As part of my Frontier Market Scouts assignment with Eco Fuels Kenya, I am spending 20% of my time scouting new companies and partners for future Village Capital programs. The first scouting opportunity of my placement came on March 15th when I was forwarded an invite to the 2nd Annual MBA Global Business and Sustainability Business Plan Competition at Tangaza College in Nairobi, an event put on in partnership with ALTIS Postgraduate School of Business & Society of Milan, Italy.
Upon arrival to the competition the audience and participants received a welcome reception from the dean of Tangaza College prior to splitting into four different rooms for the different categories of presentations. Unable to decide which of the four I wanted to sit in first, I curiously stayed back to hear the de-brief given to the judges of the competition, most of whom represented impact investing
I was assigned a section and listened to pitches from 6 enthusiastic social entrepreneurs from Kenya, Zimbabwe, Uganda and other African countries over the morning session, critiquing each one on the competitions three criteria: Business Potential, Implementation Capacity, and Social Potential. After a winner was selected there was a short break before the afternoon session where the top businesses of each section (Agribusiness and Accommodations, Business Services and ICT, Green Economy and Manufacture, and Health and Community Services) would pitch to the entire audience and a new mix of judges for a chance to be crowned the winner of the competition. As more opportunity presented itself,
I secured a spot on the final judges’ panel alongside representation from Acumen Fund, Jacana Partners, and ALTIS Postgraduate School of Italy. After hearing the best pitches from each of the sections, we unanimously chose Innovation Eye Centre, an Aravind Eye Hospital replication, the winner of the competition.
I was grateful for the opportunity to participate as a judge in the competition and to network with the young social enterprises and established industry funds who made the event a success.
Back in Naro Maru, on that same Friday, we had got our new machinery delivered from the port where it was being held in Mombasa along with a pleasantly unexpected drop-off of Croton Nuts from a new collector with their first, hopefully of many, deliveries. The dedicated team, with the help of about 10 casuals, worked through the weekend to offload the 10 tons of Croton Nuts into the storage room and 10 tons of equipment from the trucks that they came on to their appropriate locations. Without sophisticated machine moving equipment that we would have likely used in the ‘west,’ it was the help of levers, pulleys, steel rollers, and manpower that got the machinery in place and mounted by the middle of the week. After all the machinery was in place it was up to local electricians and welders to put the remaining pieces in place to get us up and running properly. The team worked closely with the welders and electricians for the remainder of the week to make sure each motor, pan, connection, and filter was properly placed and mounted for the start of our oil production the following Monday.
Oil being produced for the first time since my arrival nearly two months ago was a great way to get the week started and had a noticeably energizing effect on the Eco Fuels Kenya team. The perseverance and patience of the team and it’s management as many unexpected and uncontrollable hold-ups came about over the past two months, ranging from delays in funding to the country’s presidential election, demonstrated a strong mentality to overcome obstacles and stay focused on goals; perhaps the most critical factor for success when working at startup social enterprises in a developing country.
As the staff continues to work diligently at getting the machines producing at capacity I will be completing modifications to the company brochure, which will be supplied to our resellers to help retail distribution of our products, and updates to the business plan, which will be distributed to a number of enthusiastic impact investment funds we have been in contact with over the past four months. With modifications to the website, brochure, and business plan paired with a factory full of new equipment that is running at capacity we look forward to re-engaging with interested investors that want to help us meet our growth and impact goals of the future.