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An inclusive business Model

Not for profit or not?

I moved back to Sweden 3 years ago after having worked in Zambia for 11 years. I wanted to continue to develop small-scale producers in Southern Africa as I had previously done  working both in the private sector and with NGOs in the not for profit sector. I also felt a need to run something based on my knowledge and skills and not run a project that had already  pre-defined methods and goals as is often the case in the development sector. I did not want to pursue a philanthropic venture as I have often seen these programmes start-up to collapse when funding or personal are not in place. My goal was to create a business that could survive without me. A business that could make a difference by creating jobs and increasing incomes.  A business that was not tied to a particular place. A business that would be economically viable and attract investment.  A business with an “inclusive business model”

An inclusive business as defined by Wikipedia is a commercially viable model that benefits low-income communities by including them in a company’s value chain on the demand side as clients and consumers, and/or on the supply side as producers, entrepreneurs or employees in a sustainable way. Inclusive business is not corporate philanthropy or corporate social responsibility, which have inherent limitations of scope, impact and budget. Rather, it is the search for sustainable business models that “do well by doing good” and are part of the companies’ core business activities – the key to business having development impact at scale.

Inclusive business model. Source WBSCD

Inclusive business model. Source WBSCD

Yawama of Sweden is a for profit business that aims to do well by doing good, although profit maximization is NOT our ultimate goal.  The current focus is to meet current expenses which include developing products and the producers, training and testing expenses and meeting Yawama administrative costs. I do get questioned about my business model some people feeling that I would be better off running my business as a charity.  Swedes are happy givers towards philanthropical initiatives and businesses can make beneficial tax reductions on goodwill.  Not for profit organisations are a large part of the business community. My personal opinion is that building fundraising into your business concept can be costly and time-consuming and requires a large network and may not be the most cost-effective tool for a smaller business and might not provide incentives for creative and practical solutions for businesses to run.

Examples of businesses in Sweden importing from Africa and their business models

Individuella Männsikohjälpen (IM) in Sweden have existed for many years running as a not for profit organisation  successfully importing crafts from developing countries but also working with development and aid. They have a large network of producers, employees and volunteers.  IM products include fair trade coffee, teas and home interior and textiles.

Sackeus is a good example of a business that started out as a not for profit being run by the Swedish Church, and today run as a large wholesaler of fairtrade coffee, tea and confectionary.

Both the above examples are predominantly importing from South America and Asia and are established larger organisations.

North and South Fair trade and The house of Fair Trade are large  wholesalers of imported goods from many developing countries. They stock food and beverage and a range of interior accessories.  The house of fair trade also stocks children articles.

African touch, Just Africa and Afroart , are physical  boutiques based in Stockholm all supporting small-scale producers in Africa ( although afroart works primarily with producers in South America and Asia. Afroart started out as a not for profit today operates as a for profit business with design playing a large part in the productions process. I intend to discuss design processes later.

All the above just like Yawama of Sweden promote fair or ethical trade and market their products as products that improve livelihoods by job creation or increased incomes or “trade not aid or “help to self-help”.  I will discuss definitions and certifications in upcoming chapters because this is a science on its own.  All the above companies have  Webb based sales (apart from African touch) as a compliment to their wholesale or retail activity.

 

 

 

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A guide to starting your import business from Africa

I have been so touched the last month by the numerous numbers of encouraging mails complementing our efforts in working with the Yawama of Sweden brand but also asking for advice on how I have gone about creating a business that includes Africans small-scale producers. Many of us have travelled to Africa, worked in Africa , been moved by Africa, been inspired by african colour, african design, african handicraft  not to mention its beautiful people.  We all understand that needs at the so-called base of the pyramid ( the 3-4 million people living on less than USD 2,50 – 8,00 per day….numbers differ depending on where the definition comes from)  are too numerous to mention. What do we all have in common? We want to do good business. We want to make change.  Many have ideas of starting up similar ventures or have already started. Some have started and closed shop. I would like to share my experiences. Not because I love competition but because I feel that together we can grow. Hopefully you can save time and money  by avoiding some of the mistakes that I have made. Hopefully this space will help your business to grow and therefore help others.  Something I have learned here in Sweden is that sharing ideas and experiences brings growth and I am grateful for the many opportunities where I have gained information because someone chose to share it.

