Although we had initially planned for the girls at Ben Bela to conduct market research and start companies outside of their schools, we hadn’t considered some of the risks that that would involve for them. For example, one girl explained that, when she was conducting market research in a city center and tried to ask one man some questions, he hit her. Additionally the girls stressed that, when alone, even in small groups, they are often vulnerable to sexual assault. So, for the sake of safety, the girls and their supervising teacher, Ms. Judama Khamis, decided that they would create companies within their schools, with students being their main customers.
The girls identified numerous frustrations and needs within their school community and in these needs, they found great opportunities. One team at Ben Bela is creating a tailoring service, as many students are unhappy with their current uniforms, which are tailored by individuals in the community. These uniforms are rarely finished on time, vary in quality, and are quite expensive. The group of girls brought their idea to the school's sewing class and they have already made designs and prototypes; they plan to launch their company in the next academic year (in January).
Another team addressed a different problem within their school: many students go hungry during the school day, as no meals are served in school and there is no cafeteria. So this team created a mini café and for their minimum viable product, to test their idea and get proof of concept, they started selling fresh fruit juice. For two weeks, the cost of running the mini café and making the juice was about $30 USD and by the end of the two weeks, they made about $60 USD, which is an 100% profit margin. After the girls stopped the test, many of their fellow students were disappointed that there was no more juice, and were asking for the service to return!
On top of skills that might help them achieve success in the business world, the girls also developing proficiencies that will be useful to them in any realm in the future, such as critical thinking, problem solving, confidence, and communication skills. When delivering short pitches of their companies, they were poised, confident, and articulate. Along with public speaking, their English-speaking skills have also improved dramatically.
Interestingly, several teachers at both Ben Bela in Zanzibar and Petals High School in Kenya have asked to be a part of the Gentr club, as they personally wish to learn more about entrepreneurship, and to help out. The Gentr clubs, teacher supervisors, and principals also welcomed the idea of creating more resources in their schools to teach entrepreneurship.
In both Kenya and Tanzania, Gentr will become a permanent club, with new members joining every year, and both schools plan on taking it to other, peer schools in their areas. The principal at Ben Bela has already taken the proposal to expand Gentr to other schools to the school board in Zanzibar. We also worked with EQWIP HUBs to arrange for more mentors and specialized workshops for the Ben Bela girls in Gentr's program, to assist them with any modules or topics that they need extra help with, such as financial projections. We have also planned for EQWIP mentors to lead workshops on specific computer skills, such as using Microsoft Excel or PowerPoint. EQWIP has also offered spaces in their youth programs for the girls who will be graduating next year.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!