Founder Resiliency Stories: Wizkit

Founders Resiliency Stories:

Wizkit

Bangladesh front-line workers wearing protective face masks manufactured by Wizkit. 


In Bangladesh, there is a significant lack of basic medical equipment and protective gear for the country’s healthcare and front-line personnel to help fight and protect against COVID-19. 

In response, ygap Bangladesh alumni venture, Wizkit, has connected with an international community of open source COVID-19 technology and have worked to recreate those designs in Bangladesh. Repurposing its product development and research teams, Wizkit is now 3D printing face shields, ear savers and have started to prototype a quick emergency ventilator. 

“Our 3D printed face shields have now helped 1700 doctors and front line personnel to stay safe. 500 more are rolling out as we speak. Additionally, each day we are averaging printing 120 face shields and ear savers to support medical professionals” ygap Bangladesh alumni and Wizkit co-founder, Mushfiqur Rahman Saad, said.


The ygap Bangladesh team spoke with Wizkit’s co-founder, Mushfiqur Rahman Saad about the impact of the pandemic on their venture, how they are responding, and their vision for a world beyond COVID-19. 

 

How has COVID-19 affected Wizkit?

Due to COVID-19, all our activities which required a heavy amount of logistical support initially stopped to a halt. Our research team had a difficult time initially adapting to not being able to work together in a single space with their equipment, and this directly impacted our sales and revenue. Our production and research involves a lot of moving around with materials and contents, so all our logistic functions were temporarily stopped.


What support is Wizkit providing to those affected by COVID-19?

After the initial shock we decided we wanted to help in any way we could. We connected with an international community of open source COVID-19 technology and worked to recreate those designs here in Bangladesh. Doctors and emergency personnel in Bangladesh lack basic medical equipment and protective gear, so we started 3D printing face shields, ear savers and started to prototype a quick emergency ventilator. 

Our 3D printed face shields have now helped 1700 doctors (free of charge) and front line personnel to stay safe. 500 more are rolling out as we speak. Additionally, each day we are averaging printing 120 face shields and ear savers to support medical professionals. Our ventilator is also entering medical trials and we have ramped up all of our production capacity sixfold from the time we started. 

All our 3D printed and other materials are now being sold at a fraction of any low end alternative in the market with a minimal margin to keep operations running. We have also created custom disinfection chambers that are now being set up across multiple factories (with a huge amount of employees, like RMG factories) and hospitals around Bangladesh for instant disinfection. 

What are the key ingredients for overcoming challenges?

For us what worked best is our personal sources and very strong supply chain which was able to serve us despite a complete lockdown. It also helps to keep the team completely focused on a “problem-solving” mentality all the time, that way everyone is always on board with what’s happening and how they can be handled.

How have you been able to adapt so fast in the face of a pandemic?

Our team believed that we could help. We used all of our resources from every possible place and person, everything at hand and used the international open source communities as a way to inspire action. Well-trained employees who believe in our mission (to make lives better), as much as I do as a co-founder, keep the team trying out new ideas and keep them going even from home.

What does a post COVID-19 world look like for Wizkit?

Post COVID-19, we would like to make a few changes within the organization, so that we can be better prepared for any such future emergencies. Additionally post COVID-19 our venture will thrive with an even stronger supply chain. but in general our venture was made to adapt fast and so that in its core will remain the same.


Wizkit is an educational technology company empowering youth involvement in STEM through research, innovation, product development and training. For more information, check out Wizkit’s website here: https://www.wizkit.org/

Wizkit was a participant in the ygap Bangladesh 2016 Program.


Founder Resiliency Stories: Safe Motherhood Alliance

Founders Resiliency Stories:

Safe Motherhood Alliance

A family in Zambia holds one of Safe Motherhood Alliance’s baby delivery kits.


COVID-19 has shown its potential devastating impact around the world, but it is a particular cause for concern throughout Africa as it could have disastrous impacts on the continent’s already strained health systems, quickly turning into a social and economic emergency.

In response, yher Africa alumni venture Safe Motherhood Alliance is continuing to manufacture and distribute emergency baby delivery kits for home births while also pivoting to manufacture 3D printed face masks and visors, and distributing other essential medical supplies across COVID-19 hot-spot zones throughout Zambia. 

“Our target is to distribute 5,000 baby delivery kits to 5,000 pregnant women and train 100 traditional birth attendants during this period as part of our ongoing services as COVID-19 puts an already overburdened health system under immense pressure.” yher Africa alumni and Safe Motherhood Alliance’s CEO, Muzalema Mwanza remarked.


The yher Africa team spoke with Safe Motherhood Alliance’s CEO, Muzalema Mwanza about  the impact of the pandemic on their venture, how Safe Motherhood Alliance is providing emergency maternity care and distributing health products for expecting mothers across Zambia, and their vision for a world beyond COVID-19.

How has COVID-19 affected Safe Motherhood Alliance?