I sincerely hope that we can use this as a platform to discuss and exchange ideas about import strategies, product development, design, freight costs, payments and more. Where possible I will refer to brands and businesses that have been an inspiration.

I do not feel that I have all the answers but I truly believe that Africa is in a position to offer products for the interior and children industry for Europe and in so doing also create market opportunities locally in Africa. The internet is providing new ways that we can work with producers in the South. A number of different freight options are available.  We are a number of young dynamic African offspring with a die-hard passion to bring change and economic development to the African continent and whether you are Zambian or Nigerian the word “Africa” says home.

The areas that I will be highlighting in  the guide to starting your import business from Africa will include

  1. Your Business Model
  2. Your Market
  3. Your Value Chain
  4. Your suppliers
  5. Your Distribution
  6. Your Marketing Mix

Please take note that I will write from my experiences from both Africa and Europe working with design for good. What might work for me might not necessarily work for your circumstances.

CASE: YAWAMA OF SWEDEN

  • Products: Interior decor and textiles. Plush toys for kids
  • Producers: Southern Africa , primarily Zambia
  • Market: Sweden
  • Marketing Tool: On Line Store
Yawama of Sweden

Yawama of Sweden

 

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Poor little Hippo

A short clip showing my home tests of our soft toys in the early days. Somewhat cruel but a must for all toy producers who are to ensure that toys are safe for children.

Our current ecological cotton plush toys are tested and certified in a laboratory.

 

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This is Anna

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She is all dressed up. Her hair is braided and she is beautiful. She carries herself with grace and laughs heartily like most African women I know do. In her hand she carries her mobile phone. She is strong, confident and positive.  Like most Zambian women she believes in a brighter future for her children. Anna plays a huge part in the production process at little Ndaba our partner for the  Yawama Kids soft toy collection.  She ensures that the other women who come to the Wednesday meetings get the training and the encouragement that they need and ensures that quality specifications have been addressed. She is also responsible for yarn distribution.

Anna has been knitting since the age of 6. Her mother was her inspiration.  She lives with her husband Innocent, in small brick house that belongs to the pig farmer where her husband works. They have electricity and running water. They have 5 children. Her oldest child is 21 and her youngest child is 8.  They own a deep freezer and a TV.  Innocent has a steady income.

20140305_104604

Prior to her involvement at Little Ndaba Anna tried to make a living knitting baby blankets and scarves. She would  spend a great amount of time trying to market her product.  Now she can spend more time knitting and leave the marketing part to little Ndaba. Most often she knits in the early hours of the morning or in the evenings in front of the TV.  Every year she plants 1 ha of maize from which she harvests 20 bags of maize for her own family consumption.

With the extra income she makes Anna dreams of one day owning her own plot of land.

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Safe toys from Africa

YES YES YES. WE PASSED!

Test results

When this E mail came a few weeks ago I almost felt like I was back at school receiving exam results. After spending months trying to source an African organic cotton supplier, the little Ndaba team in Zambia together with the team at Yawama of Sweden ( Anna Lidström and Clara Lidström and myself) worked on new designs for the Yawama Kids.  You can only imagine my excitement when ALL our toys PASSED in ALL areas of the safety test.  I could not have done this alone. Thank you Charles at Little Ndaba and to Erin from Totoknits for your commitment to design, development and women empowerment in Africa.

Developing toys to meet  European safety standards can be costly business but can also be done in your home kitchen. We have tested both options. I have had so much support from Conformance and have run many trial run tests on our prototypes at home before sending our toys to the lab for analysis for official testing. So when I sent our 12 soft toys off I knew exactly what their fate was. Torture.

European standard EN 71 specifies safety requirements for toys with specific regulations for soft toys. Compliance with the standard is legally required for all toys sold in the European Union. The standard has been published in 12 parts and includes tests for flammability to ensure that fire does not spread quickly if the toy were to catch fire, mechanical testing to ensure that body parts and smaller parts can handle a certain weight before falling off and that dangerous elements are not present in the toy.

