I know many of us are counting down to Christmas and the opportunity to take a break; spend quality time with family and friends and; rejuvenate our energy and spirits. For some people, thinking about work is the last thing they want to do as the year rolls to a close. But for a few of us, whose work is fuelled by passion and a desire to realise a dream, there is no ‘off’ button. If you’re anything like me, you’re looking forward to the down time, so that you can spend it strategising and planning how to take your business to the next level, in 2015.
I have a feeling many of you resonate with what I’m saying and I’ve got some wonderful news for you! I’ve partnered with the coolest startup coach I know, Danielle Anderson, to deliver a ClarityCall webinar on the 10th of January, to help you get started the way you mean to go on. This is an exclusive opportunity for you, my Afri-love community, wherever in the world you might be.
I've done this exercise with Danielle myself and it really helped me to focus on what was most important for my business at that time. It can be really hard to have that kind of perspective when you're juggling the myriad day-to-day demands of work and life. The results and momentum that I've experienced in the past couple of months, are testament to the power and value of giving myself the time to do this with Danielle. I wish this sort of pause, clarity and progress for you all so, I'm thrilled that Danielle has offered to run this exercise for us.
About This Webinar
Entrepreneurs, startups, and small business owners share a common trait: trying to turn a vision into a reality. In this workshop, we’ll tackle the question responsible for many restless nights: “How will I ever get to where I want to be?” You’ll be guided through a powerful, reflective exercise to help translate your big dream into a clear, actionable plan and get your business off the ground.
If you’re reading this, it’s quite possible that you take cycling for granted. It’s quite possible that cycling is something you used to do around your neighbourhood, for fun, as a teenager. Perhaps nowadays you ride when you escape the city, enjoying more scenic ‘scapes. Or perhaps you’ve chosen to ditch the train or bus and commute via bike each morning and afternoon.
Despite growing up in Nairobi, where I’d see hundreds of people cycling to town each morning, as I rode the bus to school – even I find myself forgetting just how much of a life-line a bicycle can be to so many people on our continent.
That’s why I’m pleased to share today’s interview with you and, with it, a new perspective on the joys of cycling.
Lauren Thomas, co-founder of Mozambikes (below), left Wall Street to find a different way to use finance to make more of an impact. Read on for her story and then find out how a bike can be a shop, a water supply, a job, equality for women, a school bus, family time, a delivery van and more!
What’s your passion?
I have a lot of passion! Passion for bicycles as a global solution, passion for sustainable projects that capacitate people to improve their own quality of life and, certainly passion for Africa. Mozambikes incorporates all of these into one project that is fighting poverty in rural Mozambique, using bicycles as tools for income generation. We distribute bicycles to those who truly need them, but also are seeking to build a better bicycle industry overall in Africa. This means better promotion of bicycle safety, more buffered bicycle lanes, education about how to care for bicycles and – simply – teaching more people to ride bicycles, especially women!
What inspired Mozambikes?
My co-founder and I were on a road trip throughout Mozambique and were struck by how many people walk such long distances in the country. Often without shoes and with heavy loads on their heads, walking such distances that we couldn’t even see their destination. We pulled over to begin talking with people about why bicycles weren’t more heavily utilized, and the answers were clear: the only bikes sold locally are poor quality and still too costly for the people who really need them. Imagine saving months of salary for a bike that breaks in 3 months!! We knew we could design a better model to get bikes into the market.
What has been your greatest obstacle/challenge?
In order for our bikes to be affordable, we have to bring in a container of components at a time. This means that at each container, we have to fund the capital for another 1,000 bikes. In other parts of the world, a purchase of inventory (where 100% can be secured by the collateral) is not so difficult to attain but, in Mozambique, lending rates exceed 20%. We are currently looking out for patient capital investors or other sources of social funding that can give us an inventory line and take away this challenge.
How have you dealt with/overcome this challenge?
In addition to seeking patient capital, as discussed above, we use other funding opportunities to help us bring in bicycles. We raise funds from individuals via a “Donate a Bike” campaign on our website, and this October we have launched a crowdfund that will not only be used to bring in bicycles, but will also help us to build a bigger and more consistent community for regular support. We are really excited about the traction that this crowdfund is getting – our site has had over 13,000 visits!
