globally, with the largest numbers of enterprises working on the ground regionally in southeast Asia, East Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.

734coffee employs refugees in small-scale coffee farming, connects their product to the global marketplace, and is led by Manyang Kher, a former refugee.

1951 Coffee Company provides job training and employment to refugees while educating the surrounding community about refugee life and issues.

African Entrepreneur Collective offers business development support and direct investments to refugee entrepreneurs living in Rwanda.

Courageous Kitchen Inc provides Thai cooking classes for tourists visiting Bangkok; it uses the profits to provide food aid and educational services to vulnerable urban refugees.

Destiny Reflection leads a number of charitable projects, including the for-profit Reflection business that employs human trafficking survivors to make fashion accessories that Reflection sells to ethical businesses.

Dreamlopments Ltd Dreamlopments offers private, low-cost, and not-for-profit health insurance through its M-FUND to unregistered migrants in Thailand, enabling them to access affordable, comprehensive, quality health-care services.

Five One Labs provides intensive training, mentorship, community, and seed funding to help internally displaced refugees in Iraq launch and grow businesses.

Leaf Global Fintech offers financial services to the stateless and excluded through Blockchain technology and digital currency to facilitate secure asset storage and transport.

Makers Unite runs talent development and matchmaking programs for refugees in The Netherlands, engaging them and local community members in the collaborative production of sustainable products.

MORE THAN ONE PERSPECTIVE (MTOP) runs an associate program, an advanced 3-6 month training program, prepares highly qualified refugees with backgrounds in IT, engineering, and business for entry into the Austrian labor market.

Needslist manages an online marketplace that allows donors to view and meet real-time needs for displaced people globally.

Potential Energy manufactures and distributes the Berkeley Darfur Stove, an energy-efficient stove for rural, refugee families.

Re:Coded runs a signature coding bootcamp for conflict-affected youth, the first of its kind in Iraq and Turkey, providing them transferable skills.

Refugee Company offers job skills trainings and placement in fields including hospitality, textile manufacturing, marketing, and solar panel technology for refugees who have been resettled in The Netherlands.

Refugees{code} is building a coding school for refugees to integrate them into the job market in Austria.

Regenesys BPO provides digital outsourcing services to US-based companies by training human trafficking survivors. Based in Philippines, Regenesys is expanding to Cambodia.

Relevee trains trafficking survivors in India to be fine jewelry makers and sells the products online and in high-end stores.

Scheherazade Initiatives offers participatory theater workshops that develop knowledge and awareness around issues affecting migrants and refugees and help refugees and migrants build life skills to build new homes in their host communities.

Talent Beyond Boundaries matches skilled refugees to global employment opportunities, creating a durable, private sector driven solution that enables refugees to use labor visas and pursue productive lives based on their skills.

WorkAround is an impact sourcing provider of translation, transcription, data entry and scrubbing, image and keyword tagging, research, and human input for machine learning that helps companies get more done for less while providing jobs to talented refugees.

Zero Trafficking LLC sells enterprise SaaS solutions that utilize artificial intelligence to eradicate human trafficking.

Each social enterprise will be accompanied by two Silicon Valley executive mentors through a structured curriculum that helps it discern how to scale its impact. The SEM Showcase will afford the social enterprise and impact investing communities opportunities to learn about innovative business models and technology innovations from the cohort participants. 

Foundations and family offices with interest in refugees, migrants, or human trafficking survivors are invited to join Miller Center on its journey to transform dysfunctional systems through entrepreneurship. The Chao Foundation and Vodafone Foundation have already stepped forward to support the SEM program.

"Women and girls are disproportionately affected by human trafficking, the global refugee crisis, and migration. The Vodafone Americas Foundation is working to create greater economic opportunity and to close the gender gap for women and girls,” said June Sugiyama, Vodafone Americas Foundation Director.  "The organizations in this cohort are doing instrumental work to enable women and girls to thrive."

“The Chao Foundation/Transparent Fish Fund is committed to serving children in disadvantaged regions and to promoting a spirit of philanthropy,” said Doug Tsui, Board member and Adviser to The Chao Foundation/Transparent Fish Fund. “Partnering with Miller Center in its pioneering work to accelerate these unique social enterprises helps us advance both elements of our mission.” 

About Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship
Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship is the largest and most successful social enterprise accelerator in the world. Founded in 1997, Miller Center is one of three Centers of Distinction at Santa Clara University and is located in the heart of the world’s most entrepreneurial ecosystem. We leverage the entrepreneurial spirit and innovative ethos of Silicon Valley and underpin it with the Jesuit heritage of service to the poor and protection of the planet. To learn more about the Center or any of its social entrepreneurship programs, visit www.scu.edu/MillerCenter.

