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From the Blog

In my work as Executive Director of The 1010 Project, I led our team in the creation of The Global Entrepreneur Academy. Directors of orphanages, slum school headmasters, HIV/AIDS support group coordinators, and many others participated in over 50 hours of training in The GEA. For many, it was the first educational certificate of their lives.

Towards the end of this short clip you’ll hear a minute of my keynote speech, which focused on how organizations can move from being Good to Great (Jim Collins).

Imagine: a single mother brings in her two kids. After the service she’s gone, and her kids are still there. The police ask the church to keep the kids while they look for the mother…who never turns up. This is how REHEMA Daycare and School started, and they’ve provided education to over 600 children!

When I visited Kenya in February I recorded a long interview with Erastus, the founder of REHEMA. Here is a quick clip about those 2 kids.

Mathare Valley Slum

Second hand clothing is a major industry in the developing world (for better or for worse). This amazing story reminds me of so many of the 1010 partners in Nairobi.

If your dream was to become a doctor and you ended up uneducated and living in a slum, would you just give up on life? Some of us might have, but not Jane Ngoiri. Jane dreamed of being a surgeon, but she was too poor to finish school or go to college. However, today Jane is a Mitumba queen from Nairobi’s Mathare Valley slum. Mitumba is the business of selling second hand clothing that arrives in Kenya from European and American regions in massive bales.

via AfriGadget » Blog Archive » Dreams can come true – Janes miraculous Mitumba story.

I’m still in a bit of a jetlagged daze as I attack my email inbox this morning. I’m so grateful I had this note waiting in my inbox about the business training seminar we put on in the Matopeni neighborhood of Nairobi for our partners

Dear Brian, this is Peter, we met at the candlelight ministries where Chuck delivered a very motivating talk on business.This is to thank you for the good work that your org is doing in our country and also to assure you that the seminar was not in vain.I have tried to pass on the message to my peers at komarock and we really are trying to change our approach to business so we can register better returns.Please keep in touch and kindly inform us when you next visit.God bless you.Regards-Peter.

In the seminar Chuck covered:

  • Revenue – Cost = Gross Profit
  • Gross Profit – Income = Net Profit

It is a problem that plagues all businesses worldwide: you get a $100 check from a client and think “Yay I have $100!” Not so, as Chuck explained using the metaphor of selling eggs. You have to factor in costs of buying more eggs to sell, transporting the eggs to a market, broken eggs, employees, refrigeration, and so on. Only after those costs, and after taking the income you need to live on, do you have your actual net profit.

It was incredible to watch the light bulbs go on in these social entrepreneurs heads. One attendee said “this changes everything…now we know why our businesses have been failing.”

These brave entrepreneurs are truly my heroes, it is a privilege to serve them and support their work.

One resounding lesson from this experience is something built into the DNA of The 1010 Project: it is more important to have the right questions than the right answers.

Exempla Gratis (E.G.)

Over the week I’ve spoken with two Kenyans possessing 30 years of development experience between them. One of the first partners I visited was Pastor Brown and his wife Josephine, founders of Fair Oaks Academy and leaders of Redeemed Gospel Church. I also joined Michael Nyangi of LOMORO in visiting the small businesses started with capital he lent, and discussing the role of The 1010 Project.

I asked them each some form of this question: “How can The 1010 Project improve our partnership with social entrepreneurs in Kenya.” The answers I received were remarkably consistent. Chiefly, that partners have access to business training, and create solid business plans for their ventures.

My former business coach Chuck Blakeman explained this principle to several Nairobian women. Business is like water; you simply need to know where you are and where you are going. Michael Nyangi pointed out that many social entrepreneurs have not received any kind of business training, and some very little education at all. Having access to training and building a business plan first both defines sucess and increases the likelihood of reaching it.

This confirmed and clarified for me my belief that in any culture, three things are needed for the success of a social entrepreneur

  • Skill: this could be a private sector skill like jewelry making, or a social sector skill like building an orphanage
  • Capital: access to startup funds either from one’s own means, or an outside source; e.g. small grants from The 1010 Project
  • Training: acquiring basic competence in fundamental business practices like marketing and accounting

Questions are Primary

As you can see above, the end result was an “answer:” business training being essential to fostering social entrepreneurship. Discovering answers to the challenges of poverty is both noble and essential, but questions must always be primary. In other words, it is impossible to answer a question for someone that has never been asked of them.

A half-built house in Njiru near where I am staying

The growing Eastlands of Nairobi is dotted with half-built houses. As you walk through the brick/cement/stone structures so typical of the developing world, you will see neighborhoods where perhaps 3 out of every 4 houses is roofless and vacant. The doors and windows will be piled up with loose rocks, to discourage squatting. One of my hosts explained that Nairobians build as they have money. So the building process is lenghtly and at times unpredictable.

This was another of those visual reminders of the importance of credit in a healthy economy.

The United States is coming off triggering a massive global recession for the opposite reason: the excess of credit. Multitudes of homeowners were sold mortgages they had no business receiving, without having to prove adequate income.

The density of population here is staggering. And unlike the dense urban centers in the US like New York, there is vastly inadequate infrastructure. That last sentence just doesn’t convey how utterly overburdened Nairobi is, like a bicycle carrying 40 mattresses. Fred Afwai, our Kenyan Country director, explained that the city planning for Nairobi was for 200,000 people. Think Boulder, Colorado. The current population is somewhere close to 5 million. Think the entire population of Colorado.

Bank accounts and loans are only available to those who already have money. To open an account is costly, and simply out of reach of our friends here in the eastern, poorer part of the city. This means that overcrowded population centers in Nairobi will remain crowded while half-built houses remain empty.

This is article one of a two-part series on credit in Kenya