Driving meaningful, long-term change is never the job of just one person, or one moment. Change requires patience, resilience, grit, and most importantly, partnership. In January, we joined forces with IKEA Social Entrepreneurship to support social enterprises in scaling their impact in a year that has tested entrepreneurs to rethink, redesign, and reimagine how they can best serve their community’s needs. Acumen and IKEA Social Entrepreneurship is pleased to award Jony Girma of Green Face Trading in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Kevine Kagirimpundu of UZURI K&Y in Kigali, Rwanda with $25,000 grants to further support their business growth.
Over the course of five months, 19 organizations joined our East Africa Accelerator — a 19-week program designed to accompany social enterprises working to alleviate poverty and create opportunity. Led by IKEA’s global team of coaches, participants learned the value of engaging with customers, modeling finances for sustainability, and developing marketing strategy.
“The program gave them support during a period when the existence of the social enterprise was threatened. It gave them guidelines on what it means to take the next step (after the crisis is over) and support for their leadership in the enterprise as well embracing an experimenting culture.” IKEA Coach
Congratulations to the participating teams and two grant recipients for their determination and future success! Here’s a look at their tremendous impact and biggest takeaways:
Alive and Kicking Kenya
Alive and Kicking Kenya creates ethical employment through the manufacturing and distribution of sports balls. They enable young people to exercise their right to play and access vital health education through effective ball donation and sport-based health programs.
“We started the program in the middle of the Corona outbreak, which was a difficult time in line with business continuity and understanding survival of the business. Now we are confident in our business model and have a growth strategy.” Sheba Nyaronga, Client Relations Manager
Aqua Clara Kenya
Aqua Clara Kenya is a social enterprise that designs and distributes water filtration solutions in the East African market. Their mission is to provide effective, simple, affordable and local clean water solutions for people living in rural and urban areas. Over the last 10 years, Aqua Clara Kenya has provided access to safe drinking water to more than 300,000 people and generated income opportunities for 100 others.
“Today, we have a better understanding of our business, especially what we need to do in order to scale. We also have more confidence to do experiments and have been able to test our key assumptions.” John Nyagwencha, CEO
Asante Mama Natural Products
Asante Mama works across the value chain from farm to table with women and youth farmers to create jobs by producing and hand processing pure organic certified herbal teas, chocolates, spices and moringa. These products are delivered directly to traders, retailers and end consumers in the local and international markets.
BeMistre Home Accessories
BeMistre is a woman-initiated company aiming to inspire, motivate and support women and youth in Ethiopia. Founded by Mistre, BeMistre creates various unique and graceful home decor and furniture items from recycled and biodegradable raw materials and focuses on ensuring quality and ethical sourcing. BeMistre encourages eco-friendly business in Ethiopia by mentoring and employing single mothers, creating a modern vision for cultures of Ethiopia.
Enat Weaving Works
Enat Weaving Works is an enterprise working to create income opportunities for marginalized and low-income people. They support the creation of producer-owned enterprises with an emphasis on women’s leadership. In addition, they offer professional services to these small producer-owned companies on issues of technology, marketing and profit-sharing modalities.
“Our business is now more focused and structured. The financial model was the reality that gave voice to my gut feeling.” Hiriti Beyene, General Manager
Launched in 2018, Enlight Institute was founded with a vision to create effective last mile workforces in the clean energy industry. They provide tailored and results oriented 1:1 coaching to frontline staff (e.g. sales agents, field managers, technicians) and help companies increase retention, job performance, and morale to drive sales and customer satisfaction.
“After the accelerator, we have more clarity on the areas that we need to test next. Our approach to testing and learning was not lean at all. We thought running pilots was an efficient way to test, but now we have the tools to run lean experiments.” Ania Zuzek, Co Founder & COO
ENZI produces premium footwear in Ethiopia that seeks to challenge global perceptions of Africa through artisanal design and manufacturing. ENZI trains and employs local artisans to showcase Ethiopia’s leather qualities and its approach as a replicable model for Africa to do the same with its commodities.
“We have had a great product and story from the start. The path to scaling was a bit vague for me. This program has shown me the clear steps I need to take, and given me the tools to achieve them.” Azariah Mengistu, CEO
Felek Notebooks is a social enterprise producing notebooks inspired by traditional artisanship with contemporary eco-friendly designs. They create employment opportunities and products that have a positive impact on the environment. For every leather notebook sale made, they donate one school years' worth of exercise books (eight exercise books) to one child in a marginalized community in Ethiopia. This helps accelerate literacy levels in rural areas.
“There were gaps in our business that held us back from scaling. The first is the marketing aspect of our business and the second is the partnership required to reach our scaling goals. Now that we have identified both gaps, we are taking the steps to fulfil and reach our scaling goals.” Zahara Kauffman, Co-Founder
Green Face Trading - Grant Awardee
Green Face Trading was founded with the vision of adding value and creating a sustainable supply chain in the natural forest ecosystem of Ethiopia. They produce, process and market apicultural products for local and global markets by training rural, unemployed youth in the art of organic honey production and forest conservation. Their business model establishes a learning center at their village with a demonstration site for continual capacity building and access to a sustainable market.
