Accelerating towards decent sanitation for all

Being one of the eight social entrepreneurs selected out of 900 applicants to attend SE Forum’s SE Outreach Accelerator in Stockholm came with a lot of excitement. But it also came with a worry about what would happen to my business if I was out of operations for the duration of the program.

I’m glad to say that I had nothing to worry about. When arriving in Stockholm, the lead trainer echoed that it is normal to worry but she emphasised the importance of building a strong team with processes that work efficiently in the absence of a founder. The training helped us overcome such worries and run our social enterprises sustainably, and today, after some re-structuring, I have managed to develop robust processes and the right team.

Taking part in the SE Outreach Accelerator has given me a lot of new insights, but it has also shown light on the great work we are already doing at Sanitation Africa. For example, we are constantly seeking feedback from our customers about our products and services that informs our research team on modification and future needs of customers. The aspect of social impact measurement is now well received in the six schools where we have constructed SmartSan toilets. We have piloted a survey to establish how clean sanitation affects pupils’ attendance and performance. And we are also administering quarterly surveys to households using our products/services.
Applying what I’ve learned
In terms of my key learnings from the Accelerator, I would highlight the emotional intelligence and inner sustainability that I’m currently applying in team management and facilitating discussions. The Give/Get Matrix has helped me in picking partners that are helpful in promoting the growth of Sanitation Africa. Meeting [...]

Expanding my world in Sweden!

I remember the days when I went home for an off-campus break and had to spend the two-week break at the farm, tilling the farm with a hoe morning to evening. This is how we had done things on the farm for years, and even though farm activities were for laborers, most of the manual work was being done by my mother, just as 60-80% of the African farming population are women. The most frustrating part was always that each season came with its challenges that farmers had little knowledge on how to overcome, and the yields were too little to be proud of. I could walk around the village and see how desperate households were, knowing they won’t have enough food until the next lucky harvest, nor would they have money for school fees. These observations made me empathize with the situation.

This memory recently came back to me, and this time in a foreign land – Sweden. The memory often comes back to me when I think of UjuziKilimo and why I founded the company, but now the picture of the challenges had expanded to consider the African farming challenges affecting the 450 million smallholder farmers on the continent. I could not have imaged at that time that an idea to empower farmers with knowledge and actionable insights could gain global recognition, let along create a huge impact in the community. But this is what happened a few months ago when I received an email congratulating me for being one of the eight social entrepreneurs who had been selected from 900 applicants globally for the SE Outreach Accelerator, and I had a mixed reaction of excitement and inadequacy.

You see as young entrepreneurs, we [...]

My journey towards successful finance management

I wish to pursue a career in environmental social impact and believe that being a Founder/CEO of my own company provides both challenges and opportunities to develop. But earlier this year I was at a difficult cross road concerning the day to day challenges of managing my company EcoFuture’s finance management. However, everything changed when I received the news that I had been selected to take part in the 2017 SE Outreach Accelerator.

I was about to get a loan from a financial institution but I kept pushing back accessing the funds because I knew something wasn’t right concerning the company’s finances. I had searched online sources to find templates to handle day to day money transactions and bought an app but it wasn’t working. We recorded a net profit at 35% but I couldn’t see this cash and ended up having to use money from the company’s grant award funds to operate the business. I had attended business training from other countries and organizations but finances kept being a challenge to me. So I didn’t know what to expect when embarking on the journey to Stockholm, but I was hoping for a possible change in my entrepreneurial journey. And the Accelerator was 1000% beyond my expectations.

I met one of our mentors, Maew, who made me list out my expenses on a monthly basis which enabled me to understand the basics for cash management. And another mentor, Luciana, changed my whole perspective on finance. She helped me understand EcoFuture’s finance/income management DNA and create a colorful and easy-to-use financial template to guide me on this journey. I was flabbergasted and knew instantly that EcoFuture’s financial management challenges had been solved.

Working with the new template I [...]

Sweden is calling…

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”
– African saying

I was selected out of 890 applicants to be among the eight participants who were to participate in SE Forum’s SE Outreach Accelerator in Stockholm, Sweden. As the plane lifts from Africa, you feel that you are leaving more than a continent, but also are leaving a state of mind. Whatever awaits you at the other end of your journey will be of different order of existence. Finally, after many hours of being in a plane, I arrived in Stockholm. Sweden is known as Mecca for technology start-ups and biotech in all of Europe and Stockholm is the most prolific tech hub in the world on per capita basis, behind Silicon Valley. The amount of economic growth driven by entrepreneurs is explosive. Sweden is also known as the most peaceful country in the world. Because of peace and tranquility, it gave birth to ‘Stockholm syndrome’ – a moment where you share Fika with your kidnappers and discuss peace.

