Carolina Zishiri Carolina used to contribute to the development of inclusivebusiness.net until June 2020. She supported iBAN’s outreach activities and the compilation of the online magazine. In your words Challenges, opportunities and lessons learnt: insights from five inspiring last mile distribution entrepreneurs BoP as customer Inclusive business models and strategy Last mile distribution Energy Water, Sanitation or Waste Management Uganda Sub-Saharan Africa 6. Sep 2019 In July 2019, the Global Distributors Collective (GDC) in collaboration with iBAN conducted their first member event on last mile distribution. The purpose of the event was to create a space for member last mile distribution companies of GDC, to come together to collaborate, network, share knowledge and build strategic partnerships. Many inspiring entrepreneurs attended the event and shared insights with each other. We would like to introduce five of them. Click here to learn about Frank's thoughts on collaboration and competition between entrepreneurs Frank Neil Yiga is the CEO and co-founder of Anuel Energy Uganda, a local sales and distribution company that has served about 5,500 households over the last five years. Anuel Energy taps into existing networks of local communities and builds on the vigour and enthusiasm of youth who work as agents to bring solar systems to the last mile customers. What are typical challenges for last mile distribution companies and for your company? The biggest challenge of last mile distributors is a mind-set of competition, which stifles collaboration and cooperation. Often start-ups make the same mistakes that another person has already made. The same mind-set also takes away the benefits that could come out of partnerships, which is to reduce the steep learning curve in business and to leverage each other's networks and contacts to add value to each other. Finance and access to capital is also a big challenge, but it could be overcome by partnerships and collaboration. Can you tell us about a best practice in terms of collaboration or similar lessons learned from your personal experience? A part of the journey in entrepreneurship is discovery. Self-discovery as individual entrepreneurs, but also in terms of the company ethos and culture and where you want to go. Sometimes it is important to share your own experience with other entrepreneurs, just to see whether you are on the right path. I've collaborated with other solar companies in the ideation stage. This was about sharing ideas but also about handholding so as not to see another enterprise sinking because of mistakes that I already am aware of and that could be avoided. It was also about being a voice of encouragement and of saying: You're not in it alone, let's do this journey together! What are the biggest achievements that you are personally proud of in your journey as an entrepreneur? That's difficult… It's stated by the World Health Organization that a child is only fully safe from child mortality if they clock five years, and the same is true for businesses. Right now, my biggest and proudest moment of my entrepreneurial journey is sustaining a company to five years. I'm happy that we've made five years as a company, employing 90% youth. It's impressive when you meet the people who benefit from our products: 90-year-olds and 16-year-olds alike. It's magnificent! Click here if you would like to contact Frank. Click here to read more about Sunnymoney's efforts to continue business without investor support Harriet Nongoola is the Finance Director of Solar Aid Uganda / Sunnymoney. The company was founded in 2014 by the charity Solar Aid UK as a social enterprise under the brand name Sunnymoney. Sunnymoney aims to eradicate the use of kerosene by the year 2030 and works with a network of schools and teachers throughout the country to raise awareness. What are the biggest challenges for your company? Our biggest challenge is that our funder pulled out in March 2018. We are now managing the company on our own and do not have any funds coming in. That happened more than a year ago and the team is struggling to continue serving our customers in the most remote areas with solar lights. The distribution costs are very high and we are all now working as volunteers with a little facilitation but without a basic salary. I joined the company as the Finance and Admin Manager. But since then I developed a passion for solar to an extent that even when the donors pulled out, I felt that, “No, we are not closing the company. We have to take the vision forward.” What would you say is one of the biggest successes you have seen since you started working with Solar Aid / Sunnymoney? One of the biggest successes was collaborating with over 8,000 teachers across the country, who helped us to build up a good level of customer loyalty. We are in eighty districts of Uganda and each district has a minimum of one hundred to one hundred twenty schools. We know the people in our network by name and we have built strong relationships. They know that Sunnymoney is a reliable brand. To date, Sunnymoney has sold over 95,000 solar products in Uganda and has reached 410,265 people with solar products. We have helped families to save € 12.9 million to spend on food, education and health, created 103.7 million hours of extra child study time, averted 144,000 tons of CO₂ equivalent emissions and helped 311,000 people to experience better health. How did things change after the donors pulled out? We have continued to distribute solar lights through the already established school programme, agents and NGOs. We have added women and farmers’ groups to our networks. Another achievement is that we have signed up with three banks in Uganda to sell lights through solar loans. What has changed is that we are considering solar for schools and communities where administrative costs of services such as printing, lighting, and communication are high due to lack of access to electricity. Click here if you would like to contact Harriet. Click here to read more about the company's challenge to adopt to requirements on the community level Daniel Yin is the CEO of SPOUTS