“Today, we see a big difference in many directions. Especially with our business model development skills, they have completely changed. We now have an organized business model, new awareness on hypothesis testing, financial model development, and marketing & pitch deck development.” Jony Girma, General Manager
Imani Collective designs and manufactures home accessories in Kenya, employing over 80 women and men. They use local natural materials and adopt traditional techniques. The collective believes dignified employment is a key ingredient for economic development and poverty reduction in developing countries around the world.
“We have a much clearer path forward. We were initially struggling due to many complex revenue streams, and weren't sure how to best focus our efforts. By working with our coaches and experts, we now have a better idea of how to narrow our focus to be more efficient and better predict profitability.” Carly Oosten, Director of Partnerships
Kidame Mart is an Ethiopian social enterprise that distributes high impact, high quality, fast moving consumer goods to rural Ethiopia. Kidame Mart was founded to meet the needs of rural consumers and is built on leveraging the power of human connections. They recruit female entrepreneurs to sell products door-to-door and in local open markets, helping these women generate a stable income.
“Coming out of the accelerator, there are many parts of our business that I am now better able to articulate.” Shani Senbetta, Founder & CEO
Nuru Social Enterprises Ltd
Nuru Social Enterprises is a for-profit social impact endeavour in Kenya. Their mission is to serve as the commercial market conduit producing value-added dairy products that are inclusive of local, smallholder dairy producers. The primary objective is to ensure that farmers have a reliable counterparty in the value chain to purchase their milk at fair market prices so that they may earn a steady income.
“We have a new product born out of the accelerator and a clear partway of diversified revenue streams as well as scaling to newer markets.” Tom Kibet, Managing Director
RefuSHE Artisan Collective
RefuSHE's Artisan Collective is a peer-driven social enterprise that supports unaccompanied and orphaned young refugee women in East Africa. Through the design and production of hand-dyed textile products, Artisan Collective members gain tailoring training and entrepreneurship skills to become economically independent. 100% of proceeds from the products are reinvested back into the Collective and the livelihoods of its members.
“Our social enterprise business strategy has grown tremendously during the accelerator. When we started, we didn't have a clear understanding of our finances, customers, and growth plan. Now, we have a strong foundation for our financials, we've started to segment our customers, and we have a clear strategy for growth over the next five years.” Emily Snider, Director of Marketing & Artisan Initiatives
Resonate is a nonprofit social enterprise based in Rwanda that unlocks the leadership potential of women and youth in East Africa. They partner with groups providing skills and education, and integrate leadership training into existing programming. Their workshops ensure that women and youth don't just have access to skills and resources, but they also have the self-confidence to turn opportunity into action, and the support of men and boys in their communities.
“Through the business experiments and calls with the IKEA and Acumen coaches, we were able to identify different ways we could package our Training of Facilitator program (ToF) to fit customer needs and create recurring revenue. We have now refined our value proposition with a focus on the customer instead of the end user.” Claire Uwineza, Country Director
Tibeb Leather Works
Tibeb Leather Works is a social enterprise providing training and job opportunities for women in their leather workshop. They believe in empowering women to achieve their full potential, ensuring that they are recognized for their talents and become an essential part of the economic fabric of society.
“When we started the program we had just scaled our enterprise and were still trying to get a hang of things, through the modules and coaching we were able to make well thought out decisions that helped structure our company.” Nardos Shitta, CMO
Founded in 2016, TruLuv Granola produces and distributes premium, all-natural granola snacks to fuel health-conscious folks on-the-go in Ethiopia. They seek to bring healthy foods sustainably crafted by Ethiopian women to Ethiopia, Africa, and the world.
“We now have the courage and the time to test experiments to grow our business.” Blayne Tesfaye, CEO
Upcycle Africa constructs houses using bottles in place of bricks. The plastic bottles are collected in the environment, then compacted with soil, making the houses cost effective to build, affordable to the community, and environmentally friendly. Upcycle Africa employs rural women and youths and the cash incentives allow low-income families to support their children with school fees. The waste recovery system ensures clean and safe environments but also increases the awareness of the people on the harmful effects of disposal of plastic waste.
“We have changed many things in our business model compared to before when we started the program. The accelerator’s weekly assignments are the greatest contribution towards our project because attending to them has given us a lot of learnings.” Tryphine Kemigisha, Co-Founder
UZURI K&Y Designs - Grant Awardee
Uzuri K&Y Designs is an African inspired eco-friendly shoe brand. Founded with a vision to brand Africa as an origin of sustainable fashion items, the social enterprise crafts viable solutions by recycling waste into functional footwear. At the heart of their mission is job creation in local communities. They equip women and youth with the skills needed to turn rubber tires into fashionable footwear.
“We are now more open-minded to scaling our business. Scaling a business must be planned and we had no idea how to do so before we joined the accelerator!” Kevine Kagirimpundu, CEO
Vijana Corps enables the last-mile youth of Uganda to be seen and heard by providing tools, platforms, and safe spaces. Working through community-based youth-hubs, they hope to achieve social justice and equitable development in Uganda. The process gives the youth access to information and a platform for free expression. It equips them with skills and resources for economic empowerment and puts them at the forefront of participatory leadership and accountability processes at all levels.