Due to COVID-19 being highly infectious, obstetric providers are having to reinvent maternity care in real time to protect the mother, baby as well as themselves. As face-to-face encounters in health facilities are being discouraged, it’s more important than ever to ensure the safety of the mother, the  newborn and especially health personnel to avoid transmissions of the virus to newborns during childbirth in resource-constrained areas. Last mile health services in current situations are usually underfunded and under-resourced, leaving the virus to spread easily in these communities, and pregnant women are more at risk. The health facilities do not have enough face masks and visors to prevent the spread in the already overburdened health facilities. From what we’ve seen with the incubation of the virus, symptoms start when one has already become infectious to the general population.

With our work in the field, we are seeing in real time how health personnel and some of our own staff members do not have adequate supplies of PPE. We  have realized that we have a deficit of masks to the point that medical personnel are also at risk of contracting the virus and are concerned about the burden they will bear in the next few months when the crisis reaches its peak.

 

What support is Safe Motherhood Alliance providing to those affected by COVID-19?

Zambia, as with the rest of the world, is ill prepared for this crisis with a deficit of face masks, ventilators and mass testing that could help mitigate this crisis before it reaches its peak. In addition, COVID-19 dangerously affects pregnant women which is our area of expertise as our organization is responsible for ensuring that pregnant women have a safe childbirth. 

Our focus on pregnant women and trained birth attendants during the COVID-19 pandemic is vitally important because experience tells us that during health crises like the spread of the coronavirus: women are more likely to be infected, given their roles as caregivers and frontline healthcare workers (70% of them are women) and sexual and reproductive health resources are diverted, contributing to higher maternal mortality rates. 

in response, we are raising funding that will help us procure medical supplies of essential products for the readiness package to be deployed across the COVID-19 hot-spot zones and epi-centre in Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia, to train more frontline health workers already in our database. We will ensure they have adequate PPE and emergency kits for home births specifically for the baby delivery kit that includes medical supplies such as sterile gloves, surgical blades and delivery mats, and manufacturing 3D printed face masks and visors locally in Zambia to reduce costs and mitigate disruption to our supply chain.

We also intend to provide contact tracing in communities for those who test positive for COVID-19 especially for post-birth analysis in pregnant women. This is a practical solution that can be managed locally, relieving pressure from national facilities who would struggle to cope under sustained pressure. Our target is to distribute 5,000 baby delivery kits to 5,000 pregnant women and train 100 traditional birth attendants during this period as part of our ongoing services as COVID-19 puts an already overburdened health system under immense pressure.

What have been the challenges you’ve faced?

One of the challenges we have faced during this period is finding resources and funding for our business to adapt quickly enough to COVID-19 as it is moving at an exponential rate. This is a concern because we know that pregnancy changes the immune system of the woman making her more vulnerable to infectious diseases, hence more susceptible to a virus of COVID-19’s nature. So we want to work quickly.

Our primary customers, who are pregnant women are depending on us even more now with travel restrictions, social distancing and other issues brought on by the pandemic, so we want to ensure we are able to support them during this process. Pregnant women are being advised not to go to the health facilities, because of COVID-19 for safety and are encouraged to have home births. However, without access to sterile tools and a trained birth attendant, we could see the number of neonatal and maternal mortalities start to rise in the coming months or weeks.

 

What are the key ingredients for successfully overcoming challenges?

One of the key ingredients for successfully overcoming challenges is having a strong sense of why you are doing something, because that is what will hold you to be steadfast even when things are not going your way. Also, realising that success is a process and not an event, that way you are continuously learning and growing as an entrepreneur and a leader in your organisation. But first you have to learn to lead yourself, into the right spaces, to make the right decisions for yourself, because no one knows better than you what you need to succeed and you have it all inside you. You just have to believe in yourself and your abilities.

 

How have you been able to adapt so fast in the face of a pandemic?

From the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and when I saw the devastating effects it had on the rest of the world, I realised that this was the new normal and we had to adapt to it. So we set in motion, a clear road map of how we wanted to do that and reached out to our partners  so they knew what we were planning. So planning and reacting to the situation accordingly did help and, of course, there were times when I felt that it was all too much especially hearing the stories of what was happening around us. But that’s where we need a good support system who knows and knows your strengths and weaknesses so that you can depend on that system in times of uncertainty.

 

What does a post COVID-19 world look like for Safe Motherhood Alliance?

We are continuing to work during the pandemic delivering our health services and are hopeful that we will continue to do so for a long time, because the need is still there and heightened now due to COVID-19. We are working on ways to deal with it and take care of our staff, families, customers and communities. Despite all the bad news that we hear about the pandemic, there are also stories of hope, stories of people coming together and finding their “Ubuntu” and joining hands to help a neighbour struggling with something or even a complete stranger because they recognise that “this too shall pass”. And yes, the numbers of those we have lost to the pandemic keep rising everyday, but I am optimistic about the future of humanity. So I know our venture will adapt or even pivot to ensure it is future ready proof and we will continue serving the mothers out there, because we are here to support them during pregnancy and childbirth to have healthy babies.


