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Acumen and IKEA award $50,000 to support social enterprises to scale impact further

Today, the world needs courageous leaders with the audacity to rethink and reinvent tired and traditional solutions to complex problems
November 03, 2021


Today, the world needs courageous leaders with the audacity to rethink and reinvent tired and traditional solutions to complex problems. Acumen and IKEA Social Entrepreneurship teamed up for the second consecutive year to launch a 19-week program designed to equip social enterprises in East Africa with the technical tools, knowledge, and networks needed to design strategies to affect greater social impact.

Led by a team of facilitators from Acumen and supported by IKEA’s global team of coworker coaches, participants dove deep into customer discovery and honed the essentials of building a business model that champions both social impact and profitability. Acumen and IKEA Social Entrepreneurship are pleased to award Carol Kariuki and Kuki Njeru of GreenPot Enterprises and Biruk Abayneh of Hidota Farmer's Multipurpose Cooperative Union Ltd. with $25,000 grants to further support their impact and business growth in Kenya and Ethiopia.
 “I believe that we helped our social enterprise to understand the true impact they are having, and it was fantastic to see their leadership and growth throughout the journey as well. A learning I took from my social enterprise was to dream big, never to stop learning and to always have passion and empathy for people,” added one IKEA coach. 
Congratulations to the participating teams and grant recipients! Here’s a look at the fifteen teams driving impact across a wide range of social sectors.

Agro Supply 

Agro Supply is a social enterprise that has developed a digital layaway platform that enables farmers to save for agricultural inputs such as seeds, fertilizer, and training - in small increments using their mobile phones. With their tailored retail products, farmers are also able to access smaller packages of high-quality seeds and fertilizers to meet their needs.
“I learned that every business goes through ups and downs and what matters most is how you turn those mistakes into opportunities for growth. One of my IKEA coaches helped me realize this,” said Andrew Beja, Head of Operations. 


Ecobora has developed a clean, affordable solar cookstove that is being used by rural and peri-urban schools. This provides marginalized communities that live below $2 a day access to green energy which reduces indoor pollution, and the deaths of women and children due to smoke complications while conserving Kenya's forests. Ecobora has saved 275,250 tons of trees from being converted into firewood to provide energy in these kitchens which has resulted in a reduction of CO2e emissions. The enterprise is saving marginalized schools 100% of cooking cost money that can now be invested to further improve the quality of education and healthcare for children. 
 “My coaches have helped me become an objective business leader, without losing that personal connection to stakeholders. They have pushed us to critically question every decision and encouraged us to document our progress, because even if it's negative, it needs to be discussed,” said Justine Nyaruri Abuga, Founder and CEO of Ecobora.

Era92 Creative 

era92 is a social enterprise with a desire to “Build Brands and Build Lives,” which revolves around the idea that communities need business to revive them. Business can employ people who want to work and prosper, they can teach skills to others to help them get started, and they can also invest back into the community. They do business with partners worldwide, amplifying messages in the digital space through web development, branding and films. The profits from this work help era92 upskill youth from Uganda with digital skills and connect them to meaningful employment to companies around the world.
 “This Accelerator has allowed us to expand our knowledge and to refine our funding strategies,” said Tess Hazel, Digital Marketing Manager.

GreenPot Enterprises 

GreenPot Enterprises Limited is Kenya’s first fully integrated bamboo company, with operations ranging from large-scale nurseries to bamboo plantations. The company has an elaborate out-grower program with small scale farmers and will soon start a bamboo factory to process bamboo into various wood and energy products. The company’s impact ranges from bringing about the economic transformation of local communities through the introduction of lucrative land-use innovation to impacting the provision of green energy products, contributing greatly to reducing land degradation as a result. In the process, the company continues to create quality employment and business opportunities for thousands of people, particularly women and the youth.
 Today, I have better clarity on the impact and how to scale without compromising  on the impact. Moving forward, we will collaborate to build projects that are even greater and of larger scale in order to expedite landscape restoration. Scale can!” said Kiku Njeru, Executive Director. 

Hidota Farmers Cooperative Union 

This cooperative union is owned and operated by smallholder farmers, aimed at improving the economic and social status of farmers through training, business support, market linkage, and financial services. The union focuses on activities increasing farmers' yield, income, and capacities through different approaches. To date the union has reached more than 11,000 farmers, helping them to increase production and household income while supporting members with their ability to absorb market shocks and also send their children to school. 
 “We as an organization show remarkable progress in different aspects after starting this training. We now look to do things in different ways than before and have shown tangible progress,” said Biruk Abayneh Allo, Co-Founder and Agribusiness Program Manager. 

Jaguza Tech u Ltd. 

Jaguza Tech is an agriculture-tech company that aims to transform the livestock farming industry by solving three major issues plaguing this sector. These issues include the extensive loss of livestock to common diseases, livestock rustling, and the lack of proper livestock tracking and management systems. The enterprise transforms the sector through the development and deployment of a livestock management system that uses the internet of things, data science, and Bi data to unearth solutions to strengthen food security while improving livestock production. 
 “Today, We are at a point where we clearly understand how far our technology has impacted our customers and through the program we have got ideas on how to improve the depth and breadth of our impact,” said Christine Kihunde Kiiza, Co-Founder of Jaguza Tech U Ltd.

Mukuru Clean Stoves 

Mukuru Clean Stoves is a social enterprise that designs, produces, and distributes improved, reliable, and affordable cookstoves for low-income households. These stoves are made from locally-sourced recycled metal and have been distributed through networks of female business owners and microfinance institutions. 100% of Mukuru sales agents are women and 85% of them live in the communities that they serve. Further, they partner with local women-owned businesses to reach their target market. 