Further reading for those wishing to branch out in a similar venture

http://www.swedac.se/sv/Omraden/Ovriga-omraden/CE-markning/

http://www.sp.se/sv/index/services/toys/sidor/default.aspx

https://www.gov.uk/toy-manufacturers-and-their-responsibilities

http://oddsandsoxlets.co.uk/handmade-toys-ce-marking/

 

 

 

 

 

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Yawama Kids och Underbaraclara

Yawama Kids

Yawama Kids

Savannahome of Sweden changes name to Yawama of Sweden.  We have changed focus, worked on new designs and rebranded. Our big vision is to combine African craftsmanship with good Swedish design and sound business practices.

In conjunction with the name change I am proud to launch a children’s collection which has been developed with Clara Lidstrom, better known as Underbaraclara, one of Sweden’s largest bloggers and Anna Lidström, an established designer and stylist.  I am totally humbled to be working with these vibrant and talented women, who both share my passion to develop small business in particular women in Africa, and both share my commitment to respect the environment.

Nicola Fackel, Clara Lidström, Anna Lidström

The team-Nicola Fackel, Clara Lidström, Anna Lidström

Together we have developed the concept Yawama Kids - a children’s line that is totally unique. The collection includes products for children of all ages – that respect both planet and people. An ecological range of soft toys, hand painted cushion covers and recycled storage solutions. Our soft toys have been hand knitted using African grown organic cotton, and have been developed and tested to meet EU standards for Toy Safety. We are one of a few African toy brands that carry the CE Label. We are so proud to have made a product that we know is safe for your baby . Knowing that these toys have been hand-knitted by a Zambian mother gives me a greater thrill. We are totally committed to our vision of supporting small-scale producers in Africa, often women or widows, and ever thankful to the entrepreneurs,  and organisations that we work with in Africa for their commitment towards the same goals.

Our new product range has not just developed over night. It has taken months and months of planning, meetings, developing, research, sampling, styling, photographing and testing. Our goal has been to produce a unique children’s collection, without sacrificing quality, design or conditions of the producers. Something simply good. And that’s what YAWAMA means in my tribal language,  IT IS GOOD!

Fairtrade toys

Handknitted Plush toys

“I dont just see a cuddly toy, because that’s what it is. I see Mary and I see her son Junior, and I see his future.”

Producers

I sincerely hope you will follow us along our Yawama journey

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Chibwawa- pumpkin leaf

Pumpkins are grown in Sweden but many are unaware that pumpkin leaves are fully edible and are a great source of vitamins and Iron. I like to cook my pumpkin leaves with ground nuts or peanut butter, but you can exclude these if you wish although nuts do give an extra protein kick and will be a culinary treat for many in Sweden. Squash leaves, sweet potatoe leaves and beans leaves can all be cooked in a similar fashion. Chard (mangold) and cabbage can also be cooked with groundnuts with a much shorter cooking time. I suggest using fresh smaller pumpkin leaves. Older leaves will need to be peeled (almost like you would rhubarb) to remove the hairy bits. I also try to simplify my recipes so opt to use peanut butter as opposed to ground peanuts or crushed tomatoe instead of fresh tomatoe.

Fry an onion finely chopped, add a crushed garlic clove or two. Add a packet or tin of crushed tomatoes. Bring to boil and simmer. Roughly chop about 500g of your washed pumpkin leaves and add to the tomato relish. leave to boil for 15-20 minutes until greens are soft. Add 2 spoons of peanut butter and gently boil for an additional 3-5 minutes untill the peanut mixture feels creamy. 

I enjoy my ifisashi best served with Nshima (pup, nsima, ugali) however this vegetable is a great compliment to any rice dish and is great with grilled meat and potatoe.

Enjoy!

Chibwabwa

Pumpkin Leaves

 

Ifisashi- pumpkin leaves with ground nuts

Ifisashi- pumpkin leaves with ground nuts