Safe Motherhood Alliance develops and distributes health products to pregnant women from low-income communities and rural areas. We also train and equip local women from the communities who are traditional birth attendants to serve as frontline health workers. 

Visit Safe Motherhood Alliance website here.

Safe Motherhood Alliance was a participant in the yher Africa 2018 Program. 


Founder Resiliency Stories: Project Trishna

Founders Resiliency Stories:

Project Trishna

Founders of Project Trishna, an initiative of the Footsteps Foundation


The spread of COVID-19 and the associated government response in Bangladesh has resulted in millions of people becoming unemployed with marginalised community groups such as poor women and other minorities being most impacted. 

In response, ygap Bangladesh alumni venture, Project Trishna, initiated an emergency relief response, providing relief packages including essentials such as rice, lentils, salt, cooking oil, potatoes and antiseptic soap, specifically for the most marginalised members within society. Already 157 individuals and 571 families across 13 unions have accessed these much-needed relief packages who would not otherwise receive any other support. 

“One of the communities in Khulna City reached out to us two weeks after their aid distribution to refer to nearby communities that needed help, and actively came forward to engage in aid distribution efforts because after seeing our response, they were inspired to do their part for their community.” ygap Bangladesh alumni and Project Trishna co-founder, Sharnila Nuzhat Kabir, said. Project Trishna is a project of the Footsteps Foundation.


The ygap Bangladesh team spoke with Project Trishna’s co-founder, Sharnila Nuzhat Kabir about the impact of the pandemic on their venture, how they are responding and their vision for a world beyond COVID-19. 

 

How has COVID-19 affected Project Trishna?

Due to COVID-19, almost all of Project Trishna’s activities have had to be put on hold. 

It has been impossible to carry out regular monitoring of our site and installations, as well as servicing visits by our logistics teams. Due to schools being declared closed until September 2020 by the government, our existing systems will remain unused till the end of that period.
The closure is hindering our scope for new implementations and has put businesses into an uncertain economic period, thereby reducing our scope of prospective CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) partners.We have also been unable to import system components as these products are imported from Taiwan and China. Finally, our revenue sources have dried up and our runway is decreasing given our current burn rate and lack of new income. 


What support is Project Trishna providing to those affected by COVID-19?

We introduced an emergency relief response at the beginning of the lockdown in Bangladesh. This was to address the number of essential workers who did not have access to work throughout the lockdown period and could not afford basic food for themselves and their families. This support was provided to communities who are under the scope of Project Trishna, as well as low-income communities outside Dhaka. We focused on the highly marginalised and stigmatised members of society who were being overlooked by mainstream aid distributions efforts. This included women in prostitution and members of the LGBTQ+ and Hijra communities. We provided food packages containing rice, lentils, salt, cooking oil, potatoes, and a bar of antiseptic soap.

This is important because most of Bangladesh’s labour force is suffering due to lack of work and cannot access essentials such as food and soap. As we are unable to carry out operations in terms of Project Trishna, we have opted for an emergency response and thus far have reached 157 individuals and 571 families across 13 unions (administrative geography) . 

What have been the challenges you’ve faced?

As an entrepreneur, the uncertainty surrounding business, job and income security are some of the challenges I’ve faced. As a business, and in relation to our COVID-19 response, it has been hard to mobilise due to lockdown, insufficient donations and insufficient knowledge. 

 

What are the key ingredients for overcoming challenges?

Our key ingredients are embracing self-awareness regarding the crisis and crisis response, using time to our advantage in thinking out of the box or remodelling approaches, implementing a discipline oriented approach towards uncertainties and unforeseen future and engaging in creativity, exploring new methods, and spending time on creative solutions. 

 

How have you been able to adapt so fast in the face of a pandemic?

Coordination and cooperation from the team, with all hands on deck. We have been able to brainstorm and creatively adapt to the scenarios as it happened. 

 

What does a post COVID-19 world look like for Project Trishna?

For Project Trishna, community-based mobilisation is essential in achieving project outputs and long term outcomes. While the government has ramped up hand-oral hygiene (in light of COVID-19), access to clean drinking water is still a problem. Our project stance will now look into developing new community guidelines in our post-crisis activities.


Project Trishna supports the Bangladesh government’s commitment towards SDG 6, particualry SDG 6.1, access to safe drinking water. For more information, check here: https://www.footstepsbd.org/

Project Trishna was a participant in the ygap Bangladesh 2019 Program.


Founder Resiliency Stories: Pick Up Mtaani

Founders Resiliency Stories:

Pick Up Mtaani

Pick Up Mtaani is adapting to COVID-19 conditions.


COVID-19 and the restrictions put in place across Kenya to control its spread have had detrimental effects on small businesses and startups across the country. However for ygap Kenya 2020 Program participant, Pick Up Mtaani (formerly Drop Desk), who specialises in door-to-door delivery services for online businesses in Nairobi, the pandemic has created a growing demand for reliable and affordable delivery services across the city. 