About Santa Clara University
Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California’s Silicon Valley, offers its more than 9,000 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business and engineering; master’s degrees in business, education, counseling psychology, pastoral ministry and theology; and law and engineering doctoral degrees. Distinguished nationally by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. master’s universities, California’s oldest operating higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. For more information, see www.scu.edu.

Media Contacts
Rhonda Brauer | RBrauer Consulting for Miller Center | Rhonda@RBrauerconsult.com | (213) 300-2717

Deborah Lohse | SCU Media Communications | dlohse@scu.edu | (408) 554-5121

 

Banner photo courtesy of Re-Coded.

“Mitigating Poverty and Protecting the Planet Through Social Entrepreneurship ”

“Mitigating Poverty and Protecting the Planet Through Social Entrepreneurship ”

 

Miller Center’s Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) welcomes new cohorts of social entrepreneurs seeking to end global poverty and protect the planet, with a focus on women’s economic empowerment and climate resilience.  

SANTA CLARA, Calif., Feb. 12, 2018 —Forty-one organizations from around the world have been selected to participate in the largest and most successful university-based social enterprise accelerator in the world, the Global Social Benefit Institute, (GSBI®).  

Located at Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, GSBI  has for 15 years brought together global social enterprise leaders with Silicon Valley business executives, student fellows and funders.  This, along with a proven methodology, has assisted social entrepreneurs in reaching their next levels of business growth and impact.

Masters of the “Missing Middle”

Miller Center has an established expertise in helping social entrepreneurs navigate a notoriously difficult phase of  funding known as the “missing middle.” That’s when they’ve exhausted grants or other early-phase startup funds, but have not yet developed a blueprint to scale or established the investment readiness to garner between $50,000 and $2 million investments. The incoming cohorts of social entrepreneurs will work with their executive mentors to identify appropriate growth and funding strategies, with supporting materials. In total, Miller Center has supported 819 social enterprises that have raised $580 million in funding, allowing them to positively impact 259 million people.

Two GSBI Accelerator Cohorts

Of the organizations selected  for GSBI 2018, one group of 20 social enterprises will attend the 9-month GSBI In-residence accelerator, geared toward mature organizations that are on the cusp of scaling —taking their businesses to new geographic regions or reaching exponentially more beneficiaries. GSBI In-residence accelerator participants come to Santa Clara University’s Silicon Valley campus for ten days in the summer, for intensive mentoring and preparation for short presentations to an audience of 200 at an annual Investor Showcase.  

Another 21 will receive six months of online-only training, via the GSBI Online accelerator, geared toward emerging social enterprises that need help validating their business models, developing strategies for growth, and creating communication tools for investors and partners. They receive customized online mentoring from individually matched, seasoned volunteer executive mentors.

Women and Climate Focused

In keeping with Miller Center’s mission,  the enterprises chosen to receive training are focused primarily in two areas related to poverty eradication: Women Rising or Climate Resilience. Companies like Bidhaa Sasa, ClickMedix, and ENVenture are led by women and support women through employment opportunities or health-access tools. Organizations like Azimuth,  EarthSpark International, Good Nature Agro, SEWA Grih Rin Limited, and Untapped are helping communities develop capacity to withstand the effects of climate change by providing renewable and off-grid energy products and tools, developing and increasing the productivity of smallholder farmers, creating more affordable housing options, and helping secure clean water.

“Climate change affects the poor the most, and among the poor, women and children. Creating resilience to climate change in poor communities and economically empowering women are the most powerful levers for poverty eradication," said Thane Kreiner, Ph.D., executive director of Miller Center. "We are delighted to welcome two more GSBI accelerator cohorts to our family of social enterprises committed to creating a more just, humane, and sustainable world."

Miller Center received applications from 250 organizations.

The program has achieved stellar results in its 15 years of operation:

  • 819 social entrepreneurs have gone through GSBI accelerator programs

  • Alumni organizations have raised $580 million in investments

  • Alumni have collectively impacted 259 million lives through their social enterprises.

About Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship
Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship is the largest and most successful university-based social enterprise accelerator in the world. Founded in 1997, Miller Center is one of three Centers of Distinction at Santa Clara University and is located in the heart of the world’s most entrepreneurial ecosystem. We leverage the entrepreneurial spirit and innovative ethos of Silicon Valley and underpin it with the Jesuit heritage of service to the poor and protection of the planet. To learn more about the Center or any of its social entrepreneurship programs, visit www.scu.edu/MillerCenter.

About Santa Clara University
Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California’s Silicon Valley, offers its more than 9,000 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business and engineering; master’s degrees in business, education, counseling psychology, pastoral ministry and theology; and law and engineering doctoral degrees. Distinguished nationally by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. master’s universities, California’s oldest operating higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. For more information, see www.scu.edu.

