Business Model – Create long term impact

Devin Hibbard – Business Model – Tips on how to create immediate change and long term impact for business. 

Our model in Uganda—well, we’re doing lots of things in Uganda, but the core model is for women who are living on a dollar, two dollars a day to come into our program and learn to make beads. They go from living on a dollar a day to about seven dollars a day, five, six, seven dollars a day. And so immediately they’re able to start meeting their basic needs, their kids start feeding, they go to school, they buy new clothes, they fix their house.

But also to think about again, we don’t want to work with one group of women forever in a sort of traditional fair trade model. We want this to be a ladder for women to move out of poverty. So the very first time they sell beads and start earning money, the next day, they start their business training. They come in and they start learning principles of how can they start their own business, rooted in the local economy selling produce or shoe so that they’re clothes so that they’re truly sustainable once they’ve left Bead for Life. we have a staff of about 40 in Uganda that work with our women in this core program—it’s an 18 month model where women come in. they start making money. They get the business training.

Then they are asked to open at least one business by the time they’ve had 15 months in our program. The goal is that they are able to open their business and get thru those rough first startup months before they graduate. They still have income from beads coming in while they’re making their business robust and sustainable. So that by the time they graduate at month 18, they truly are able to support their families with the income from their business or their businesses. So it’s a pretty holistic model. We think about it in three areas. One is money, so that’s through beads. We also work in northern Uganda with women who gather Shea nuts.

And so we’re buying the Shea nuts for creating markets for them to earn money. The second area is entrepreneurial training. So business training—in the north it’s actually agribusiness. It’s how do you make your small farm sustainable over time? In Compala, it’s how do women open small businesses? And the goal is really what can sustain you in the long run. Not what you can do tomorrow to make a quick buck. Its how do you make a business that can really survive the ups and downs of the economy and your life so that you’re able to feed your kids for 5 and 10 and 20 years. That’s our goal, is not to have a quick blip where you eat one, two, three months, but to have a sustainable impact.

So that’s the business training. And then the third area we call partnerships. And that’s really knowing that people have whole lives and many factors than can keep them in poverty. And if we don’t address poor health, for example, someone might be too sick to be able to start a business. And so we try and partner with the groups to do things like clean water through wells or access to mosquito nets or in some cases emergency care. If a child gets burned, you know, the mom is not going to be able to start their business if they’re worried about this kid or if the kid’s not doing well. So they can do a local hospitals that we have a relationship with.

So on a case by case basis with each community, we try to identify what are the factors that are most critical to help to keeping people out of poverty. And we try and find creative, innovative ways to partner with other groups to address those. So that’s our program model. We have also, in the last year, taken our 18 month curriculum and training model, and watched what we call the street business school. And the street business school where you work with women who already have tiny, tiny, businesses. And when I say tiny, it’s probably not what you’re thinking.

Imagine there’s a woman with 12 tomatoes sitting on a shawl on a street corner. That is her business. Too small to really support her family in a sustainable way, but she’s shown that she has the desire to change her life. And we are enrolling that woman into the street business school, and what they get is they get sort of an abbreviated curriculum of what we know works for woman entrepreneurs to help them scale their businesses. A lot of mentoring and training and support. And then at six months, those people who have been successful and really taken the learning to heart and done something with their business receive a small grant to take their business to the next level. And so that’s really a program that is the women never make beads—they’re focused entirely on their business, and that is something that we’re hoping to scale much more widely, because we do believe people that have a vision and a desire to do something with their business, but maybe don’t have the context, or someone to just hold their hand along the way and to invest in and help support them. With those few investments, people can do incredible things.