“We have partnered with 25 other small businesses, where these strategic business premises can serve as drop off and pick-up locations in different residential areas of Nairobi.   This has allowed us to establish a presence in new residential areas and assure our clients of our ability to deliver anywhere within the city“, ygap Kenya alumni and Pick Up Mtaani founder, Robert Mwalugha remarked. 

ygap Kenya alumni venture, Pick Up Mtaani, is establishing presence in new areas around Nairobi with their door-to-door delivery service for online business.


The ygap Kenya team spoke with the founder of Pick Up Mtaani, Robert Mwalugha, about the impact of the pandemic on his venture, how Pick Up Mtaani is meeting increased demand across Nairobi, and their vision for a world beyond COVID-19. 

 

How has COVID-19 affected Pick Up Mtaani?

Pick Up Mtaani offers door-to-door delivery services for small, online businesses across Nairobi, delivering small parcels to their clients door step. Given the lockdown restrictions put in place throughout the city, a large proportion of Kenyans have turned to online shopping to meet their day-to-day needs. With a new found affinity for e-commerce, small businesses have been scrambling to find delivery partners to ensure that their products are delivered to their customers in a safe and secure way. At Pick Up Mtaani we’ve seen a spike in demand for our reliable and affordable delivery services.


What support is Pick Up Mtaani providing to those affected by COVID-19?

Pick Up Mtaani is helping small, online businesses across Nairobi meet the growing demands for e-commerce and online shopping in light of the COVID-19 restrictions. By offering reliable and affordable door-to-door delivery services, the venture is ensuring that those across Nairobi can shop online without having to risk going out into public to pick up their shopping. 

 

What have been the challenges you’ve faced?

From a growth perspective, we’ve had to face a lack of appropriate storage bags to facilitate an increase in delivery of packages at the pick up locations. Whilst the restrictions have made more people shop online, we’re also seeing Kenyans experiencing reduced incomes in light of the economic consequences of COVID-19 and this has negatively affected the amount of shopping they’re doing online. 

What are the key ingredients for overcoming challenges?

For Pick Up Mtaani, the key ingredient to overcoming challenges has been reaching out for strategic advice, identifying specific action plans required, prioritizing them in line with resources available, and taking the bold step of strategy implementation. 

To help the venture pivot, Robert has reached out to the ygap Kenya team for support. The venture has received legal, strategic and financial support to facilitate this growth and to acquire the appropriate storage bags for efficient package deliveries. 

 

How have you been able to adapt so fast in the face of a pandemic?

We’ve been able to partner with 25 other small businesses, where these strategic business premises can serve as drop off and pick-up locations in different residential areas of Nairobi. This has allowed Pick Up Mtaani to establish a presence in new residential areas and assure their clients of their ability to deliver anywhere within the city. 

 

What does a post COVID-19 world look like for Pick Up Mtaani?

We will see a shift in the way people shop for personal goods, and retailers who provide a tech enabled, multi- channel approach will gain a larger share. Consumers have demonstrated a massive trial and adoption of these purchase methods over the past seven weeks. Therefore in a post COVID-19 world, online shoppers will demand a combination of speed, value and convenience moving forward. 


Pick Up Mtaani helps small, online businesses deliver their products to their customers by providing an affordable and reliable last mile delivery service. In the last 12 months, they’ve partnered with over 50 online businesses across Kenya and have delivered over 13,000 packages. For more information on Pick Up Mtaani: https://www.pickupmtaani.co.ke/

Pick Up Mtaani founder Robert Mwalugha is a participant in the ygap Kenya 2020 Program.


Founder Resiliency Stories: Mama's Mushrooms

Founders Resiliency Stories:

Mama's Mushrooms

Fanny Fiteli, Founder of Mama’s Mushrooms.


The outbreak of COVID-19, compounded with cyclones, has presented a number of unique challenges for the Pacific Islands region. However,yher Pacific Islands alumni venture, Mama’s Mushrooms, is continuing to support female mushroom farmers by developing a new product line to meet the demand of the Fiji market.

“We decided to try dried mushrooms as an alternative product but also as an alternative to storage and product longevity and tested this. It was a hit. Our Naitasiri farms are now selling dried oyster Mushrooms for $40/kg!” remarked yher Pacific Islands alumni and Mama’s Mushrooms co-founder, Fanny Fiteli.


The yher Pacific Islands team spoke with the founder of Mama’s Mushrooms, Fanny Fiteli, about the impact of the pandemic and cyclones on her venture, how Mama’s Mushrooms is continuing to upskill single mothers in mushroom farming by developing a new product line, as well as Fanny’s vision for a world beyond COVID-19. 

 

How has Covid-19 affected Mama’s Mushrooms?

