What is a social enterprise, exactly? A social enterprise is an organization that works diligently to better the lives of people and the environment, using tactics that are usually reserved for commercial ventures. Social Enterprise Day is observed on the third Thursday in November and is a part of Global Entrepreneurship Week. It’s a day to raise awareness and celebrate organizations that work to serve their clients’ needs by providing sustainable products and services, like FINCA.
#WhoKnew is this year’s global digital campaign, which aims to showcase the impact of social entrepreneurs by amplifying their stories, demonstrating how they differ from regular businesses, and highlighting the impact of their work. While many social enterprises have had a difficult year, those same social enterprises have been at the forefront of community solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As an impact-first investor, FINCA Ventures continued to onboard new partners throughout the pandemic. And what better way to honor the #WhoKnew theme than to spotlight some of FINCA Ventures’ most recent investees?
Investing in Women at Every Level of the Value Chain
NatureLock, a Kenyan food processing company, developed a unique preservation method that uses natural starches and fibers readily available in Africa to dehydrate fruits and vegetables, protecting the finished product from oxygen, retaining nutrients and taste, and extending the product’s shelf life. To alleviate poverty, promote nutrition, manage food security, and mitigate climate change, reducing food loss and waste is critical.
The company wants to create healthy alternatives to less nutritious, easy-to-make products that are currently on the market, while also reducing the time it takes to produce ordinary local favorites. The products are high in fiber and daily important nutrients such as natural vitamins, minerals, and proteins, and they are preservative- and additive-free thanks to the technology.
In alignment with FINCA Ventures’ gender lens investing approach, NatureLock is committed to improving economic opportunities for women throughout their process, beginning with employing primarily single mothers at their production site. To make things easier for their staff, NatureLock offers a daycare center where women employees may bring their children throughout the workday. NatureLock also provides women with the opportunity to start their own micro-enterprises by providing turn-key street carts and kiosks that will be used to increase brand awareness and sampling points for the StewsDay product in high-traffic areas. The company plans to hire brand ambassadors from the Chamas women’s organizations (local community savings and investment groups).
Helping to Eliminate Environmental Implications of Bottled Water
Water availability in African cities is being challenged by rapidly increasing urban areas and climate change. That is why FINCA Ventures invested in Jibu, a company founded in 2014, that has built a highly scalable distribution platform for essential goods and services through a network of locally owned franchises that provide affordable drinking water to growing urban lower and middle classes in Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi, Zambia, and DRC. Jibu’s water is high quality and made affordable and accessible through localized production and distribution through refillable, branded water containers, which are comparable to the cost of boiling.
Through an environmental lens, Jibu’s model reduces the need for home boiling and associated carbon emissions and health risks of indoor smoke. The solution uses energy efficient, low-waste water purification technology that can purify water from any source, and bottles are returned and reused, instead of being recycled, saving both Jibu and the end user money.
Social enterprises require resources and support to expand their impact and function sustainably. FINCA Ventures’ dedication to a gender, agricultural and environmental impact-first approach is seen in these investments. Showing support for global social enterprise organizations and raising awareness of their work is a great way to commemorate Social Enterprise Day this year.