My first encounter with the other seven exceptional social entrepreneurs took place at Norrsken House, a co-working space which helps to discover interesting and new Swedish start-ups, whilst also providing a place to connect with fellow entrepreneurs. The program was conducted by Fiona Hazell, SE Forum’s Program Director, and all entrepreneurs started off by pitching and then meeting our mentors, a group of leading individuals that make up the start-up ecosystem across Sweden.

We travelled to Sigtuna for our second day of training. Sigtuna is the oldest town in Sweden, once a capital city of the Swedish Kingdom, and a legacy from the Viking Age. It is a town [...]

Musings about the Accelerator, Fika and Stockholm

Being an entrepreneur it is imperative to make most out of every opportunity that comes my way. My selection for SE Forum Accelerator Program in December was the best news of the year 2016. I was ecstatic to find out that I was among the eight selected out of 890 applicants. I was eager to meet and learn with the other magnificent 7, expand my knowledge and network at an international level. The opportunity to visit Stockholm, the Silicon Valley of Europe, was a remarkable and impressive experience.

Every now and then I come across articles about how to be a leader or a good manager or work with a team, so on and so forth. Interestingly, SE Forum Accelerator Program provided me a first-hand opportunity to grow as a business leader and as a person. The three-week program was action packed, with me going back to presenting my business case, re-thinking my approaches, white board sessions and of course, the mid-day Fikas (coffee and dessert) to keep me going.

The team was an interesting mix from different parts of the world, each one with a unique idea to make the world a better place. The eight of us became a team the day we arrived. Each one in the group was eager to learn about the other person’s enterprise, their approach, area of expertise, social background and provide assistance when required. The time spent after work was the best treats of the program. I will always cherish our Guatemalan dinner treat, the weekend partying and the unfinished treasure hunt (at least for me).

I am impressed with the program structure and content. The lead coach for the program introduced us to an innovative approach to work [...]

Finding Glimpses of My True Self in Stockholm

By: Nodumo Fikile Magadlela, SE Entrepreneur – SE Outreach 2016

I found myself standing inside the Uppsala Cathedral. Behind me the choir was singing a beautiful song that lifted the spirit as high as the building’s columns. It was in that moment that I understood why my life’s journey had let me to this place. How a boy who grew up in the dusty streets of Nkulumane in Bulawayo had found himself standing in this sacred cathedral thousands of miles away from home.

The pieces of this puzzle started taking shape in December when I got the email that I had been chosen to represent iBoni Bike Share in Sweden. The SE Forum team had chose iBoni as one of the 8 start-ups from around the world to participate in the program in Stockholm. It was raining that day but I put down everything and I went outside and cycled. I had to cycle. I had to find a way to express my joy, pent up between the rage and shame of not being able to pay my rent for that month…

But all of this didn’t matter now because I was standing in this amazing cathedral, built hundreds of years ago. It didn’t matter that this was my first time going overseas. It wasn’t important that before this I had only been on an aeroplane on a very brief domestic flight. All that I could hear and see was the majesty of this structure.

The struggle that will define my life is that of articulation. I’ve always felt a capacity to create and to influence humanity, but I’ve always lacked the tools to articulate my potential into the world. This building in its grandeur and opulence resonated [...]

Not such a crazy dream after all, huh?

By: Luciana Oliveira, SE Entrepreneur – SE Outreach 2016

Looking back at the three months that passed since I rejoined my team in São Paulo after the life-changing three weeks with SE Forum in Stockholm, I cannot help but feeling proud of what we achieved in such a short period of time. It’s impressive what a small team can do when there is such a beautiful transformation to be made, which is counting on our efforts!

Of course, I should remind you again of this beautiful transformation. I invite you to think about a developing country such as Brazil (where I am writing from) five years from now – the lives of millions of people working in the recycing chain will have been transformed. They will no longer work in unsustainable conditions because recycling will be a sector that receives revenues not only through the sales of materials, but also though the payment for the recycling service they provide. This payment is made by producers of packaged goods. Sound familiar? That is what has been happening in European countries for the last two decades.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Coming back to the present, here are some of the small victories we had in the last three months, which will take us closer and closer to the dream:

Our platform for recyclers to report their amounts recycled has just moved to a whole new level: a new home page (click here) with new animations to promote it among recyclers (click here to watch) and, of course, an entirely new platform! Our team spent four months rebuilding the platform in-house, from scratch, thinking about usability from the recycler’s point of view and about connectivity through APIs (ok, [...]