With national travel restrictions and curfews in place, scheduled training to increase farms and production has been postponed. And with Mama’s Mushrooms headquartered in the city of Lautoka, a temporary lockdown zone with no travel in or out, distribution has been severely disrupted – they are only able to supply customers within the area. And with tourism at a standstill, orders from hotels and restaurants have dried up significantly. 

Compounding these challenges have been Fiji’s cyclone season, with January’s training postponed due to Cyclones Sarai and Toni. The recent wrath of Tropical Cyclone Harold has left their internal grow house severely damaged.

 

What support is Mama’s Mushrooms providing in response to COVID-19?

However there is good news – domestic demand is still strong and by developing a new product line, Mama’s Mushrooms is pivoting to meet the market.

Since February, they have been working with Naitasiri farmers to produce dried mushrooms, using natural sun drying methods. Originally released to their domestic consumer base as a retail product, the line garnered welcome interest. 

Now, with the short shelf-life of fresh mushrooms struggling with COVID-19’s disrupted supply chain, Mama’s Mushrooms has doubled-down on the development and marketing of this line. Working with supermarkets, they are exploring a bulk, wholesale provision. And market research suggests strong potential as an import replacement for Fiji’s vegan/vegetarian market, who previously purchased overseas goods from local supermarkets. 

What have been the challenges you’ve faced?

When we received the word of our first COVID 19 positive case – we were worried and first thought of our safety and the safety of our children. We were also placed on lockdown and could not move out of the region we operate in called Lautoka for 2 weeks which made doing business very difficult. What resulted was that we used our 2 supplementary indoor farms to supply within the lockdown area and our Naitasiri farms to supply our Nadi market. Even this was really difficult to manage. Because crops were growing in Naitasiri, we decided to try dried mushrooms as an alternative product but also as an alternative to storage and product longevity and tested this. It was a hit. Our Naitasiri farms are now selling dried oyster Mushrooms for $40/kg. The challenge was trying to market this while on lockdown. We got creative and invited our repeat customers to give it a try. Now, 40% of them are repeat dried mushroom fans.

 

What are the key ingredients for overcoming challenges?

Always trusting and believing in yourself and knowing that you have the power to make all the important decisions and that every step needs peer support, positivity and ability. Never say that something is impossible.

 

How have you been able to adapt so fast in the face of a pandemic?

Aligned to their overall strategy, Mama’s Mushrooms were already trialing production and market testing dried mushrooms as means to diversify risk and capture market share. This foundation in place created an opportunity to scale and commercialise relatively quickly.

 

What does a post covid-19 world look like for Mama’s Mushrooms?

Beyond COVID-19, we envision a business growth spurt with the increasing demand for mushrooms as a vegan protein option. Already we are being inundated with orders for a weekly supply and delivery for individuals who have a vegan/vegetarian diet and who previously accessed their mushroom supplies through supermarket imports. We also expect to see an increase in our business customers. 

We want to help establish 2000 Mama’s Farms within the country over the next three years, spanning across three islands. They also intend to replicate the Mama’s Mushroom model in other regional countries like PNG, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.


Mama’s Mushrooms is a for-profit social enterprise helping women to improve their finances and access quality healthcare and education through micro-farming in mushrooms. To find out more information about Mama’s Mushrooms, visit their website here. 

Founded by Fanny Fiteli, Mama’s Mushrooms participated in the 2019 yher Pacific Islands program.


Founder Resiliency Stories: Motupa Enterprises

Founders Resiliency Stories:

Motupa Enterprises

Puleng Motupa, Founder of Motupa Enterprises.


COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on small businesses throughout South Africa with the country implementing one of the world’s strictest lockdowns. However, for ygap South Africa alumni, Motupa Enterprises, COVID-19 has created a unique opportunity for the venture pivoting from manufacturing cloth constructed slow-cookers to producing cloth face masks, positioning themselves as an essential product provider and thus enabling them to continue to trade during the lockdown period. 

“4856 people are currently using my masks to prevent COVID-19 and that makes me the happiest young entrepreneur ever!” remarked Motupa Enterprises founder, Puleng Motupa.


The ygap South Africa team spoke with Motupa Enterprise CEO and founder, Puleng Motupa about the opportunities that have emerged out of COVID-19 and how Motupa Enterprises has responded to these emerging opportunities. 

 

How has COVID-19 affected Motupa Enterprise?

COVID-19 has created new opportunities for Motupa Enterprise. Using the same materials that we use for our slow cookers, we’ve introduced cloth face marks. By introducing a new product, we’ve seen an increase in sales and have already sourced an international client in the healthcare industry. We’ve been able to re-position ourselves as an essential product provider enabling us to continue to trade during South Africa’s COVID-19 lockdown period.


What support is Motupa Enterprise providing to those affected by COVID-19?

As a business that is manufacturing cloth face masks, we are providing essential products in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19. Since April, we have sold over 4000 masks across three provinces in South Africa and have sold 1000 masks to France. As a result, Motupa Enterprise is well positioned to experience growth during these very difficult times.

