Mar 3, 2021

Agribusiness DELab was a huge success!

We have just completed another of our signature Development Entrepreneurship Labs! Twenty-five participants, twelve of them women, completed our first four-week long training program to focus specifically on use of renewable energy in agribusiness. Participating entrepreneurs have projects and enterprises focused on energy production, energy distribution, and agricultural uses of energy.

As in all of our DELabs, the entrepreneurs received training and instruction from a variety of Malawian entrepreneurs and experts. Topics included the usual curriculum of business planning, networking with other entrepreneurs for greater business efficiency, becoming investment ready, and quantifying the community impact of one’s enterprise. New to this DELab were topics such as utilization of biowaste for energy and how to incorporate, access, or produce renewable forms of energy within agribusiness

LUANAR University is fundamental to the goals of entrepreneur education and training. Many of their professors and staff assist with facilitation of our trainings and lend their own expertise to the program. 

Unlike most DELab’s of the past which were held in person, usually at a university, and took place during a single week, this DELab was held entirely online over zoom and other internet platforms, and took place over the course of 4 weeks. This longer timeframe (with less required travel for participants and facilitators alike) allowed for a greater level of progression and participation. This DELab’s participants were able to work in groups to recommend specific and localized ag-energy strategies in addition to their other entrepreneurship learning.

This training program is setting up entrepreneurs for success, and also giving them the tools to effectively build businesses which will provide positive societal impacts as well as personal financial gain. Together, these men and women will provide concrete and meaningful improvements to their communities and to Malawi.

Nov 5, 2020

Entrepreneurs are Multiplying our Impact

Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.

Teach a woman to start her own business...and she will get to work supporting herself and her family, creating jobs, and solving her community’s problems. She will later pass on the knowledge she has received, training others in business expertise or vocational skills, propelling and perpetuating a cycle of positive change. 

One such inspiring entrepreneur is Selina. The Flame Tree Initiative works directly with entrepreneurs like Selina in two ways. First, our signature Development Entrepreneurship Lab provides training, networking, and basic tools for enterprise success. Secondly, we run the Development Entrepreneurship Studio, a year long mentorship and business incubator program. Selina has completed both programs and is the founder of the Mptamlenje Foundation, Entrepreneurship and Education Institute. She succeeded thanks to her own inspiration and dedication, and the tools and mentorship we provided. 

When they come to us, our entrepreneurs already have ideas for improving the quality of life in their communities. By improving food security, increasing access to education, optimizing agricultural yields, or improving women's access to the jobs and resources men often dominate, these ideas have the potential to create sustainable development. The ideas put forth by Malawian entrepreneurs for solving Malawian problems are home-grown and self-empowering. By providing mentorship, networking, skill training, and business expertise to Malawian entrepreneurs, we empower Malawians to take control of their own lives and futures. Social entrepreneurs are uniquely situated to help not only themselves, but also their wider communities.

The Mptamlenje Foundation exemplifies how our work is changing lives by starting a chain reaction of development. The foundation takes a holistic approach to community building and provides a whole host of functions including education for primary students, vocational training in tailoring, traditional fashion design, soap making, and catering. Mptamlenje foundation is also in the process of setting up a local library and building a much-needed informational hub. Selina is proud and motivated, constantly adding to her enterprise's repertoire of functions. When Selina won a grant for her business, she invested the money in five sewing machines. Those machines are now used in fashion and tailoring training, directly employing some and training others to go start their own businesses. 

Entrepreneurs like Selina make our job incredibly rewarding. Her work is impacting the lives of countless people in Mzimba who can transform their community. By investing in our training systems, our Development Entrepreneurship Lab and our Development Entrepreneurship Studio, you are investing in the lives and ideas of individuals who will go on to spread that wealth of knowledge and capability a thousand times over. 

Jul 13, 2020

Leveraging Technology for Adaptation and Innovation

Online platforms can aid social enterprise
Online platforms can aid social enterprise

Overview

Spring 2020: the COVID-19 pandemic has brought unexpected challenges to the way in which the Flame Tree Initiative operates. Yet we aim to see opportunities in every crisis and pivot, innovating to accomplish our goals. We continue to be in constant communication with entrepreneurs digitally, helping to sustain their businesses, create jobs, and generate positive community impacts.  

 

DELab and DEStudio innovation

Our sequential programs, DELabs and the DEStudio, which focus on mitigating energy poverty, are still moving forward! The recent DELab focused on creating supply and demand for off-grid energy, training and networking Malawians across a range of technologies. 

The DELab has previously been offered in-person, as a six-day training conducted on a university campus. In the context of COVID-19, we have transitioned to an online modality, meeting weekly with participants for a seven-week period using videoconferencing platforms such as Skype and Zoom. This shift in delivery has allowed DELab to integrate training on these platforms into our program, a change that has been valued by our participants. Banda, DELab graduate and founder of his own agricultural enterprise, appreciates how learning to leverage technology for social enterprise in this current COVID-19 era builds future frameworks to “network with other entrepreneurs regardless of the season." 

Our new online platform allowed us to expand mentoring on topics such as accessing information and networking online, the importance of a website and online branding, and use of social media for connecting with potential future customers. Chimasula, DELab graduate and current DEStudio participant, explains that she "learnt that visibility through social media and other channels provides a lot of opportunities.” 

Another innovation is the creation of small group, community-based energy projects, some of which will carry forward as partnerships worthy of external support. In this way, the extended DELab timeline allows for some skills and learning to be put into practice while participants are still part of the program and can receive more direct assistance. Meeting online eliminates the need for travel to a specific location which has decreased costs for Flame Tree Initiative experts and for our participants who may live in rural areas. 

 

Summary

While the pandemic impacts our work, we have pivoted to address the challenge and grew stronger than ever. Thank you for your continued support!
 

DEStudio 2020
DEStudio 2020
Mask to protect against COVID-19
Mask to protect against COVID-19
Meeting with our Founder over Zoom
Meeting with our Founder over Zoom

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