Media Contacts
Rhonda Brauer | RBrauer Consulting for Miller Center | Rhonda@RBrauerconsult.com | (213) 300-2717
Deborah Lohse | SCU Media Relations | dlohse@scu.edu | (408) 554-5121

Miller Center Launches “Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins” Program

Miller Center Launches “Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins” Program

For the first time, up to 20 global social enterprises serving migrants, refugees, and human-trafficking survivors will receive training through Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship’s 15-year-old accelerator program

SANTA CLARA, Calif, Feb. 6, 2018—Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship is launching a special Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) Online accelerator program focused on boosting the business skills, investment readiness, and social impact of organizations that serve migrants, refugees, and human-trafficking survivors.

The new seven-month Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins (SEM) accelerator will draw on Miller Center’s 15 years of experience successfully preparing social enterprises for investment and growth.  The program will culminate in an Oct. 23 Investor Showcase in the San Francisco Bay Area, affording participants an opportunity to meet investors at the influential annual SOCAP (social capital) meeting .

Globally, there are 22.5 million refugees, 65.6 million people who have been forcibly displaced from their homes, and a record 244 million migrants, according to the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees. Estimates of the number of modern-day slaves range from 21 million to 46 million.

Social enterprises selected to participate in the SEM accelerator will benefit from the proven GSBI Online accelerator curriculum, Silicon Valley mentors who accompany them and serve as trusted advisers, and the collective wisdom gained from accelerating over 800 social enterprises in 65 countries.

“At its core, the Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins accelerator is about recognizing and restoring the dignity each human being deserves. Instead of drawing boundaries and building walls, Miller Center will lead the charge in distinguishing SCU as a stalwart ally for some of the most marginalized and victimized peoples in our world,” said Santa Clara University President Michael E. Engh, S.J. “This is entrepreneurship for humanity, and I am heartened by the potential for helping migrants, aiding refugees, and curbing human trafficking.”

The cohort will be limited to 20 participants; as with all Miller Center accelerator programs, social enterprises are not charged to participate.

“We envision a world where all people are architects of their own futures. Poverty, climate change, and violence have led to unprecedented number of refugees, migrants, and human trafficking victims,” said Thane Kreiner, Ph.D., executive director of Miller Center. “In the Jesuit tradition, we seek to accelerate innovative and entrepreneurial solutions that restore dignity to the most vulnerable among us.”

Interested social entrepreneurs should apply before the March 16 deadline at http://www.scu.edu/millercenter/sem.

Impact investors interested in social enterprises focused on migrants, refugees, and human-trafficking survivors can contact Mark Correnti, director of impact investing at Miller Center at mcorrenti@scu.edu.

About Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship
Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship is the largest and most successful social enterprise accelerator in the world. Founded in 1997, Miller Center is one of three Centers of Distinction at Santa Clara University and is located in the heart of the world’s most entrepreneurial ecosystem. We leverage the entrepreneurial spirit and innovative ethos of Silicon Valley and underpin it with the Jesuit heritage of service to the poor and protection of the planet. To learn more about the Center or any of its social entrepreneurship programs, visit www.scu.edu/MillerCenter.

About Santa Clara University
Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California’s Silicon Valley, offers its more than 9,000 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business and engineering; master’s degrees in business, education, counseling psychology, pastoral ministry and theology; and law and engineering doctoral degrees. Distinguished nationally by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. master’s universities, California’s oldest operating higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. For more information, see www.scu.edu.

Media Contacts
Rhonda Brauer | RBrauer Consulting for Miller Center | Rhonda@RBrauerconsult.com | (213) 300-2717
Deborah Lohse | SCU Media Communications | dlohse@scu.edu | (408) 554-5121

Photo credit: Larry Hanelin

Seeing Beyond Silos: A More Holistic Approach to Supporting Social Entrepreneurs

Seeing Beyond Silos: A More Holistic Approach to Supporting Social Entrepreneurs

Originally posted on NextBillion.net

SANTA CLARA, Calif., Jan. 16, 2018 - Social enterprises, and small and growing businesses (SGBs) are run by a special breed of entrepreneur: Not only do they address some of the world’s most pressing (and challenging) issues, but they must do so while also running a sustainable business. Despite their many talents, these entrepreneurs can’t achieve these goals on their own, which raises a question: What’s the best way to support them and boost their businesses?

These questions often come up in global development circles, and there are no shortage of answers. At Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, we believe two things are needed to improve the support that leads to enterprise scaling. The first is a higher-level, collective approach to funding and capacity development. The second is a renewed focus on the role of accelerators.

Two recent reports shed interesting light on the broader issue of how best to support entrepreneurial and social entrepreneurial endeavors. In its “Insights from USAID’s Support for Small and Growing Businesses” report, USAID’s Partnering to Accelerate Entrepreneurship (PACE) initiative identifies barriers preventing entrepreneurs from reaching their full potential, including “access to financing networks, market information, business development services and market infrastructure.” According to the report, “These entrepreneurs find themselves in the ‘pioneer gap’— too big for seed funding, but too risky for traditional investment.”