What have been the challenges you’ve faced?

With orders coming in from across the country, we’ve experienced distribution challenges because of the distances. To meet the growing demand for face masks, we’ve requested support from the government to help deliver our product to different provinces in the country, but to no avail. So we’ve had to focus on building our own business and are now looking to partner with courier companies that are able to operate during the lockdown to help us supply the growing demand for our product across the various regions of the country. 

 

What are the key ingredients for overcoming challenges?

It’s a combination of a number of things. It’s the pursuit of a passion and the drive to make a positive impact in the world. It’s the ability to create new things and respond to opportunities that emerge. 

 

How have you been able to adapt so fast in the face of a pandemic?

With the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, SMMEs across South Africa are faced with a lot of challenges. It is up to business owners to either become the fish or the shark of the ocean. I want Motupa to be a shark and have the ability to adapt in every situation. For us, COVID-19 has brought new opportunities, new product lines, and a widened customer base. Using key materials from a different product line, Motupa has pivoted its business model and  introduced cloth face masks which are now mandatory for all South Africans when in public.

 

What does a post covid-19 world look like for Motupa Enterprise?

It looks like an ocean filled with lots of fish to catch! It will be full of opportunities.


Motupa Enterprise manufactures non-electric, cloth-based slow cookers that cook food without the use of electricity, fire, gas or solar power. They also use the offcuts to manufacture cushions and pillows. Visit Motupa Enterprise Facebook page here.

Puleng Motupa was a participant in the ygap South Africa 2019 program.


Founder Resiliency Series: Halad to Health

Founders Resiliency Stories:

Halad to Health

Eliza Li (centre), co-founder of Halad to Health in action.


Halad to Health ( https://www.haladtohealth.org/) is an Australian not-for-profit closing the gap in global health inequality by providing free health education to disadvantaged rural communities in the Philippines, which is funded by their GAMSAT (Medical School Admissions Exam) tuition services.

“In the month of April, we’ve had 300+ students enrol in various GAMSAT tuition events as part of the Covid-19 Campaign, who have collectively raised $8500AUD+ for frontline responders.” – Eliza Li, First Gens alumni and Halad to Health co-founder.


The ygap First Gens team spoke with First Gens alumni and Halad to Health co-founder, Eliza Li about the impact of the pandemic on their venture, how they are supporting frontline healthcare workers and their vision for a world beyond COVID-19. 

 

How has Covid-19 affected/impacted your venture?

We had been seeing incredible growth on our social impact side of being able to provide free health education programs to more schools and communities in the Philippines and by the end of 2019 had just pilot tested our GAMSAT tuition services with over 50 students. During this unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic, our ordinary operations and impact work were basically made impossible, but we were set on doing our part in supporting the global response to this truly devastating health crisis.

 

What has been the response of Halad to Health to the global pandemic? 

Although we were hard hit, we took a gamble. Within a week, we quadrupled our GAMSAT tuition service capabilities, scaled up and moved all teaching online and started a COVID-19 Campaign that saw proceeds from our tuition services going directly to frontline healthcare workers across the world.

We launched the Covid-19 Campaign and fortunately, aspiring medical students responded. First students from Melbourne, Sydney, Queensland… then Tassie, Western Australia and even the UK were enrolling in our GAMSAT services. It was an overwhelming outpour of generosity, from aspiring health students to support frontline professionals they admired so much, to say the least.

In the month of April, we’ve had 300+ students enrol in various GAMSAT tuition events as part of the Covid-19 Campaign, who have collectively raised $8500AUD+ for frontline responders. 

For International Nurses Day on May 12th 2020, we are donating these funds to support and thank all frontliners working around the clock at:

  1. Valencia Adventist Medical Center
  2. Mindanao Foundation Hospital
  3. Valencia City – Triage Centre
  4. Valencia City – PUM Central
  5. Bukidnon Provincial Hospital (Maramag)
  6. The Alfred Hospital (Melbourne)
  7. Alfred Health Sandringham Hospital
  8. Alfred Health Caulfield Hospital

What challenges have you faced?

I think so many entrepreneurs and business owners can agree that the biggest challenge these last few months has just been the unprecedented amount of uncertainty.

Do we run? Do we close? Do we invest in recruiting? How much do we recruit?

Not having all the answers when everyone in the organisation is looking to you for them is an uncomfortable situation but a much needed reminder of a lesson that I took away from the ygap First Gens accelerator – that the only thing guaranteed is change.

Being able to navigate uncertainty has been a major learning lesson. You not only need to be able to picture the light at the end of the tunnel, but also need to paint that picture for your team to come to work everyday just as inspired, positive and hopeful. 

 

What are the key ingredients for quickly adapting and successfully overcoming challenges?

An incredible team you can rely on like family.

A level of over-communication.

And a tonne of love for what you do.

