April || A Broken Record
The Good. LivelyHoods hit a sales record this month and we’re thrilled! Our tent “pop-up shop” has been so successful that our agents now organize for its use on a daily basis. We ran a lean start-up experiment allowing our sales agent to set retail prices as desired, helping us test price sensitivities in the market. We learned that some agents can sell products at prices 30% higher than our prices. We also introduced an attractive base salary that incentives performance progress for newly recruited sales agents. And we selected four brilliant 2013 Summer Fellows to join our team in Nairobi this summer.
The Challenging. We pursued a different recruitment strategy this month, and did not hit our recruitment target. Typically we conduct institutional recruitment events. This month we placed an advertisement in a local newspaper. Our phones did not stop buzzing, and we invited 50 contacts for an informational session. We only added 5 to our sales force, however. We learned that when it comes to newspaper recruitment, there is a large gap between interest and youth who meet our job qualifications.
Recruitment Ambassador, Alex Govinda, and COO, Tania Laden, are ALL SMILES about breaking our sales record!
Meet the 2013 LivelyHoods Summer Fellows
After a competitive selection process, we are thrilled to announce our 2013 Fellows. Congratulations to this talented class of changemakers!
March 2013 || Lively Steps
The Good. Eight new youths have joined our sales force and are finishing sales training. In a survey of 46 customers, 100% of respondents said our sales agents are professional and explain products well, and 93% of respondents reported they were happy with their product purchase. We invested in an iSmart tent (see below) to increase our brand visibility during our weekly pop-up shops. Our Executive Director served on a 3-hour Rockefeller Foundation Twitter panel to discuss the future of livelihoods in the informal economy with participants form across the globe. And with StayClassy, we now have our first donor management system. Feel free to try it out and make a donation!
The Challenging. Despite closing for a week during the Kenyan presidential elections, we were confident we would hit our revenue goals. That was not the case. We did, however, exceed our quarterly target, reaching 158% of our Q1 revenue goal. And with Luminarc products like mugs and glasses now in our product line, the average transaction per customer has taken a slight dip. We expect this to normalize next month.
February 2013 || An Uphill Journey
The Good. Our February results are promising. We began exploring product partnerships with BBOX, Angaza and Burn - three companies that design affordable and clean energy products for those living at the base of the economic pyramid. We updated contracts for our sales agents and we welcomed Bronwyn Lew to our team. Bronwyn Lew, formerly with the ILO and Procter & Gamble, will be based in Nairobi, overseeing our marketing and M&E strategies. Her posting is supported by the Australian Red Cross Volunteer Program. LivelyHoods was also selected as an Echoing Green semi-finalist.
The Challenging. We attribute our recruitment shortfall to the 2013 Kenyan elections. Youth appear to be “unavailable” and “consumed” with the political process - both encouraging and discouraging at once. We will resume regular recruitment of youth sales agents in April. We are also planning experiments with our remuneration strategies. Another challenge we are facing is the timely servicing of faulty products; solar lamps in particular. Suppliers can take weeks to repair our customer’s products under warranty. The slow servicing of products leaves our customers waiting. We are brainstorming solutions to minimize wait times.
Feel free to send us ?’s, ideas and comments!
<3 The LivelyHoods Team.
Perspective || A LivelyHoods Fellow
Tell us about yourself - what you did before your fellowship, and where you are now?
I am the kind of person who keeps asking why, challenges your answer, wants to get the best results and pushes the limit on everything in life. I love adventure sports, music, and travelling. While I was at UCLA I studied in Chile and China. I learned how fortunate I was to have been born in the US (I am a first-generation American) and felt that I had an obligation to create opportunity for those who don’t have the power. After UCLA, however, I went to work in management consulting where I learned a lot about how to breakdown and understand business problems and devise solutions. I was good at it too. I felt unfulfilled, however, doing corporate work. I sought out a new challenge and started a small business. After becoming an entrepreneur, I was pumped and looking for a way to use my business skills to solve social issues in developing countries. I reconnected with Maria (ED of LivelyHoods) who I studied with in Chile while at UCLA and she told me what I was looking for was called social entrepreneurship. Within six months I was on a plane to Kenya where I spent 2 months working with LivelyHoods – one of the best experiences of my life! I am now at IE Business School in Madrid Spain completing my MBA. And in August I will attend the Fletcher School at Tufts to get a Master of Law and Diplomacy.
What was the biggest take-away from working at LivelyHoods?
I went to Kenya to asking myself two things. First, am I really interest in social entrepreneurship as a career path? Second, how could I be valuable in the field? LivelyHoods answered both of these questions for me. To question 1 I learned YES – I love social entrepreneurship! I loved the matatu ride into Kawangware (the slum where LivelyHoods is located) more than walking the hallways of Fortune 500 firms. As for my value in the field of social entrepreneurship, I learned that changing the world requires all kinds of skills. I realized that my business acumen can play an invaluable role in helping to build a financially sustainable organization that can improve the lives of others.
