The Good. We started out October with a grand-opening celebration for our branch in Makadara. Agents from all four branches came together to mark this special occasion. We had an agent from each location speak about their experiences with iSmart and they all gave heartfelt accounts of how the program has positively influenced their lives. The newest agent from Makadara said, “Our lives have changed. iSmart gives you an opportunity to grow yourself, because when you come to iSmart, you have a reason to wake up in the morning."
Another great October highlight is that we are piloting a new branch in Kibera. We are excited to get this store off of the ground and it keeps us on track with our plan for scale and financial sustainability. The Kibera pilot has helped us reach our training goals for October and we were only one job away from meeting our monthly jobs created goal. With two months left in the year, we are ahead of our annual training goal and project that we will be able to catch up and meet our 2014 job goal as well.
The Challenges. Each new location we open comes with its own unique challenges. Kibera has a reputation as the largest slum in sub-Saharan Africa and is a very challenging environment to work in. With the limited infrastructure in Kibera, it has been difficult to find an office space to hold our trainings that is safe and accessible by road so that we can easily deliver our products. In addition, the NGOs working in Kibera often pay people to attend trainings. This is challenging for us to navigate because we offer our training at no cost, but we do not pay people to attend, which makes it hard for us to compete with other trainings in the area. However, if we offer to pay people just to attend trainings, many people will just come to receive the money. We think that in Kibera, as in Mathare where we had a similar problem, we have to start small and once we show the community the value of our program, youth will want to attend our trainings because of the job opportunity we provide. This highlights the importance of understanding the dynamics of each community and strategically implementing our model so that we are poised for growth, even if it is slow to start.