I truly believe that founders get too much credit and team members never enough. We truly would not have been able to scale to this capacity without each and every Halad team member. They are the ones who work day in and out to make our Covid-19 pivot work, show authorship over their role in the big picture of things and go above and beyond to help someone else out if they’re struggling. And that is what I call family. 

During this time of external uncertainty, we couldn’t risk creating any uncertainty within Halad and needed to give everyone clear cut clarity on what we were doing and going to do. For us, that looked like calling everyone to check in on them, personally give them a role and spell out how you want everyone to communicate.

And it goes without saying, that love for what you do, is the common denominator that binds people together in times of separation. 

 

Do you have any advice to other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to cope/adapt?

Focus on the things you CAN control. 

 

What does a post covid-19 world look like for your venture?

Post COVID-19, we’re going to be stronger than ever. Our team has proven that we can turn dismal situations into growing opportunities and that nothing can stop us from doing good.

We’ll continue to scale up our (now international) GAMSAT tuition capabilities to teach our growing student base and, in turn, be able to run more free health education initiatives to schools in rural Philippines.


Halad to Health is an Australian not-for-profit closing the gap in global health inequality by providing free health education to disadvantaged rural communities in the Philippines, which is funded by their GAMSAT (Medical School Admissions Exam) tuition services.

Eliza Li participated in the May 2018 First Gens cohort. 


Our programmatic response to COVID-19

Our programmatic response to COVID-19


In times of economic stability, ygap’s programs support early-stage impact ventures to refine their business models, validate the long-term viability of the venture, and increase opportunities for people to lift themselves out of poverty or disadvantage. The focus is on growth: improving profitability, increasing sales, and expanding the impact they are having in their local communities. However, these are not normal times. 

Small businesses in emerging markets – like those that we run most of our programs in – are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of this pandemic. Micro and small businesses form the backbone of emerging economies with approximately two-thirds of all formal jobs in developing countries in Asia and Latin America, and 80 per cent in low income countries, mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa. These businesses provide a market for local producers, a source of basic goods, and crucial services for vulnerable communities, reaching populations that are often overlooked by larger firms. These small businesses are now in a place where they are both particularly at risk of the economic shocks of COVID-19, and the greatest key to economic recovery. For ygap, having worked to support the growth of such businesses since 2008, this is a time not to hit pause. In fact, it has become vitally important for us to support their survival.

In response to the emerging challenges associated with COVID-19, we developed a Resiliency Toolkit for our alumni ventures and ecosystem partners that outlines clear actions that they can take to increase their resiliency in response to unexpected shocks, such as a pandemic. While this was a good first step, we knew we could be doing more. We asked ourselves how we might best support our ventures during this difficult time and what type of response would be relevant, timely, and ultimately, impactful. To help guide this response, we surveyed our alumni ventures to understand how COVID-19 has affected their businesses and how they’re working through these current challenges to determine where we can best play a role in supporting them. This is what we learnt. 

Balancing the immediate concerns of our ventures with an understanding that uncertainty abounds, we have mobilised an organisational response that is demand-driven, agile, and localised and supported by our global team. This response represents a temporary transition for ygap – from backing local change, to backing local survival. The objective of this response is to support our alumni ventures to continue operating; maintaining revenue, their employees, and their ability to create social impact. 

This response has three tiers that will enable us to produce support content and resources through our global response, engage with and support the sector through our ecosystem response, and most importantly, create locally relevant resiliency programs with each of our six program teams that respond to the unique needs of that area. 

We recognise that these are unprecedented times and that significant  unknowns remain. Firstly, we recognise the state of the pandemic differs between each country we work in. Varying government restrictions, lockdown laws, and the type of venture itself all impact the ability of our entrepreneurs to operate. Secondly, we have never supported our ventures through a pandemic before, so there may be any number of variables that could appear as we roll out this response. Finally, we expect that given these unknowns and the current rate of change surrounding the pandemic, that the type of support required by our ventures will change over time.

We are, however, confident that our core capabilities and skills as an organisation – conducting detailed needs assessments, providing operational and strategic support, developing learning resources and content, brokering connections, and distributing capital in an effective way – will enable us to respond to these unknowns if and when they occur.  

What we know for sure is that we are not going away, and that we will continue to evolve our outputs to support local impact ventures and the communities in which they work. We will continue to back local.

– Simon Lee, Head of Global Programs, ygap 


Founder Resiliency Series: Anika Legal

Founders Resiliency Stories:

Anika Legal

The team at Anika. Noel Lim (back,centre) is  an alumni of ygap First Gens Program, November 2018 cohort


The spread of COVID-19 has led to unprecedented challenges for Victorian renters and landlords.  In response to this, ygap First Gens alumni venture, Anika Legal is stepping up to provide free online legal advice to Victorian tenants who are experiencing hardship due to COVID-19 and are in need of rent-reductions.

 “We’ve already begun hearing positive feedback stories – in one case a renter received a 50% rent reduction!” ygap First Gens alumni and Anika’s CEO and co-founder, Noel Lim remarked.