Profits, partners and pitching to the president!

By: Francis Adereti, SE Entrepreneur – SE Outreach 2016

It’s been about three and half months since I left Stockholm. I had acquired so much energy to implement all the new ideas and strategies which I was privileged enough to have been exposed to in the city.

One of the main creative insights I obtained, out of quite a few, was finding a way to monetize our platform, as that would be the only way to make our social business sustainable and also profitable.

I had a series of meetings with my team immediately when I got back to Nigeria, to discuss the new strategies. It was something they were all excited to hear about and consequently, we started executing these strategies right away.

We went out to find out what our paying customers needed. What were the features they would like to pay for? We also carried out a Market Survey in regards that, and to our utmost surprise, we found out that what the customers really needed was different from what we thought they needed! Interesting, right?

Immediately we had to adjust our business plan to suit their needs. We also partnered with the Redcross Organization in Lagos State to carry out a blood donor drive. We introduced our donor platform to them in the process and thereby gained more traction.

The donor platform is for keeping digital records of blood donors and their blood types and for sending periodic reminders to them and being able to easily contact them when there is a need for them to come over to donate more blood. It was built for blood banks and donor organizations that are into blood donation drive.

My mentor (Johan Mast) has been of great help. He [...]

SE Outreach Accelerator Experience

By: Derrick Hosea Opio, SE Entrepreneur – SE Outreach 2016

Stockholm is the capital of Sweden and the second most prolific tech hub in the world on a per capita basis, producing 6.3 billion-dollar companies per million people, compared to Silicon Valley’s 8.1, according to a recent report from the investment firm Atomico. In April I was selected as one of the 8 lucky social entrepreneurs to attend the SE Outreach Accelerator in Stockholm, Sweden.

During the first week of the program, all 8 entrepreneurs stayed in Sigtuna, the first town in Sweden. It’s a charming medieval town of 8,000 inhabitants, founded in AD 970 by King Erik the Victorious. It’s one of the most beautiful places I have visited that has not lost touch with its roots. The town’s original structure is largely preserved to this day. We were hosted at Sigtunastiftelsen Hotell, a quite beautiful peaceful place by the lake built in the early 1900s. Here, we got an opportunity to taste true Swedish food for the first time. The restaurant served us Swedish dishes based on organic, locally sourced ingredients.

During the second and third week we were based at Impact Hub Stockholm, a beautiful co-working office space that is part business incubator, part innovation lab, and part social enterprise community. The environment and founders at Impact Hub not only inspired us all to reach further, but SE trainers also offered actionable tools and methods that are key to building more agile and customer oriented organizations. Lena, one of the most brilliant and energetic professors I have interacted with, led sessions on “Gear Up”. She covered every topic in a way that was informative and empowering – ensuring that we walked away with valuable [...]

Rewiring My Brain in Stockholm

By: Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale, SE Entrepreneur – SE Outreach 2016

Travelling to Sweden was a dream come through for me because I believe that it will forever change my way of thinking about charity and Social Entrepreneurship. I was skeptical about the decision, but it was consciously made by me. I was afraid that it would change my belief about my choice as a charity person, as a transformation preacher and as a woman who has experienced poverty.

As a poor woman, I wanted to be a philanthropist, giving to the poor, training the poor free of charge and selling the products with the same mindset of everybody is poor. Therefore, the more we work, the more our efforts amounts to nothing and we become incapacitated in birthing our plan and spreading our wings to other parts of Nigeria. The majority of our products were given freely to the poor women and children while very few is bought by friends online.

That is why I decided to attend SE Forum’s Accelerator, to fully understand business ideals and ideas and strictly apply it to our Treasure business. Therefore, I was ready for a mindset change from the onset, working on achieving our goals at all legal cost.

So I set out to meet the mind changers. Stockholm is beautiful, we were ushered in into the hands of Svitlana, the ever smiling lady, who took us to our guest house. The journey began with travelling to Sigtuna with pleasant Annabel and lovely Fiona. What kind souls! And the shift in mindset began, how do we follow the numbers? How can we follow the money when there are so many poor abused women?

Sigtuna gave the fertile ground for the operation to [...]