Esperanza Soap Ventures

Esperanza Soap Ventures: Esperanza Soaps, Soap Made for Hope!

Amherst, United StatesSanto Domingo, Dominican Republic
Year Founded:
2014
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
Start-Up
Budget: 
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Esperanza Soap Ventures is a social enterprise that produces handmade soap with a mission to provide jobs, empowerment & dignity to women living in poverty. Our soaps are all natural & handmade by women we train as soap makers, making a fair wage and gaining the ability to invest in their families.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if we created companies that dared to hire the poorest, most "unemployable" people we know and prove we can be profitable?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

We want break the vicious cycle of extreme poverty by empowering extremely poor women with a decent job. Having a steady income, now they can invest in the health, education and nutrition their kids need so THEY are not condemned to poverty like their parents. The women we work with have great expectations for their kids but cannot provide the basic means for them to be well nourished and go to school. Esperanza is designed to empower these women

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

We created Esperanza Soaps, a company that seeks to empower extremely poor women by providing decent employment thus give them the means to invest in their children. Esperanza is unique: it sells a high value product (handmade, premium soap) that can be learned by very poor/illiterate women & that has a growing market; our factory was built INSIDE the community to avoid commutes & the women can be close to their kids; they have flexible hours to provide for home duties and also work. We are not just training women or financing their small ventures, we co-invested with them: the success of the company marks the financial success of the founders also. This is innovation: overhauling company design and business models to include the poorest.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Our company makes a difference: by choosing a product easy to make, has a market and also has the potential to benefit the community (healthcare benefits of teaching hand washing with our soap to kids) we have enabled very poor, otherwise "unemployable" women to become productive and gain a place in the community aside from housekeepers. They now earn a steady income: this means they can invest steadily in better food, school supplies, school fees and health. They can build a better bathroom and add to their makeshift houses.By placing the factory in the community we avoid commutes and costs associated (time & money), eliminating a strong barrier for the women to work. The women are now free to work and reap the benefits of their labor.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Our company is already having a strong impact. The 4 women we are incorporating to the company are learning a trade: soap making. They are also learning about teamwork, work ethic and entrepreneurship. Neida, Martha, Jocy and Mindry, some of the poorest woman I know, will for the first time have an income to feed their kids 3 times a day. By placing the factory in the community, we have created many indirect jobs (including the husbands of some of the women) in construction, transport, welding, etc. The women have a company now they belong to and can be proud of. Finally, people of the community, (called Las Malvinas II), are approaching us with new business ideas and getting excited about co-investing with us.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Esperanza has enormous potential: the handmade soap market is growing in the United States and high end purchases in the DR is growing rapidly also. Tourism to the DR (tourists mainly from the US, Canada and Europe - our main customer segment on the island) is expected to double in the next 10 years. Also, Esperanza Soaps was created under Upward Ventures (upward-ventures.org), a social business incubator (by the same founders of Esperanza) with the mission to raise a generation of social entrepreneurs that will use business to eradicate extreme poverty. We want to create hundreds of companies
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We are a for-profit company therefore we will sustain ourselves from profits; we are currently opening channels to sell our soap and promote our cause: an online store for the US and the DR market, distributors (local stores - physical and online), hotels and gift shops, and offering other services: making soap for other brands. Currently we raise seed capital from family, friends and local charities.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

We basically see two approaches: organizations that go into communities, train women in a trade and then leave, and organizations that go into communities and try to fund existing ideas. We go the extra mile: we co-create companies WITH the communities, investing in the poorest of the poor as trainees, building the infrastructure within the community, and making products with the potential to impact positively the same families (like soap in a place with no sewer system). The women can later become co-owners if they wish, but our main drive is to first give skills and provide a steady income.
Team

Founding Story

The founder, Kevin Moforte, had been working in slums across Latin America for 8 years, in many poverty alleviation initiatives. After one community meeting to discover needs in Las Malvinas II, a group of women approached him and said they appreciated the development work (basically building stuff) but told him what they really wanted was TO WORK. But they had no skills, had responsibilities at home and only had access to very low paying jobs. So Kevin decided we needed to bring the jobs to them. Good jobs: something they could make and gain a trade, make something that could scale, and that would also be beneficial for the community. Soap, among many other ideas, was the most promising

Team

Currently Esperanza Soaps has a founder and CEO (Kevin Moforte) that works full time. Kevin is an aviation engineer with a Masters in Public Policy, is fluent in Spanish and English. There are four women of Las Malvinas II fully trained: Martha (42, soapmaker), Jocy (27, soapmaker), Mindry (soapmaker) and Neida (preparation, errands and cleanup). In January of 2016, thanks to new funding, Esperanza will incorporate a salesperson in the DR and a new soapmaker in the US. Lead Scientist is Brian Cromer, PhD (c) Polymer Science, UMASS. We have teams of very bright volunteers: Social Media - Gina Orlandi (International Relations, UMASS), Reece Foy (Amherst College); Business Development (US); Grant Getty (Amherst College), Jaclyn Wescott (UMASS) and Jeffery Lancaster (Amherst College). Current advisors are Valerie Cooley (professor Program Evaluation, Brown University) and Ted Barber (Prosperity Candle)
Background
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

friend recommendation

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

Founder

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

No Poverty, Decent Work and Economic Growth.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

After getting my undergraduate degree in aviation engineering in Santiago, Chile, I worked for TECHO as a country manager. TECHO is a nonprofit organization that works in low income communities building temporary housing and promoting community development. My job was to travel to different countries in Latin America and start the nonprofit: get the first donors and volunteers and find human slums we could start working in. I did this in Colombia and the Dominican Republic for 3 years, and traveled extensively through the continent working with different country teams.

I cofounded PUENTEK, an organization in Chile that teaches social entrepreneurship to low income teenagers from high schools and universities. We designed a program through which over 150 teenagers have participated. I founded Upward Ventures in 2014 in Amherst MA, with the mission of incubating hundreds of social enterprises in slums to provide jobs, empowerment and dignity to families living in extreme poverty. We're starting our first company, Esperanza Soaps, in the Dominican Republic and in Amherst.

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

As I mentioned before, Ted Barber from Prosperity Candle has a similar mission to ours. He's been an incredible mentor - his B corporation was recently voted top 100 B corps in the world. Valerie Cooley is an academic from Brown University advising us in impact measuring and evaluation and her insight has been incredibly valuable. We are members of a few trade organizations that help us network and meet people we cooperate with. Simon Brighenti, from OAM Law, has been our advisor in all things legal. Mercyhouse, a church based in Amherst, has been our largest supporter. They provide us with office space, their members donate constantly and have kept us in business, and have also been a community to support us in all matters personal and professional.