A Safe Spaces mechanic hard at work
The auto mechanics program is one of the Safe Spaces vocational programs offered to young women. This program has a double function. First, it gives underprivileged young women from the slums, including some young mothers, an education and an income. In addition, it makes them visible in the community as they become skilled in a male-dominated profession. Safe Spaces provides tuition and certification fees for 20 young women through the training program. Today, 10 girls are employed or in an internship, while the other 10 are working on their certification. These young auto mechanics have built a name for themselves. In Nairobi, car owners ask for the Safe Spaces girls because of their precision and attention to detail.
The success of the auto mechanics program brought on the idea to create a garage as an income-generating sustainable enterprise. In spring 2016, Safe Spaces submitted this idea to the 1% Club and Accenture Student Battle challenge. A group of four enthusiastic Dutch students picked the Safe Spaces auto mechanics garage idea and developed a business plan called Garage Entourage to create a car garage. The students wrote and presented a great plan, in addition to raising €4,500, about half of the cost to set up the garage. Their plan made the short list and the team pitched to a jury of Accenture Innovation Consultants alongside three other projects. The prize at stake was additional funds to implement the winning project, including a trip to the project site.
- Garage Entourage came in second place, just missing the trip to Nairobi and additional funds to implement this project.
- Coming in second was a blessing in disguise. Although the students thoroughly researched the project, they had limited input from Safe Spaces as well as experts in the field. Is a garage that focuses on car maintenance and repairs really the best idea for the Nairobi market? Did the plan accurately reflect actual costs?
The Student Battle gave Garage Entourage and Safe Spaces amazing visibility, both online and in traditional media. A local newspaper in the Netherlands ran a story on the Garage Entourage team, which was read by Henk Veldman, Project and Investment Manager from the Talud Foundation. Henk just returned from the Netherlands after working in Nairobi for two years at the Dutch-Kenyan motorcycle company Kibo.
- Finding the right connection takes time, but they are out there. Henk is currently working with Safe Spaces to refine the out the Garage Entourage business plan to make in more robust and scalable.
Henk also connected Safe Spaces with the Kibo motorcycle company and partner company Savvy Riders, who developed a motorcycle training and maintenance programme. They are looking for both experienced and eager-to-learn mechanics, especially women. Safe Spaces fits the bill! With another 22 young women on the waiting list to start the mechanics program, we are working on building a strong partnership with Kibo.
After all, failing turns out to be a crucial part of growing the auto mechanics program!
Fail Forward for Garage Entourage and all Safe Spaces Projects:
- Ask lots of questions and be open to feedback
- Be visible to the right audience at the right time - projects and programs all have a target audience. Know who you want to be visible to and make sure that these individuals or organizations are aware of the project.
- Dream big, but break projects down into digestible pieces. We can’t successfully build a garage until we have a strong foundation established.
Call to action: support a girl in our auto mechanics with a one-time or recurring donation today!
Safe Spaces Mechanics
Garage Entourage Team