How would you describe a typical day as a LivelyHoods fellow?
In consulting we used to say there is no “typical day”, but I never had days like I did in LivelyHoods. After my ride into Kawangware where I was greeted by smiles, I would join the sales team for their morning meeting. Afterwards I would be juggling a number of things for different projects, from building a product pricing strategy, to working on sales evaluation forms, or conducting a financial analysis. Of course there are then the unexpected things that happen every day. Agents don’t come because their kid is sick, someone in the street has an epileptic seizure and nobody will help, or the streets are flooded and power goes out. A typical day is mixed with the travails of working in a Kenyan slum and making a real social business run.
What do you see as the greatest strengths of the organization?
I believe in the LivelyHoods business model and mission. The organization has found a way to do three key things: improve the lives of street youth in slums, provide companies distribution into slum markets, and get much-needed products to families in slums.
What were some of the challenges you encountered in Kenya? How did you handle these challenges?
The first month I was working there were new sales agents and one became a top seller quickly. She was energetic, personable, hardworking and always happy. She did great and then the next month stopped coming to work and her sales performance dropped tremendously. When we met to discuss this with her, she explained that she had received more money than any time in her life off of her first pay and did not see why she should come back to work. She was busy “eating” her money and would come back when it was done. WOW! What a different mentality that I would not have expected. I then made it a point to show her that she can make more money by continuing to work, to get money for school, new glasses, food and other things. Within weeks she was back to being one of the top five sales agents.
What type of person do you think would most benefit from this fellowship? How has it benefited you personally?
My time with LivelyHoods showed me how much I can make an impact on people’s lives and has hence helped shape the direction of my life. It redefined what I think of Africa. It reinforced the belief I had that the place I will be of most use, and enjoy, is using business to solve social problems. Furthermore, when I meet people at school or business executives the first and most discussed point is not about my time at Fortune 500 firms or even starting my own business – it’s “what was it like working in Kenya?”. I would recommend a fellowship with LivelyHoods for someone who won’t settle for the status quo, can be very flexible and has an insatiable passion to succeed.
Did you eat well?
For my 30th birthday, I went sailing off the coast of Kenya. I caught fresh fish and grilled it on the beach with Kenyans. A couple of days later, I went to a friend’s house in Garissa and we killed, skinned, cooked and ate a goat. It was the most delicious goat I ever had!
January 2013 || Feeling Real Good
The Good. We are enthusiastic about our January results. We achieved our performance targets in every category except for one. With the help of Kopo Kopo’s mobile money platform, we no longer receive cash payments for product purchases from our sales agents. We created a modern and branded sales catalogue and began carrying Luminarc household products. Finally, we have begun researching potential locations for our second store in Kangemi, Nairobi.
The Challenging. We recruited fewer youth than we anticipated in January. While we achieved 80% of our recruitment target, we attribute our unexpected recruitment shortfall to the 2013 Kenyan elections. Many young people with whom we conversed about jobs reported that they are currently involved in the elections. A recent Daily Nation article mentions how political coalitions are promising youth employment miracles in exchange for youth participation and support. Despite the tense political climate, we will continue our recruitment cycle in February. More than ever, our team feels the urgency to ensure unemployed and marginalized youth have the chance to become productive and contributing members of their communities.
Feel free to send us ?’s and comments! <3 The LivelyHoods Team.
What gets measured gets done. || Drucker
To achieve our mission, we must create jobs, sell products and grow. We consolidated our operations plan into a measurable performance scorecard, and commit to reporting the following results on the first Wednesday of each month:
There are numerous other indicators that we could measure. We believe, however, that these are the best indicators to give an accurate snapshot on the progress and social impact we are creating in slum communities.
Good People. We’d like to give a special thanks to Zubin Irani, Shawn Smith, Jade Van Doren and Kevin Starr for pushing us on this. And we’d like to give a special shout-out to Penda Health for their radical commitment to transparency and the example they’ve set.
A Lively 2012 || What’s Really Good
In 2012, we had the liveliest year yet, and we’d like to share our accomplishments with you. Our sales network employs youth from Kenyan slums to bring life-changing products like solar lamps, clean-burning cook-stoves and reusable sanitary pads right into slum communities.
To date, we’ve trained and employed 64 youth – single mothers and fathers, youth who never finished elementary school, and others who once stole to survive. Through their ingenuity and talent, they sold 3,185 life-changing products right in their communities. With your support, we’re building a world where ambitious and talented youth have the opportunity to work their way out of poverty.
LivelyHoods is enthusiastically looking forward to 2013 as we prepare to open new locations in new slums in Nairobi. Thank you for being a part of this journey.
The LivelyHoods Fam.
“To the young people I say, you are a gift to your communities and indeed the world. You are our hope and our future.”
Wangari Maathai, Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize Winner