What has your greatest achievement been?
Our growth has been tremendous since we brought over our first bikes at the end of 2011. We have over 2,500 bicycles on the ground and are gaining more and more attention each day. As a general achievement I think watching Mozambikes blossom from a “passion project” into a booming operation has been amazing.
Where will you be in 10 years?
In 10 years, we hope to be in every Province and District of Mozambique and in surrounding countries across Southern and Eastern Africa. We hope to have regular safety campaigns, technician trainings and bicycle riding workshops. Mozambikes will have regular corporate sponsors around the world to reduce our dependency on individuals.
I hope that I will be acting as an Advisor or Board member for Mozambikes, and therefore also have my hand in other social initiatives targeted towards Africa and the bottom of the pyramid. Why? Because I strongly believe that we have not reached success as long as it is still so dependent on its Founders. Mozambikes currently has local Mozambican technicians building our bikes, and a local sales agent but we need to find amazing Managers that carry out the day-to-day operations. Only then will I know that Mozambikes is something that will help people over the long-term. And, then I will have the fortune of helping to build other projects that can reach out to improve the quality of life for people less fortunate.
How does Africa inspire you?
The people of Africa work so hard, and achieve so much, with so little. Women who walk 3 hours to reach their farming plots, only to work in the fields all day and then walk home at night with 10 kilos of crops on their head – just to feed their children… These people inspire me every day and I fight to grow Mozambikes to help each and every one of them.
Anything we should look out for in the coming weeks/months/year?
Something to look out for now – our crowdfund campaign! Please consider making a contribution – as little as $15 can make a tremendous difference in the lives of rural Mozambicans. We also encourage everyone to share the campaign, as the power of social media and personal emails is so powerful these days in spreading important messages. Check out the video and details of the campaign here.
Images courtesy of Lauren Thomas and Mozambikes
Maya Angelou lived such a full and creative life: poet, dancer, film and television producer, playwright, film director, author and actress. Not to forget the creative acts of educating and changemaking, in her work as a teacher and civil rights activist.
I remember reading I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings when I was younger and feeling like I'd found a role model who I could relate to. Maya Angelou's spirit of adventure, her prolific creative output and her positive mindset are all things that inspire me and that I aspire to.
Above – an illustrated tribute that I made today – to the phenomenal woman. Below – some more of my favourite Maya quotes:
"Nothing will work unless you do."
"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude."
"If you're always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be."
Karma Cola is a cola made with Fairtrade and organic ingredients including cola nut from Sierra Leone. I first took note when I saw the funky packaging via Choolips on instagram. Check out the video to find out the story of Karma Cola.
I came across beaded jewellery by Sidai Designs at a Shake the Dust stall during the Open the Gate African market at Old Spitalfields. I loved the different spin on Maasai-inspired jewellery and the quality finishing.
Sidai Designs collaborates with Maasai women in Tanzania who use recycled materials to create the handmade
Last week I had the pleasure of finally meeting Annegret Affolderbach, the founder of London-based womenswear label, Choolips, in person.
Having featured Choolips designs on the blog before, it was great to meet the amazing woman behind the brand. Annegret's passion for what she's doing – championing high quality craftsmanship; reviving ancient textile traditions; empowering the local artisans and entrepreneurs behind them; operating with small water and carbon footprints – is infectious. She is a rebel, in the best sense of the word, on a mission to make the world a better place. With exquisite style and beautiful stories. Yes, we can have all this!
It's that time again – the annual Southbank Centre Women of the World Festival takes place this week, in London.
Most of us want to spend most of our time honing our craft – doing what we love most. However, for most of us to continue doing this, somebody's got to buy.
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Online store, Soko, sells handcrafted jewellery made by artisans in emerging economies, using natural and upcycled materials. They "fashion a better world" through craft, technology and trade. I'm loving the technological angle – leveraging the fact that online sales overtook retail sales years ago and leveraging how empowering mobile money has been in Africa. An apparent win-win for everybody.
I'm also enjoying the bold geometric nature of the accessories above from Soko's 'Kenyan collection'.
Watch the animation below for the Soko model. I'm looking forward to checking them out at PURE London today.