Welcome everyone to our latest newsletter. Since August we have made great progress in creating green jobs for poor people in fragile states. For a start, Mirembe Nnaassuna, MakaPads CEO, has found an ingenious approach to increasing demand and building distribution for their biodegradable sanitary pads. Back in Germany, we have managed to grow our team of impatient optimists and secured major pro bono support in building our social investment platform. Enjoy the read – we are curious to know any thoughts, ideas or suggestions you may have for us.
MakaPads entering new markets
Recall MakaPads from Uganda – the biodegradable sanitary pads made of papyrus that enable girls to go to school throughoutfor the entire month? It’s exciting to see the progress we are making in entering previously underserved markets. Our CEO Mirembe Nnaassuna and her team have launched two test markets, one in the slums of Kampala and one in Masaka, a rural area halfway between Kampala and the Tanzanian border. We always knew that the unserved market for sanitary pads was huge at 70% of the total market, which left mainly poor women in rural areas without access. What we are beginning to learn is MakaPads seems to be the right product to meet their needs. The MakaPads team haves created a marketing and sales approach that always starts with training sessions around menstrual hygiene, sometimes in cooperation with local health centers, sometimes in the context of village churches. They complement this with product demonstrations and free sampling and then ask attendees where they shop for daily necessities. These shops are then approached and asked to list MakaPads. Our experience so far: great enthusiasm about our natural pads, great openness to stock our products, and a sound business model for all involved. The pads sell for 2,500 Ugandan Shillings for a pack of ten (about half a Euro). This is half of what international and non-biodegradable products cost, and it’s affordable for poor people. The shop owners buy from us for 2,200 Shillings, and the sales margin is enough to support our product. We, in turn, produce for less than 2,000 Shillings, which makes our approach sustainable financially. A win-win for all parties involved, and a great test case for our model. I am particularly thrilled by the entrepreneurial spirit of Mirembe and her team. While we have spare production capacity in our factory in Kampala, we were lacking sales teams to build up distribution. So Mirembe retrained the production staff as sales reps – who can talk knowledgeably and convincingly about the product they have already been producing, while saving money by using people we already had on the payroll. And by seeing the enthusiastic reactions of rural women to our product, they return to production more energized and more motivated. It’s a joy to see this team in action!
Building our digital platform with BCG DV
Back in the summer, we got our first break with financial support from Siemens Foundation, Hans-Neumann-Foundation and Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevölkerung for our ventures in Africa. We have now had another major breakthrough by winning a highly competitive call with Boston Consulting Group Digital Ventures (BCG DV). Every year, BCG DV donates 2% of their resources to building digital platforms that create social impact. This year, they chose Impacc. In the previous months, we had established proof of concept for Impacc with an “analogue” business model: we scout for business ideas in our network, secure funding through individual fundraising, and build businesses through close mentoring and co-management. The next step for us is to digitize our model in order to make it scalable. In a nutshell, we want to build a digital platform that i) attracts a new group of donors who want to make a social investment for which they expect a return and ii) standardize and automate business processes to allow ventures to go from prototype to scale quickly, and to on-board multiple franchisees. BCG DV will field a team of experts and build a first version of that platform with us in early 2021. We can’t wait to work with them!
The team is growing
Welcome Stephanie Naumann as our new head of marketing! Stephanie shares our passion of using the tools of business to drive social change. In her case, that’s the whole toolbox of marketing – from branding to communications to digital marketing and social media. Stephanie studied business administration in Berlin, Paris and Oxford. After a stint in management consulting she learnt the trade at Montblanc and has held leadership positions in various European companies and retailers. She is a keen sourdough baker and an even keener volunteer, having consulted various NGOs and charities, and having volunteered in integration programs for refugees. She has hit the ground running and already established a digital presence on LinkedIn and Facebook for you to follow and share the good news. We are glad to have her on board.
We are ready to officially register our Makapads Joint Venture in Uganda. Money is in the banks and waiting to be transferred to Uganda to get the business there off the ground. In Ethiopia, we are vetting candidates to build the first two production workshops for our gasifier stoves, and we expect to run first training sessions at the end of the year. In Addis and Hamburg, we are continuing to build our team and will share news (and new faces) in the next Newsletter.
All the best and stay safe, Till