For its part, the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) uses its “Beyond Investment: The Power of Capacity-Building Support” report to propose that impact investors use “[c]apacity-building support, also known as technical assistance…to complement their investments and expand and deepen their impact.”

We see merit in many of the points made in both of these reports, including the conclusion that accelerators add value and that they need funding. But we’d like to push the discussion further to advocate for a more holistic perspective around how entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs are funded and accelerated, including how best to address the specific needs of women-led enterprises.

 

COORDINATED DIVISION OF LABOR

If it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes an entire ecosystem to shepherd an entrepreneurial venture from inception through scaling. Unfortunately, too often the various actors in the ecosystem take a splintered approach to working with entrepreneurs. Two important categories of ecosystem actors are:

  • Funding sources, such as grants from foundations, or equity investments from impact investors or traditional venture capitalists, which follow a number of different strategies that have different expectations for both who qualifies for the investment and how much return that investment should yield.
  • Accelerators and other intermediaries, which provide technical support, business mentoring, and other ways to strengthen entrepreneurs’ ability to operate and grow their businesses.

In practice, there’s considerable overlap between what each of these two categories might provide to any given SGB or social enterprise. And we think that’s a problem because it can lead to either duplicated efforts or missing pieces in enterprises’ support systems.

For instance, while the GIIN report advocated for investors to expand their role in providing capacity development support for their investees, doing so threatens to cut into investors’ already small margins, and it moves them outside of their own core capacity. Investor-led capacity development also neglects the market need to support enterprises that are not yet “investment ready.”

Meanwhile, there is a growing trend for accelerators to make financial investments in their portfolio companies—either to offset a portion of their costs or to directly support an enterprise’s scaling.

Introducing investment possibilities into an acceleration program is potentially problematic because:

  • It detracts from the accelerator’s ability to make unbiased recommendations about a course that aligns with the mission, vision and values of the enterprise;
  • It narrows the investment perspective by evaluating financial returns only as they relate to the ultimate impact of the enterprise;
  • It forces accelerators to dedicate resources to investment management processes that are rarely offset by potential returns;
  • Perhaps most importantly, it hinders accelerators’ ability to work with organizations still at very early stages of development to fill the pipeline of investment-ready businesses.

What’s needed is a more collaborative approach that bridges the siloed perspectives of investors, accelerators or advisors, and provides a more holistic range of support – not through vertical integration, but through structured collaboration. As an example, Miller Center’s Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI) programs offer in-depth, one-on-one mentorship with highly experienced, carefully selected Silicon Valley executives, and a curriculum that at least touches on the full range of what social entrepreneurs need to know to run a successful business. The accelerator programs work to get social entrepreneurs ready for investment, and they provide access to a network of peers, partners and potential investors who can help them along the way. These activities extend well beyond an entirely investment-focused approach.

 

CASE IN POINT: SERVING ENTREPRENEURS USING A GENDER LENS

Taking a purely investment-focused perspective on building entrepreneurial capacity also fails to address the special challenges faced by women entrepreneurs. PACE reports that: “Women-led SGBs working with PACE intermediaries significantly outperform their peers, growing revenues 1.5 times faster and jobs twice as fast. Yet… women-led SGBs receive disproportionately less follow-on financing. Despite outperforming their peers in revenues and job growth, women-owned businesses struggle to receive investment.”

Accelerators can perform an important credentialing function—helping entrepreneurs who lack resources, business experience, contacts or access to financing to become trustworthy in the eyes of potential investors, customers and business partners. This credentialing function is especially important for women entrepreneurs, who historically have faced restricted admission to both the formal and informal systems that are prerequisites for business success.

At Miller Center, we have validated the effectiveness of accelerators in helping to level the playing field for women entrepreneurs. After completing a GSBI accelerator program, our women-led social enterprises are able to raise more investment than our male-led enterprises. Clearly, something about the accelerator programs enables this shift.

 

SOME GUIDELINES FOR ACTION

Returning to the original question, how can we best support the success of social enterprises and SGBs? Of course, this is a multi-faceted question requiring multi-faceted answers. But here are a few suggestions we could begin implementing now:

  • Adopt a holistic, intention-based approach toward social enterprises and SGBs. It’s one thing to adopt best practices horizontally, such as within the accelerator, foundation or impact investment communities. But optimizing each actor’s role in an entrepreneur’s journey toward business success also requires working together vertically throughout the ecosystem. Beginning with the intention and desired outcomes for each social enterprise or SGB, all the various actors should coordinate their efforts toward these ultimate goals while focusing on what each does best.
    It’s worth noting that we are far from the first actor to advocate for more vertical coordination, and we commend the efforts of Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE), GIIN and others to create a more collaborative ecosystem. Still, the reality remains that very few investors and accelerators have formed or formalized effective pipeline partnerships. More candid conversations and successful examples are required to bridge this gap.
  • Join forces for efficiency and alignment. Impact investors that team up with like-minded accelerators can work together to enhance the success of the entrepreneurs in their portfolios. Partnering with successful social enterprise incubators and accelerators not only promises increased efficiency for impact investors, but also enhances investors’ alignment with their portfolio companies’ business models, expectations for impact and growth, and future funding requirements.
  • Start funding accelerators. Investment in accelerators — and other intermediaries between funders and recipients of funds — can have effects beyond jobs, revenue growth and investments made. Reaching marginalized customers at the base of the pyramid requires innovative and sustainable business models. Accelerators are ideally suited to deliver training and mentoring that lead to refinements in product design, distribution models and partnerships — so that companies addressing underserved communities are better positioned for success and growth.
  • Increase the magnitude and type of funding available. Social enterprises and SGBs need more public funding, blended finance options and patient capital in general. Beyond that, they also need more options for early- and late-stage investing to bridge what Shell Foundation recently called the “growth-stage funding gap.” Bridge funding — characterized by flexibility in capital instruments, investment terms and return expectations — can be crucial for nurturing promising enterprises while providing commercial investors with greater incentive to become involved with social enterprises and SGBs.

Whether an entrepreneur is aiming to address poverty, ameliorate the effects of climate change, improve the health of a community or work toward greater economic empowerment of women, the intention for the enterprise should guide everything from the type of funding sought to the type of accelerator program chosen. It’s up to us as actors in the development ecosystem to find more creative and effective ways to work together to help more entrepreneurs bring their intention and vision to fruition.

 

Alex Pan is senior program manager, Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI) at the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship.

Mark Correnti is the director of Impact Investing at the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship.

Banner photo courtesy of Alison Postma via Flickr

Global Social Entrepreneurs Gather on Campus Aug. 9-18

Global Social Entrepreneurs Gather on Campus Aug. 9-18

 Miller Center’s signature Global Social Benefit Institute Accelerator welcomes accomplished social entrepreneurs from around the world

Miller Center’s signature Global Social Benefit Institute Accelerator welcomes accomplished social entrepreneurs from around the world

SANTA CLARA, Calif., Aug. 2, 1017—The Mexican company Someone Somewhere recently lined up $400,000 in financing. That’s enough to keep its business of selling artisan-made adventure gear going for the next year or more.

But to achieve their bigger goal—to help millions of rural Mexican artisans out of poverty by selling their goods to well-to-do, globetrotting travelers—the social enterprise needs to refine its growth plan, develop a path to operational excellence, and create a digital marketing strategy and a financial plan to generate interest from investors and partners worldwide.

That’s why the company’s director Jose Antonio Nuño will be coming to Santa Clara University’s campus Aug. 9-18 for 10 days of intensive guidance from volunteer mentors. These mentors are veteran business executives who made their marks at Google and Sun Microsystems in Silicon Valley, far from Nuño’s home base in Mexico. 

Nuño is one of 22 social entrepreneurs from 14 businesses that have been hand-picked to attend this unique, fully funded accelerator program at Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship.The Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) Accelerator program spans 10 months, culminating with the 10-day, summer in-residence program.

This year’s cohort hails from 14 different regions—eight of them in Africa, one in India, and three in Mexico. Seven of the attendees are women.

Now in its 15th year, the GSBI Accelerator program chooses social enterprises that have great potential to break through to new levels of impact, or to a new geographic market, to provide market-based solutions to global poverty.

“We are proud and honored to accompany social entrepreneurs who are ready to scale their businesses to solve acute problems of poverty in their home countries, like unemployment, toxic fuel or energy scarcity, or other problems afflicting billions of people worldwide,” said Thane Kreiner, Ph.D., executive director of Miller Center. “Our 150-plus volunteer mentors are leaders in developed-world business-building. They come back to Miller Center year after year because the challenges these global enterprises face provide a fascinating and humbling glimpse into what can be accomplished in even the most unimaginably difficult environments.”

At the end of their on-campus training, the 14 social enterprises will present for six minutes each, at a grand Investor Showcase, Aug. 17. In attendance will be 200 investors, partners, and influencers in the specialized world of “impact investing.”

A full list of the 14 social enterprises attending is available at Miller Center. Among the other enterprises presenting will be: 

  • Food for Education, of Nairobi, Kenya, which provides nutritious foods to vulnerable schoolchildren by converting profits from a food delivery business to school lunches.
  • Nizam Bijli, of Karachi, Pakistan, which provides pay-as-you-go solar energy to off-grid customers.
  • Simusolar, of San Francisco, which provides rural Tanzanians with a wide array of solar products using installment plans and mobile payments.
  • Tugende, of Kampala, Uganda, which helps people own the productive assets they use for their livelihoods, such as motorcycles, taxis, or bikes.

