The Good: Our team has been researching potential locations for our growth this year, looking for areas where families use charcoal or wood stoves for cooking, have purchasing power to buy our products, and are not saturated with competitor cookstove distributors. The location also needs to be secure so that we are able to store our inventory without the fear of theft and be easily accessible by road so that we are able to transport our products safely. Most importantly, we also need a location with youth and women that can work as sales agents.
In May we opened our fifth branch in a town about one hour outside of Nairobi called Limuru. Limuru is a peri-urban area and we believe that there will be opportunities to expand to rural areas from this location in the future. Eighty percent of Kenya’s population lives in rural areas where there is a huge need for clean cookstoves as families often collect firewood for cooking, which is depleting Kenya’s forests.
The Challenges: We’re happy to say that sales are on the upswing and in May we had the highest monthly sales in 2015 so far with close to $8,000. Our numbers are still lower than where we were projecting for this year, but we are proud that in May our sales agents were able to increase their income and make 145% of our goal. It is through their hard work and dedication that we’ve been able to improve our sales!
We’re almost halfway through the year and we’ve decided to change up our recruitment and training strategy. We found that we had only been converting about one third of trainees into sales agents. This meant that we were spending resources on training, but not recovering those costs in sales. We know that our training has an impact, but we believe that our greatest impact is through the job experience gained as a sales agent, so we’ve decided to conduct interviews prior to training to ensure that all trainees are interested in taking on the job before they start training. This has helped increase our conversion rates, reducing our costs and making us more sustainable, but it means that we will be training less people than we initially set out to train at the beginning of the year. We will revise our goals with our staff, funders, and board to reflect this strategy moving forward. In May our conversion rate of trainees to sales agents was the highest it’s been all year and we hope it will continue to rise as we refine our new strategy.