SEPTEMBER 2017 || THE MONTH OF CHAMPIONS

The good: In September we opened our final branch of the year, in Eldoret, lovingly nicknamed ‘Home of Champions’, as the birth place of many of Kenya’s greatest athletes, and now home to our newest LivelyHoods sales agents! Janet, the new Branch Manager, has established a strong local branch, which is rivaling many of the Nairobi branches in its performance, and has contributed to a very strong sales month where we exceeded our monthly goal. All branches appear to be recovering well after the disruption of the general elections, and we’ve held several new successful training sessions in branches across the country, which has brought us to our largest sales force to date!

The challenge: It was announced this month that there would be a re-run of the August presidential elections, which has further extended the atmosphere of economic and social uncertainty across the country. It looks set to continue into October and November, and we are working hard to provide consumer financing (installment payments), as well as extra incentives to agents and customers in an effort to combat this uncertainty and nationwide slump in retail. We are a little short of our goal for average sales agent income, but this is set to rise, as many of our current sales agents are newly on boarded this month, and their sales are therefore set to grow over the weeks ahead.

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AUGUST 2017 || A HALF MONTH WELL SPENT

The good: Last month was no ordinary month for Kenya, with elections held for every legislative and executive position in the country, and widespread impact on the economy, security and service provision. LivelyHoods decided to suspend operations for the two weeks during this period, to maintain the safety and security of staff and sales agents, and to allow everybody the time to travel to vote, for those who were registered in their ancestral towns. We’re pleased to say that everybody remained safe, and no one was caught up in any disturbances. Upon returning, agents confronted the precarious economic situation with determination, despite having a depleted sales force. What is especially positive is that the average income did not decrease proportionally to the sales revenue, meaning that the 70 agents that were active across the branches were really pulling out all the stops to make up for lost time.

The challenge: The economic uncertainty and disturbances across the country during the month of August are not finished yet, as a rerun of the presidential election has been announced for October.  We are therefore expecting that it will be more challenging than expected to hit our sales and training goals for the next few months. Inflation has risen from 6.3% to 8%, and economic growth has slowed to 4.7%, from an average of 5-6% for the past four years. The dip in our sales force is due to several people still remaining in the rural areas, and not returning to the urban centers, where our branches are located.  We know that the next couple of months will be an uphill climb for everyone in Kenya, and we’re putting in place extra incentives for sales agents, sales and marketing partnerships with manufacturers, and increased coaching support to mitigate the impact on the income generation potential of LivelyHoods sales agents.

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July 2017 || One door closes, another door opens

The good: From the amount of green covering our July KPIs, you can tell that it was a good month for LivelyHoods, despite the challenge of impending general elections. We’re exceeding our sales revenue and average sales agent income goals, which translate into more income for the youth and women in our sales force, and greater uptake of clean energy products. One more branch opened this month, the last new branch opening before our temporary closure for elections, after which we’ll resume our expansion plans for the year. 

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The challenge: One door closes, and another opens, so goes the old adage. For LivelyHoods this means that as our newest branch opens, another closes after over a year of trying our best to grow our sales in that community. One learning has been that opening a new branch too close to an existing branch will limit the potential for growth of both branches as they eventually compete for the same markets. However, this also mitigates the impact of closing one of the branches, as agents and customers from the branch that closes can easily be absorbed by the nearby branch. 

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JUNE 2017 || ELECTION FEVER

The good: As elections approach in Kenya, we front-loaded our expansion plans and opened five new branches this year so far. The most recent branch was opened in Kitui, where we’ve already started training and creating jobs. Our expansion plans will continue after the general elections. The Kitui branch has really boosted our sales and training figures this month. We’re so proud of our staff across Kenya who are creating jobs and distributing life changing products.

The challenge: As we prepare for the slow-down in sales coming up to election time, we have already seen some areas become slightly more difficult to sell in, as campaigns block the roads and candidates make efforts to win over the highly-populated slum areas of the country. Every single agent and member of staff is remaining vigilant and not taking any undue risk, and we are closely monitoring the situation, with a scheduled one-week closure coming up in August.

