This story originally appeared in our November 19, 2010 e-magazine. Click here to subscribe.
Beyond Profit and SEEP Network learned about many commendable social enterprises through our joint case study competition held from August to October. Read up on them below.
Wello: Walking Water
As we noted in our last issue, access to clean drinking water is a huge issue in most of the developing world. Women, usually, have to travel long distances to get water for the entire family. Wello, has engineered a rolling water container that can hold more than five times what a traditional barrel can—up to 20 gallons. This would weigh 175 pounds, but the wheel design creates an effective weight of only 20 pounds. The company’s pilot will focus on Rajasthan, India, where 90% of the population is reliant on the disappearing ground water.
PEPY: Living by Learning
Short for “Protect the Earth, Protect Yourself,” PEPY has two arms: an NGO registered in the USA and Cambodia, and a tour operator providing education programs. The organization’s goal is to help rural communities improve their standard of living with a focus on education. Currently PEPY supports more than 1,700 families in 12 villages and 6 schools in rural Siem Reap. During it first four years, PEPY tours transformed from a volunteer-based tour company to one that provides a learning experience to participants.
GreenSoul Shoes: Soles for Kids
GreenSoul Shoes has a lofty goal: provide 1 million shoes to shoeless children in five years. To make that goal more challenging, the shoes are 100% recycled. Each pair of GreenSoul sandals is made from discarded, recycled tires with no glues, no sealers, and no stitching. Their “buy one, give one” policy ensures that even poor children will receive shoes. So far, the company has given away more than 1,000 pairs of sandals in the Philippines.
Sharan Craft Centre: A Knit Idea
After the breakup of the Soviet Union, the economies in the newly formed countries tanked—unemployment remained at 50% in many countries for years. One of these countries was Armenia, where the brother-sister team of Aram Sharambeyan and Anush Sharambeyan started Sharan Craft Centre (SCC). Founded in 1993 with the goal of providing jobs, the for-profit company makes children’s sweaters and knit home accessories. Recently they started another business that makes and sells wooden furniture. Currently SCC provides jobs for more than 100 women and has provided training for more than 1,000 people. The company sells US$650,000 a year in textiles.
Odegard: Decorative Art
Odegard Carpets, started by Stephanie Odegard in 1987, has brought high style to the traditional hand-knotted rugs of Nepal. Stephanie was first introduced to the art of hand-knotted rugs on an assignment for the World Bank to study economic opportunities in Nepal. Now, years later, the rugs provide color and class to places such as the Getty Museum and Condé Nast publishing in New York City. The company has provided a boom in the industry in Nepal—in the 1990s, more than 1 million people were directly and indirectly involved. The company has patented 324 unique designs and does more than USD$10m in sales every year.
Kambiri: Milking Jobs for the Poor
Kambiri was founded by local Christians as a response to the high unemployment rate and the dependence on the Kakamega forest—the last remaining rain forest in Kenya. More than 52% of the residents in this area were below the poverty level and did not have access to jobs. In order to avoid the pitfalls of foreign-based organizations, Kambiri raised funds from local churches and communities. The enterprise now has 20 dairy cattle, which provide milk to local people, and provides the company with Ksh. 2,400,000 (US$31,257).
Santa Fe International Folk Art Market: Growing Art Business
This market takes place every July in Sante Fe, though the non-profit organization works year-round to support folk artists worldwide. The market generally includes 130 artisans from more than 50 countries and does US$2m in sales over two and a half days. Each stall averages US$15,000 in sales, and participants keep 90% of that revenue. About 92% of the participating artisans live and work in developing countries, so not only does the market help support disappearing art forms but also helps provide livelihoods for the poor. Prior to each annual market, participants attend a two-and-a-half day business training to help boost their market sales and their business back home.
Cluster Pulse: Creating Entrepreneurial Communities
Cluster Pulse works to support micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) through a “cluster” format that creates groups of small entrepreneurs. The company has worked with more than 14,000 MSMEs and artisans in 82 clusters in 10 countries. The company has saved nearly US$20m. Cluster Pulse works extensively in India and has projects in energy, textiles, and engineering.
Images courtesy of Wello, PEPY and Greensoul Shoes.