Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Can an #American help an #African #entrepreneur? #dogood #giveback #philanthropy #cause #volunteer

Skype usage in Malawi is more limited that our other countries. It is more rare for our entrepreneurs here to have ever seen their consultants using technology as compared to Rwanda and Uganda. On my recent trip to Malawi, Naomi used Skype on my iphone to meet Allison for the first time after having worked together for 6 months.  It was great to see the reaction and excitement on both sides. Here Allison talks about her experience as a Grow consultant. Claire Jenkins CEO

Allison Morton Grow Consultant
Yesterday, I had the privilege of meeting my client, Naomi Kuluwani, “face-to-face” on Skype. After working together extensively on her retail business this year, it was a great pleasure to finally see each other and an equally great experience to get a small tour of her shop.

Naomi, retail entrepreneur
Naomi is a very inspiring entrepreneur. She owns several businesses, but she and I worked together to turn around her retail company, where she sells food and non-food essentials to locals in the city of Blantyre, Malawi.  When we started, there were many topics on the table – some normal in retail businesses (competition, pricing, and cash management) and some specific to her environment (currency volatility). With my experience in consumer goods and finance, I was able to consult her on some key topics – such as building financial statements, writing a business plan, managing inventory, and even developing marketing and promotion strategy.

Naomi and her best clients
It was apparent that Naomi’s shop had great potential as a residential hub for buying food products. One of our first assessments was to look at her inventory and analyze the profitability of each product. From there, we made a plan to promote, keep, or let go of certain products in her inventory. We also determined, through talking to customers, what products were in demand but not yet available at her shop. Through this, Naomi learned that her customers were, indeed, interested in more fresh food and meat products, which made sense to pickup near their homes and on their path to and from work. With this information, Naomi could make the decision to invest in equipment to stock and keep meat and chicken. Since then, her profits have increased by 30% and she’s hired one additional person!

Girl power in Malawi
I felt deeply honoured to work with Naomi. It takes great courage for anyone to start a business in a challenging economic environment, and I am inspired by Naomi’s passion, friendliness, and open-mindedness. As a consultant, my goal was to understand the details of her business and also get to know the person behind the business. Only with the knowledge of both could I provide a quality level of service at such a distance. (I am an American living in Germany.)
I couldn’t be happier to finally meet “face to face” and to see that all the hard work is paying off for Naomi!

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