May 2017 || New branches galore!

The good: As you can see, the LivelyHoods family continues to grow, as this month we opened new branches in Meru and Nyeri, two major towns in the foothills of Mount Kenya. We’ve trained women and youth from these communities to become the first cohort of sales agents providing access to quality products and services to their communities. We’re delighted to say that the average sales agent income has far exceeded our goal, and agents are earning a better livelihood than ever!

The challenge: The total number of sales agents across the organization went down slightly from April to May. Though we have opened the new branches, recruitment in our existing branches has been put on hold due to upcoming elections in Kenya and the mobilization of youth on the campaign trail. As an organization, we have made plans to keep our staff and sales agents safe and informed during these uncertain times, and we look forward to resuming our normal recruiting activities across the country in the second half of August.  

April 2017 || Settling in

The good: As our two new branches explore the marketing opportunities around them, and the new branch managers find their feet, our sales continue to grow steadily and we continue to consistently hit our sales target. As they’re settling in, new sales agents across the branches are increasing their individual sales, which means not only are they earning a more substantial income at the end of the month, but also our average agent income is inching closer to our monthly target.

The challenge: Sales in our older branches are not growing at the same rate as our new branches, and retention is also taking a knock in these branches. Therefore, our sales force size has dropped slightly, though we continue to hold new recruitments. These recruitment drives allow us to onboard new unemployed women and youth looking for a way to work their way out of poverty, while also increasing our market reach.

 

March 2017 || A truly national distribution network

The good: From this month forward we are truly a national sales network, having opened two branches in the center and west of the country. We now cover Nairobi, the coast, Rift valley, and the lake region, with LivelyHoods branches and sales agents. Our two new branches in Nakuru and Kisii have already boosted our sales and grown our sales force considerably. We’re having to make more frequent clean cookstove orders to keep up with sales growth across the country. We’ve also entered into a partnership with Population Services Kenya (PSKenya) to train LivelyHoods agents in behavior change communication, and take part in anational cookstove promotion campaign for the next 18 months.

The challenge: Average income per sales agent has gone down somewhat, due in part to the new branches which have brought on a lot of new agents in their first recruitments. In fact, these branches had training classes almost double the size of our Nairobi branches’ training. We expect the per-agent incomes to rise at these new branches as they establish their sales pipelines over the next few months.

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A sales masterclass

We were lucky enough to get a visit this month from representatives of The Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Santa Clara and GE (General Electric). After a training session with youth and women sales agents from our Kawangware Branch in Nairobi, the team headed out into the streets of one of Nairobi’s biggest slums to try their hand at pitching life-improving clean energy products to members of the community. A few words from Jeff Miller, of the Miller Center, on his visit:

“We had a wonderful visit to LivelyHoods. The morning sales training was really first rate and very impressive. The students were attentive, engaged, and quite bright. I was impressed with how quickly several of them picked up sales tips both during the training session and then on the street selling. I had the good fortune to accompany Irene into the neighborhood to sell. She is a delightful and impressive young woman and a selling machine. She talked to everyone we saw and pitched them on the Burn stove. Since she was conversing in Swahili, she then translated for me, although sometimes body language gave me a good idea of what was happening. We talked about a couple of different approaches she could take to overcome different objections and she immediately employed her learning, to great success. I think she sold 5 stoves in the hour or so I was there!”

February 2017 || A strong start to the sales year

The good: We far exceeded our sales goal, and average income per agent, despite it being the beginning of the year, with a number of new trainings bringing on new sales agents who are still finding their feet. We’ve also been gearing up for this year’s expansion, scouting out new locations throughout the month, and getting our pipeline of new branches neatly lined up. Watch this space!

The challenge: As we look to the year ahead, and our plans to increase sales of cookstoves to almost double 2016, we are hoping that subsequent months will see a drastic rise in the number of clean-energy products sold. We are exploring new partnerships to increase our commercial presence, and hope that these will come into force next month.