Train 30 Social Entrepreneurs to Create BIG Impact

by Flame Tree Initiative
Train 30 Social Entrepreneurs to Create BIG Impact
Train 30 Social Entrepreneurs to Create BIG Impact
Train 30 Social Entrepreneurs to Create BIG Impact
Train 30 Social Entrepreneurs to Create BIG Impact
Train 30 Social Entrepreneurs to Create BIG Impact
Train 30 Social Entrepreneurs to Create BIG Impact
Train 30 Social Entrepreneurs to Create BIG Impact
Train 30 Social Entrepreneurs to Create BIG Impact
Train 30 Social Entrepreneurs to Create BIG Impact
Train 30 Social Entrepreneurs to Create BIG Impact

Our focus on alleviating energy poverty is growing and expanding. 


January’s Development Entrepreneurship Lab (DELab) was focused specifically on agribusiness and energy. Through this, our most recent training program, we have gained a host of new Development Entrepreneurship Studio (DEStudio) members who are focused on energy, and who tie those energy connections with direct agricultural and agribusiness needs. Our DEStudio program is a year long, which gives us time to effectively work with and build on the goals of these entrepreneurs and to help them increase their energy focus, whether that be production of energy, distribution of energy, or productive use of energy. 


Some of these members are energy suppliers, creating energy through solar or mini-hydro energy systems. This energy is often used for irrigation which can greatly aid in crop yields, financial stability, and improving local food security. Another method of energy production is through bio-digesters which take agricultural and farm waste and produce methane for home use. Such systems are often shared among families and communities, forming a sort of mini-grid energy system. While such systems operate on a small scale, their impacts can be meaningful, helping entire communities. 


Many of our DEStudio members are passing on their knowledge to others around them, further expanding information on how to effectively produce and use energy, and magnifying our training impact. This has been especially true with mini-hydro systems of energy production. 


Thanks to a recent grant from the International Foundation, Flame Tree Initiative is beginning work on a Mini-Grid Lab, to further spread knowledge on how to produce and distribute energy to the most energy-deprived communities. This Mini-Grid Lab will be a sustained effort to network and teach Malawians who are interested in creating mini-grids. It will be an on-site, off-grid, “hands-on” effort that will explore all aspects of mini-grid creation, from site selection and engineering options to policy environment, building community support and identifying potential users of electrical energy.  


Together, current DEStudio members and past DEStudio members will form a Working Group to create a deliverable (report, vidoe, graphics, etc.) to help Malawians understand how to proceed and to give confidence to investors, international and domestic, that accelerated mini-grid construction in Malawi CAN BE DONE. 

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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.

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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. 

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


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. 



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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Introducing our DEStudio Cohort
Introducing our DEStudio Cohort

During 2019, we hosted three, distinct DELabs for 40 entrepreneurs. In January, these individuals were invited to apply to to our DEStudio program. We are so pleased to announce that we have accepted 12 entrepreneurs to join the next cohort of DEStudio Members. These individuals will join the other 20 entrepreneurs who have been a part of the DEStudio since September! Over the course of the next year, they will gain knowledge to propel their businesses forward, perfect their pitches, make connections to partner organizations, and become investment-ready. 

Already, they are hitting the ground running. The DEStudio Members in the Southern Region of Malawi had a workshop this week on financial literacy and had the opportunity to have one-on-one site visits with our Programme Manager, Chifuniro Kandaya. In between in-person meetings, each Member will work on individual goal setting and Chifuniro will support and encourage them to reach milestones. 


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Organization Information

Flame Tree Initiative

Location: Tucson, AZ - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @flametreemalawi?lang=en
Project Leader:
Kiki Chmielewski
Lilongwe, Malawi
$635 raised of $11,500 goal
27 donations
$10,865 to go
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