Journalists are invited to meet these and other social entrepreneurs attending GSBI’s annual gathering. Contact Deborah Lohse (dlohse@scu.edu) or Cassandra Staff (cstaff@scu.edu) to arrange interviews with social enterprises of interest.

About Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship
Founded in 1997, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship is one of three Centers of Distinction at Santa Clara University in California. Miller Center accelerates global, innovation-based entrepreneurship in service to humanity. Its strategic focus is on poverty eradication with an emphasis on climate resilience and women’s economic empowerment. To learn more about the Center or any of its social entrepreneurship programs, visit www.scu.edu/MillerCenter.


About Santa Clara University
Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California’s Silicon Valley, offers its more than 9,000 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business, and engineering; master’s degrees in business, education, counseling psychology, pastoral ministry, and theology; and law degrees and engineering doctoral degrees. Distinguished nationally by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. master’s universities, California’s oldest operating higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. For more information, see www.scu.edu.

Media Contact
Deborah Lohse | SCU Media Communications | dlohse@scu.edu | 408-554-5121

Looking For the Next Big Thing: New Partnership Builds Fintech Ecosystems in Four Emerging Start-up Markets

Looking For the Next Big Thing: New Partnership Builds Fintech Ecosystems in Four Emerging Start-up Markets

Editor’s note: Throughout 2017, NextBillion is organizing content around a monthly theme, dedicating special attention to a specific sector alongside our broader coverage. This post is part of our focus on technology for the month of May.

Ask the average person what comes to mind when they think of a tech start-up hub. They will probably answer Silicon Valley, picturing geniuses in hooded sweatshirts. Or they might say Bangalore, thinking of sari-clad staffers in futuristic call centers. But the top-of-mind answer would probably not be the Persian Gulf. Or the former Soviet bloc countries. The reality, though, is that some of the best ideas can be found in places we’re overlooking. And nurturing that potential – the goal of a new partnership between Village Capital and MetLife Foundation in four emerging start-up markets – can pay dividends beyond the purely financial.

Central and Eastern Europe, along with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), face daunting challenges alongside unique opportunities for innovation. Ukraine faces political and economic uncertainty, including multiple currency devaluations. It also graduates 15,000 IT professionals every year and saw year-over-year venture investment increase more than 230 percent between 2014-2015. Turkey faces political challenges of its own, but early-stage investment in Turkish tech start-ups continues to grow, too, thanks to strong engineering talent from Turkey’s universities and a young population comfortable with technology and eager to be connected. UAE also skews young. More than a third of its population is under age 25, and the UAE’s leaders seem determined to attract tech investment to diversify the economic base and create good new jobs. Poland, which was arguably the financial capital of Central Europe already, is emerging as a tech start-up center, too.

Village Capital is supporting entrepreneurs in all four markets – Poland, Turkey, UAE and Ukraine – based on their potential. Village Capital is a venture capital firm focused on working with entrepreneurs who have the potential to solve real-world problems, whether environmental, social, or a combination. Then we support them with the resources they need to refine their innovations and take them to scale.

We’ve supported more than 500 entrepreneurs in a dozen countries, and we’ve learned that entrepreneurs need money, sure, but that’s not all they need. Before they can even think about funding, start-ups need the support of an ecosystem.

Think again about Silicon Valley. Decades before the hoodie-clad geniuses showed up, the Valley was research labs scattered among apple orchards. Silicon Valley didn’t become great because of its early inventions, ranging from the semiconductor to the microprocessor, but because its innovators built an ecosystem, not just specific firms. The talent in Silicon Valley grew exponentially, each innovator and engineer recruiting the next. The Valley is also embedded in a larger society with a sophisticated financial sector and governed by the rule of law, including intellectual property right protections. This kind of ecosystem – the thousands of factors, some obvious, others invisible, that converge to make innovation possible – is so important that it’s easy to take for granted. Silicon Valley succeeded because generations invested in the ecosystem, not just specific ideas.

Village Capital, in partnership with MetLife Foundation, is making a similar investment in fintech ecosystems in these nascent markets. Fintech, or technology solutions to improve financial services, holds great promise to solve a problem that both Village Capital and the foundation care about deeply: financial health. Millions of people in low- and middle-income countries lack basic financial services, and even in high-income countries, financial stress is a major issue: One well-known recent survey found that almost half of all U.S. adults said that they would have a hard time covering a $400 emergency. Fintech solutions like mobile money and financial coaching have already helped populations globally access the financial system and manage their savings.

Fintech is a relatively young field whose breakthrough potential to expand financial health has only begun to be tapped. The Village Capital/MetLife Foundation partnership will nurture the kinds of partnerships that fintech innovations need in order to scale. Bankers and tech entrepreneurs operate in different worlds; bridging those cultures can be difficult. We’ll also enable intermediaries to convene important stakeholders around the new companies to help them navigate regulations, build relationships with investors and find the right key staffers.