of Water, a company that manufactures and distributes ceramic water filters in Uganda. Since 2015, SPOUTS has distributed over 40,000 filters impacting close to a quarter million end users. What are the biggest challenges for your company? One of the biggest challenges we face is adapting from community to community. We scale in each community by partnering with community leaders or the local government who recruit potential end users for us to pitch to. The challenge is that each community leader and each community is different. We specifically focus on training our sales staff to deal with all of these challenges to overcome them. What are you especially proud of and what are the biggest lessons learned since you have been with Spouts of Water? I'm definitely proud of my team. I joined a little over two years ago and we were employing around 37 people at the time. Right now, we are employing close to a hundred, with most of them woman. In addition, over 90% of our employees are Ugandans. The amount that they've developed over the years has been really impressive. A lot of them are now managing their own teams and groups, which has changed since I first came here. Another thing that I'm proud of is the traction we're getting in sales. We've grown at an average of 50% in revenue each year since 2015, so this is something I'm very proud of and something I'm very excited to continue going forward. Click here if you would like to contact Daniel. Click here to learn more about Ecobara's approach to the kiosk model Justine Abuga is the founder of Ecobora, a company in Kenya that redesigns solar kiosks. Can you tell us a little bit more about Ecobora? One of the biggest problems we had was how rural and underserved communities could afford our solutions. We are a business and cannot provide our products for free. Our approach is to go out to underserved communities. We identify women’s entrepreneur groups, and train them on financial literacy and basic entrepreneurship. After that, we construct the solar kiosks and equip them with a smartphone to help them maintain their inventory. The women’s groups can bring their own agricultural products to the kiosks and sell them for free, thereby increasing their income. Second, fast-moving consumer goods companies can rent a shelf in the solar kiosks, earning the women an additional commission. Lastly, last mile distributors like solar or stove companies can provide stock of their products, just to ensure that the women can access them. Thus, we create a market in a village with everything in one shop. People in the village, particularly women, can now begin doing business. When they work as entrepreneurs, they have money and they are able to afford life changing products. What do you believe is innovative about your model? With the women’s groups, we are tapping into a unique force. The women’s groups are already organised as a selling group. The groups repay the loan for a kiosk within six months; each individual woman only pays back $1 per month which equals $50 per month for the entire group. After six months, the women’s group own the kiosk. Thus, we're utilising an organised group to ensure we reduce the risks of our investment, and increase our return on investment. The second innovation in this model is the nature of the kiosk itself. Previously solar kiosks have failed because people have shipped hefty containers with all those crazy innovations. Our solar kiosks are built from waste materials, like simple sheets or old timber from the villages. We are simple in terms of the construction and yet achieve the same sort of functionality. Lastly, we are combining products sold by women’s groups. We are combining their sales expertise of selling these agricultural products with fast moving consumables like bread and sugar, plus the products of last mile distributors. By combining these three products, we're able to sort of come up with a one-stop shop, which ensure there's a lot of variety in the kiosks, making the women's income and the kiosk sustainable. We believe that by tapping into these three pillars, we can work past the previous mistakes made by the predecessors of these innovations. Click here if you would like to contact Justine. Click here to learn more about challenges in changing people's cooking habits Jessica De Clerck is the Managing Director of Potential Energy, a social enterprise that manufactures and distributes the Berkeley Darfur Stove, a high-quality, user-friendly improved cookstove. Since 2009, Potential Energy has distributed over 55,000 stoves in Sudan, Uganda and India, impacting over to a quarter million people. What are the biggest challenges for your last mile distribution company? Base of the pyramid households have been using the 3 stone fire for generations and lack the education around the impacts of health problems relating to smoke inhalation. It is left to organizations and businesses like ours to educate them, which can require multiple conversations with a potential customer, over a period of time. This sensitization of the importance of switching to an improved cookstove (ICS) or any new technology is prohibitively costly, especially for a small social enterprise like ours. Customers will often request that they use the stove first, and pay later, which is too risky for us, or they only buy a stove if a peer of theirs has had a good experience with it. This can result in a very long adoption rate. Further issues are around affordability, willingness to pay and poor quality stoves that are extremely cheap and disrupt the market. What are the biggest achievements that you are personally proud of in your journey as an entrepreneur? Leading a business that has a positive impact on the environment, and on over 55,000 households in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia to date is extremely rewarding. It is great to see the business grow towards self-sustainability and to see our staff developing in their careers. Our company has quite a gender balanced staff and gives job opportunities especially to youths, women and the elderly. Seeing impact on the staff side is also what keeps me going.