Anne Stewart: Equipping Entrepreneurs to End the Water Crisis

Image: Jibu

By Anne Stewart, Relationship Manager, Jibu

Over one billion people do not have access to daily necessities like drinking water, and entrepreneurial talent lies dormant due to massive unemployment and lack of business ownership opportunities in emerging markets. Jibu is a social enterprise pioneering a powerful new model to simultaneously address these challenges, by scaling a network of locally owned, financially independent and self-sustaining franchises that provide safe drinking water to their communities while offering life-changing training and employment. Following are excerpts from Jibu’s recent report focused on entrepreneurship and community impact.

When we developed our concept of locally-owned businesses producing water for their communities, we envisioned each local owner being highly involved in the daily operations of their franchise business and hiring one or two staff members to assist with production and sales.  We have been surprised to find that franchisees in fact hire 3-9 employees, creating a total of 557 new jobs in less than 2 years.

While the job growth has been explosive and organic, part of Jibu’s social impact vision is not only to launch entrepreneurs but also to empower disadvantaged members of the community. With high youth unemployment rates in emerging markets, and women in particular often excluded from the formal job sector, we set a goal of 50% of all Jibu positions being filled by women and youth. In the youth category, we easily met our target, due in part to the rapidly growing urban population of educated, ambitious youth who have the soft skills and drive to succeed, and have been searching for an opportunity like Jibu. Recruiting women has been more challenging, leading us to partner with several external training and recruitment programs, including SPRING, Women in Technology and Akazi Kanozi. Through these efforts, our percentage of jobs filled by females grew from 35% to 40% from 2015-2017.

To further propel young women and youth, we developed a microfranchise program, whereby aspiring entrepreneurs resell Jibu water at a slight markup, enabling them to establish a customer base while earning the profits and business acumen to potentially mature into a full franchise position. The microfranchise program also enables candidates without business experience to gain the hands-on financial management, marketing, and networking skills to become business leaders. Through this program, Jibu has provided business skills and training to over 138 microfranchisees, nearly 50% of whom are women, and the majority of our current franchise positions are now filled by former microfranchisees.

To gauge the effectiveness of our entrepreneurial approach, particularly amongst franchisee candidates, we conducted a survey of 100 microfranchisees. When asked an open-ended question about why they became a microfranchisee, the most common reason cited was that “Jibu is a good business opportunity.” Specifically, 93% reported making a profit from selling Jibu products, and 81% reported earning more than before they joined Jibu.

To read the full version of Jibu’s impact report, please click here

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