Village Capital and MetLife Foundation are identifying barriers to scale and designing solutions, building a roadmap for future innovations with the end goal – financial health at large scale – always in mind. As our work progresses in Poland, Turkey, the UAE and Ukraine, we plan to showcase the top innovations locally and internationally. All four markets have unique characteristics that make them high-potential start-up hubs. All four, we are confident, will have world-class examples to share.

 

Financial health, a key focus area for Village Capital, is also the five-year strategic focus of MetLife Foundation, Village Capital’s partner on the Financial Health Forums project. MetLife Foundation is devoting U.S. $200 million to financial health via grant-making all over the world. More information about the partnership is available here. 

 

Ross Baird is the CEO of Village Capital, a venture capital firm headquartered in Washington, D.C., with a portfolio of more than 70 investments globally. Françoise Lamotte is senior vice president, head of direct and digital of MetLife’s EMEA (Europe Middle East Africa) region.

Photo: Warsaw skyline. Photo credit: Guillaume Speurt, via Flickr.

This Social Venture Helps Marginalized People Get a Leg Up

This Social Venture Helps Marginalized People Get a Leg Up

Originally posted by Devin Thorpe

Walking through the dusty Nairobi slum called Kawangware, the general bustle of the place overwhelms the visitor. Grace Njeri lives in the neighborhood and she’s got work to do. She recently signed on as a sales rep for the social enterprise Livelyhoods and this is her third day on the job.

Yesterday, she had her first sale. She sold a clean cookstove and she’s carrying another one through the streets; she holds the stove in one hand and the empty box in the other. As she walks, she and her trainer Simon Mwenya spot a man in an informal hardware store looking at the stove. She decides to approach him.

With her winning smile and the knowledge that she has three children at home and no father to help carry the load, she quickly makes the sale. As Thane Kreiner, the Executive Director for the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University completes the receipt for her as part of his field work today, Grace learns that the buyer would like to become a distributor himself. He’s interested in buying 20 more stoves.

 THANE KREINER OF THE MILLER CENTER COMPLETES THE RECEIPT FOR THE CUSTOMER

THANE KREINER OF THE MILLER CENTER COMPLETES THE RECEIPT FOR THE CUSTOMER

Grace was doing well before the possibility of selling 20 more stoves popped up. After selling two units in her first three days she is well on her way to her first month’s target of six stoves.

She takes the cash from the sale and walks across the street to an M-Pesa kiosk. The ubiquitous kiosks are so common in Nairobi that there are sometimes multiple competing shops on the same block. They are never far away. She hands the clerk the 3,490 shillings (about $35) she collected for the stove and the money is instantly applied to the account on her phone. Using her smartphone, she then transfers the entire amount to Livelyhoods. She’ll collect her commissions and any bonuses she may earn at the end of the month.

 GRACE NJERI, AFTER MAKING HER FIRST SALE OF THE DAY

GRACE NJERI, AFTER MAKING HER FIRST SALE OF THE DAY

After completing the transaction, she cajoles a colleague into allowing her to take the electric kettle in hopes of finding a buyer. Around the corner, she spots the barber shop, a shop that isn’t 100 square feet in size, has two barbers and two customers in it. She recognizes that there are four prospects who can’t leave.

She enters and within five minutes she leaves having taken an order for a blender and another for an iron. Her day is getting better and it isn’t even noon.

Livelyhoods is intent on creating quality employment opportunities for some of Kenya’s least qualified. Sales reps last an average of only four months. A few won’t survive their first week. Some people aren’t cut out for sales.

At 44, Grace is old than the average of 24. The sales reps who attended the meeting this morning at 8:00 sharp–the trainer Lillian locks the door promptly at 8:00–were typically younger. Split almost perfectly between men and women, the crew included eight women and six men.

Most of the reps will move on to better jobs, the company says. The position is intended to be preparatory. Training is pretty intense.

The meeting began comfortably with introductions. Then Lillian offered an enthusiastic evangelical prayer. She then moved on to stretches with twenty people in a 200 square foot room. Despite the cramped quarters, the team seemed genuinely to enjoy the stretching as Lillian made it into a game of “Simon says.” I couldn’t help but wonder if the game was more or less amusing with two Simons in the room. No one seemed to notice.

With that complete, real sales training with goal setting and a review of the seven steps of a sale were presented, reviewed and practiced. Jeff Miller, the namesake for the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship who is visiting Nairobi, provided a group of reps with some personal sales training. Later, he would accompany some of the reps and help one close five sales in one hour.

 JEFF MILLER COACHES A TEAM OF REPS

JEFF MILLER COACHES A TEAM OF REPS

Livelyhoods generated $440,000 in revenue in 2016, according to Claire Baker, the Director of Development. With growth beginning to ramp, in part due to a new layaway program for the $35 stoves, the company hopes to help more people in 2017.

The company’s founder, Tania Laden, participated in the Miller Center’s Global Social Benefit institute program in 2016. I reported on that here.