Payway Ethiopia 

PayWay Ethiopia is an e-payment service providing banking and payment services to rural, unbanked populations. Specifically, the enterprise targets unemployed women and youth or those with unstable jobs to provide entrepreneurial skills and generate income. To develop and improve the capabilities of instant payment systems in Ethiopia, they offer PayWay on three platforms: the self-service kiosk, the mobile Point of Sale and the web interface. 
PayWay Ethiopia is one of the fastest-growing digital payment platforms and currently has 50 operating partners. Besides offering e-payment services to Ethiopians, the enterprise is also dedicated to facilitating job creation opportunities in the country.

Smart Foods Limited 

Smart Foods is a rapidly-growing food processing enterprise which aims to maintain an innovative edge in food product development oriented around a better lifestyle and livelihood. They invest in R&D for new nutritious and healthy products including soybeans, coconuts, and other cereals and legumes, and deliver them to clients across varying market segments. 
Aside from impacting how people eat and drink, the company has supported over 200 female farmers directly through training in soybean production and market access. They have also assisted 1,500 women in improving the nutrition of their households through application of their soy sauce powder product.
 “Moving forward, it will be a step by step process. We shall keep running our high end markets, but we are going to be more keen and focused on our farmers and more articulate about our approach with them so that we can effectively track their growth and impact,” said Martin Ssali, Director. 

Solerchill Technologies 

Solerchill produces, sells, and rents solar-powered cold-chain technologies to help farmers, food market vendors, and restaurant owners reduce food waste and its climate effects. Over 50% of Uganda’s population rely on agriculture for food and income generation. Solerchill ensures that Ugandan farmers have the means to safely store their harvest by offering their technology to an organized farmer group. To date, the enterprise has eliminated 53,707,680 kilograms of CO2e in three years and reached 90,600 customers with their technology. This in turn has saved 28,267,200 kilograms of food from being lost to waste.

TAI, the Accessibility Institute 

Across Africa, there are over 10 million people living in need of a wheelchair. As a result, these individuals face social exclusion and find themselves struggling daily to fulfill life’s most basic needs. TAI's (The Accessibility Institute) mission is to change the lives of low-income mobility-impaired people in Kenya and Africa. To realize this they have developed a low cost, high-quality assistive technology which allows mobility-impaired people to move around freely. 
In collaboration with Kenyan institutions and community organizations, TAI identifies mobility-impaired people who would benefit from using SafariSeat, then delivers the hardware to them and trains them in the use and maintenance of the wheelchair. The lowest income users receive SafariSeat through partnerships with donors, and they partner with microfinance institutions to allow low-income users to buy SafariSeat at credit.
 “Some of our biggest takeaways are to ‘think, experiment, evaluate, understand, fine tune, repeat,’ and recognizing the need of linking closely between evaluation and daily operations,” said Isabella Oriani, Co-Founder and CEO of TAI.  

Vava Coffee 

Vava Coffee is a social enterprise with a business model that supports a network of coffee producers in different regions of East Africa. Their “Direct and Fairtrade” model brings specialty grade coffees to roasters, consumers and importers who pay fair, premium prices. 
With a mission of driving positive social disruption within the coffee industry, Vava Coffee provides sustainable livelihoods for smallholder coffee farmers tracing the production of high-quality coffee beans to the independent smallholder coffee farmer. The company aims to contribute to better future prospects for coffee communities and the industry as a whole and is geared towards sustainable livelihoods for the people and communities they work with. Since 2009, Vava Coffee has worked with over 30,000 smallholder farmers across Kenya. 
“I’ve learned quite a bit from my coaches — it’s always good to get an entirely new perspective from  people who don’t work in your industry, because they can give you solutions that you’re not thinking of because you’re stuck in your mind thinking about the way things should be,” says Vava. 

WimRob Bees Company Limited 

WimRob processes and sells honey to local and international markets, as well as local supermarkets, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics factories, hotels, colleges, clinics and individuals. The social enterprise works with 3,900 smallholder farmers that provide raw materials to process and sells certified honey with brand names of African Queen Honey and Lango Premium Honey, Beeswax & Bee Venom Powder.
 WimRob offers technical beekeeping training and mentorship to allow smallholder farmers to increase productivity, quality and volumes. This, in turn, increases rural poor income and improves livelihoods. In addition, their work improves environmental conservation. The company has worked with over 1,950 smallholder farmers in the past year alone. 
“This training program has prepared us to scale social impact and sustainability,” said Robert Okodia, CEO. 

Zima Healthy Group (ZHG) Ltd

ZHG has pushed for innovations in horticultural products by making pumpkin seed oil, pumpkin flour, and pumpkin cookies all from pumpkin fruit, which until recently has been considered as inferior food in Rwanda. Due to the nutritional and medicinal value of their products, ZHG’s popularity is growing across East Africa and neighboring countries. ZHG works with cooperatives of rural farmers to grow and supply pumpkins and has raised the standards of living. The social enterprise works with cooperatives at the community level engaging youth, men and women for identification of their needs and capacity-building priorities.
 “This program has given me a new look! I have changed the way I see things. Many people fail because they don't know how to improve but now I have got new terms to consider and will avoid mistakes that could come in the future,” said Marie Ange Mukagahima, Managing Director.
Emily Close

Emily Close

Emily is a Content Creator at Acumen Academy, where she works alongside social entrepreneurs tackling the toughest issues of inequality, to bring their stories to the forefront and share their solutions with other individuals aspiring to affect social change. You can find Emily building content with her colleagues, bouldering with friends, or buried in a book in one of London’s oldest bookstores.