Supporting Entrepreneurship, Saving Ecosystems
Select the stage that best applies to your project
Growth (your pilot is up and running, and starting to expand)
Elevator Pitch: Share a concise summary. Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.
Kedge provides a combination of business education and conservation training to rural communities in East and Southern Africa. Our curriculum helps bridge critical skill gaps for rural entrepreneurs, providing alternative economic opportunities to poaching and environmental exploitation.
WHAT IF Inspiration: What's one way your project dares to ask, “WHAT IF?”
a compact, high-quality business education was all that stood between rural African entrepreneurs and success in the global marketplace?
Problem: What problem does your solution address?
Over the last 50 years, the unparalleled biodiversity of East and Southern Africa has been decimated by poaching, resource abuse, and environmental exploitation.
This natural wealth could also be the key to better lives for rural people; small-scale sustainable businesses would help rebuild local economies.
But simple barriers slow local entrepreneurial growth: a lack of basic business skills, and a lack of opportunities to learn them.
Solution: What is the proposed solution?
Kedge vaults these obstacles by providing 3 to 6 week courses in conservation literacy and business education to rural communities in East and Southern Africa.
We work with local NGOs, corporations, and community leaders in high-impact biodiversity regions to bring our "miniature MBA" to groups of entrepreneurs who live beyond the reach of traditional schooling.
And crucially, we teach in an experiential, activity-based style that's tailored to the needs of rural adult students. We help students grow from ad hoc entrepreneurs to stable economic anchors for their communities -- and hope for the future of rural development.
What awards or honors has the project received?
Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how your solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.
Lemayan is a young man living in a small town in rural Tanzania. Here and there, he sells his services as a car mechanic along the main road in the nearest town. Eventually, he finds some spare wood and builds a kiosk to advertise, but he doesn't keep a written account of his tools or money, and he's often surprised by the expense of running a shop. He also doesn't have a business plan or consistent customer base, and when the rainy season washes out the road, he goes without revenue for months. Lemayan joins our Kedge class and gets a quick introduction to what it really means to build a business from the ground up -- how to come up with a business plan, invest in useful advertising, retain customers, and plan for growth.
Impact: What is the impact of the work to date and expected impact in the future?
We've trained 12 rural entrepreneurs in our first 3-week training, which took place in June 2014 in the small town of Kawai, Narok County, Kenya -- where residents live adjacent to the Maasai Mara National Reserve, one of the most valuable biodiversity regions in the world.
High demand for participation in our Kedge pilot led us to admit two additional students to our Kedge class, exceeding our original goal of 10 students. Of our 12 students, 4 were female (30%), 4 were already involved in conservation (30%), and 4 were owners of small local businesses (30%). All students completed the full 12 hrs of intensive training, and 3 students approached us, asking permission to self-organize a post-Kedge 'business support circle' to help keep skills sharp and accountability high.
Full Impact Potential: What are the main spread strategies moving forward?
Our goal is to reach 100 entrepreneurs in 3 countries by 2017 (500 in 5+ countries by 2020), and we're well on our way. We've already planned our next training event to take place with 25 entrepreneurs over 4 weeks in Malawi in Spring 2015, and we hope for another 25 in Tanzania in the fall of 2015. If we can reach revenue sustainability and expand our teaching team, we'll be able to work even faster and better - and meet our goal of reaching at least one rural community in every country in Africa by 2030. Kedge could help stabilize small-scale businesses in rural communities all over Africa.
Sustainability Plan: What is this solution's plan to ensure financial sustainability?
Kedge identifies and approaches rural entrepreneurs through the help of large economic entities (i.e. corporations & NGOs) who operate in our target regions. In exchange, we help these partners build better relationships with their communities.
This social responsibility consulting forms the basis of our primary revenue model, and we expect it to grow as we expand, our client base grows, and we receive more invitations to share our work.
Funding: How is your project financial supported?
Friends and family, Individuals, Foundations, Other.
Marketplace: Who else is addressing this problem and how does the proposed solution differ from these approaches?
As more corporations shift from in-house social responsibility programs to contracted services, we expect demand for our work to continue to grow. To date, we haven't encountered any other companies engaged in social responsibility consulting in the rural areas that we target. And although there are many rural development programs operating throughout East and Southern Africa, none of them have a hybrid approach and our unique focus on sustainability+business. The nearest comparable effort is the African Capacity Building Foundation, a World-Bank sponsored, Zimbabwe-based non-profit.
Founding Story: Share a story about the “Aha!” moment that led you to get started and/or to see the potential for this to succeed.
At a dinner party in Durham, NC in early 2012, I was lamenting to a local investor in rural development that the most distressing problem I'd witnessed in the Mara Region (where I conduct my dissertation research) was the lack of local entrepreneurial economy.
Rural communities ran small, unstable (essentially *ad hoc*) businesses, but utterly lacked the stability or longevity to aid in regional growth. I wondered out loud why no one did anything about such an evident and easy-to-solve problem -- what was everyone waiting for?
And as I was walking out of the dinner later that night, I had the sudden thought: What are *you* waiting for? Why don't *you* do something about it?
I launched Kedge the next day.
Team: What roles does your team consist of (i.e. full-time vs. part-time staff, volunteers, board members, etc) and how do you plan to expand the team as the project grows?
Kedge is a 4-person team (all part-time, unsalaried), with two members on the field team and two on the base team.
Our base team members, Emily and Courtney, help us research and write our curriculum, as well as manage Kedge partnerships and communication from our home "base" in the United States.
Our field team members, Alexandra and Joe, travel to Kedge sites to conduct our training, liaise with local partners, and mentor entrepreneurs.