Despite Big Impact, This Nonprofit Faces Challenges

Despite Big Impact, This Nonprofit Faces Challenges

Originally posted by Devin Thorpe

Potential Energy, a clean cookstove manufacturer based in Kampala, Uganda is facing challenges on several fronts. Despite having sold 45,000 high-efficiency cook stoves, the nonprofit venture is facing a host of troubles, including some existential threats.

Potential Energy sells the Berkeley-Darfur stove primarily to NGOs that give or sell them to refugees. The stove was developed with help from refugees in Darfur at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs. The wood-burning stove is a highly regarded “tier 4” stove that reduces wood consumption by more than 50 percent and reduces smoke and pollution even more.

The nonprofit notes on its website that the stoves have already impacted 270,000 people, mostly refugees.

But today, Potential Energy faces big challenges. It has paid to produce 5,000 stoves in India that sit there unassembled. According to CEO Jessica De Clerk, originally from Portland, Oregon, the company lacks the resources to bring the stoves to Uganda from India. Between shipping costs and duties, the cost to import them nearly matches the $10 per unit cost to build them in the first place.

Once they arrive, if they do, Potential Energy needs to assemble them and sell them–neither task will be free. While they have a number of small orders, the bulk of the stoves would not have an immediate home. Jessica says she hopes to sell the stoves for $20 each in bulk, meaning that Potential Energy will almost certainly lose money on bulk sales.

The challenges don’t end there. In an effort to broaden its product line and diversify its revenue sources, Potential Energy has begun selling several models of charcoal burning stoves to low-income people in urban Kampala. These stoves range from $6 to $50. The $50 stoves are sold on credit and come with contracts that require the customers to purchase more environmentally friendly charcoal briquettes.

These efforts don’t all sit well with donors, some of whom are focused on moving to the sale only of stoves that are deemed “tier 4” for both efficiency and emissions. Such stoves cost about $100 and require a fan to provide secondary air to enhance burning. Jessica, living and working in Kampala since she came here to support a project for a Portland Rotary Club, says the high prices make selling such stoves impossible. Without them, however, she faces a dearth of funding.

And there’s more. She took us to visit three customers who have purchased the $50 high-efficiency charcoal stoves.

 HELEN OKIDI, POTENTIAL ENERGY CUSTOMER

HELEN OKIDI, POTENTIAL ENERGY CUSTOMER

Helen Okidi lives in a slum in Kampala about 15 minutes’ drive from the Potential Energy office. Helen is obviously proud of her stove and was thrilled to show it off to the international group of visitors from the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University. She wasn’t reluctant to bring out her old stove to show how much nicer the new one is.

 HELEN OKIDI’S TWO STOVES

HELEN OKIDI’S TWO STOVES

Notably, however, the new stove was clearly not being used regularly. The old stove was full of burning charcoal and she had clearly been cooking with it before we arrived. She had lit some charcoal in the new stove but admitted that she usually cooks with the old one, which consumes much more fuel and emits much more smoke.

Helen was getting virtually none of the benefits of the new stove because she continued to use the old one. She was also buying charcoal at the market rather than using and buying the briquettes that burn more efficiently and come from charcoal dust rather than from burning wood to create charcoal–using up 80 percent of the energy in the wood. So she was getting none of the financial, environmental or health benefits of her new stove.

 CEO JESSICA DE CLERK WITH CUSTOMER BETTY SABITI

CEO JESSICA DE CLERK WITH CUSTOMER BETTY SABITI

That is not always the case. We visited both Betty Sabit and Elijah Kizza who have the same stove. Both are using theirs exclusively. Betty says she cooks two meals per day for two people and it works great. A 110-pound bag of the briquettes lasts her two months. Elijah shares the stoves with five roommates. They don’t cook as regularly, but also love the stove and the eco-friendly briquettes, which he says saves them money. Both Betty and Elijah seem to be getting all of the health, environmental and financial benefits of the stove.

 CEO JESSICA DE CLERK WITH CUSTOMER ELIJAH KIZZA

CEO JESSICA DE CLERK WITH CUSTOMER ELIJAH KIZZA

Jeff Miller, the namesake for the Miller Center, offered Jessica some advice that she received well. He suggested she focus on the Berkeley-Darfur stove and jettison all of the other distractions so she can build that business to a volume where it can be self-sustaining for the organization.

Moving production to Uganda from India could significantly cut costs, eliminating most if not all importation costs, potentially cutting the landed cost of finished products almost in half.

Jessica is an impressive young CEO. She joined Potential Energy just one year ago precisely because she saw the value and the life-saving potential of the Berkeley-Darfur stove. In the year before joining Potential Energy, she developed a tier 4 stove for LivingGoods that can be produced for just $5. She is committed to the work, obviously bright and apparently hard-working, we left believing that she can find a path to greater sustainability and even more impact.