The ygap First Gens team spoke with Anika Legal’s CEO and co-founder, Noel Lim about the impact of the pandemic on their venture, how Anika Legal is supporting Victorian renters  and their vision for a world beyond COVID-19. 

 

How has Covid-19 affected Anika Legal? 

“As we were already a predominantly remote organisation that provided virtual legal services and virtual legal education, Anika was well-positioned to adapt to the effects of COVID-19. As soon as lockdown laws were announced, Anika had an emergency meeting to identify how best we could help. Within two weeks we launched our COVID-19 Rent Reduction service. With renters and universities being hit with restrictive self-isolation policies, the demand for both legal service and legal education sky-rocketed. As the Anika team is already well acquainted with working remotely, the team was eager and able to meet the increased client and university demand!”

 

What support is Anika Legal providing to those affected by COVID-19?

“In the wake of widespread financial insecurity, Anika sought to assist in any way we could. Given our usual scope is assisting residential renters to get repairs, we thought our services may be well suited to assisting renters facing financial hardship to negotiate a rent reduction. 

Within less than a month of launching our service, we have been stunned by the number of enquiries we’ve had. We’re approaching our 50th client and it appears the need for our product will continue to increase. Eventually we hope to further develop this service so that every Victorian renter facing hardship can access the legal assistance they need to successfully negotiate a win-win rent reduction with their landlord, helping provide security to vulnerable members of our community. We’ve already begun hearing positive feedback stories – in one case a renter received a 50% rent reduction!”

 

What have been the challenges you’ve faced?

“Our greatest challenge has been continuing to meet the increased client demand with a significant reduction to available funding as a result of COVID-19. The Anika team is passionate about providing access to justice, now more than ever. Continuing to do that with less funding has meant we’ve had to look for new sources of funding, and to consider what is the most impactful use of the resources we do have.”

What are the key ingredients for overcoming challenges?

“Asking for help. As a virtual legal service in the tenancy space, Anika is perfectly placed to assist the hundreds of thousands of Victorian renters who are struggling to maintain their housing security as they experience severe financial hardship from this pandemic. Being a startup, Anika is also able to move quickly, as demonstrated by the rapid launch of our COVID-19 Rent Reduction service. Anika is uniquely placed to provide relief to vulnerable communities in these tough times, so we’ve reached out to individuals and organisations who can help us, help those who need it most.”

 

How have you been able to adapt so fast in the face of a pandemic?

“Being a remote startup with a team incredibly passionate about providing access to justice is the perfect combination for moving quickly to adapt to the unexpected. The keys to launching our COVID-19 Rent Reduction service so quickly were worked on from day 1 – to have a team with compassion for the vulnerable Australians experiencing hardship because of COVID-19, and a culture of curiosity to constantly challenge the way things are done, embrace change, and innovate.”

 

What does a post covid-19 world look like for Anika?

“A world where legal services and university law schools understand and embrace the effectiveness and importance of virtual legal service and virtual legal education. Anika’s client feedback clearly demonstrates that being able to access legal services remotely significantly improves the experience. Anika’s student feedback demonstrates that law students have so much to learn about being lawyers in an evolving legal industry which isn’t taught during a traditional law degree. COVID-19 has made the ability to do both of those things remotely painfully clear. Anika deeply hopes that a post COVID-19 world is a world where legal services and law schools see the importance of virtual services for their users, and embrace a new, innovative way of doing things.”


Anika Legal is a free online legal service that helps vulnerable Victorian renters get their properties repaired. In addition to providing legal assistance to people who can’t access it, Anika also provides practical legal education to law students. 

In November 2018, Noel Lim, co-founder of Anika Legal participated in the ygap First Gens program.


Supporting our global Alumni

Supporting our global Alumni


COVID-19 has disrupted our programmatic plans for 2020, and we’ve had to adjust our support strategy on a global scale. 

Small businesses and vulnerable populations around the world are being hit hard by COVID-19 and the measures being taken to control its spread. Although the pandemic has instigated many shifts around the world, changing both the way we work and the way our impact entrepreneurs do business, ygap continues to support local impact ventures to ensure they survive this crisis and the subsequent downturn.

In response to the emerging challenges associated with COVID-19, we developed a Resiliency Toolkit for our alumni ventures and the broader ecosystem. While this was a good first step, we knew we could be doing more. We asked ourselves how we might best support our ventures during this difficult time and what type of response would be relevant, timely, and ultimately, impactful. 

To help guide this response, we surveyed our alumni ventures to understand how COVID-19 has affected their businesses and how they’re working through these current challenges to determine where we can best play a role in supporting them. Download the survey responses report below to read more about what we learned.

Equipped with an understanding of how COVID-19 is affecting our ventures, we are in a better position to determine where and how we can best play a role in helping these ventures. Whilst these are undoubtedly difficult times, we look forward to continuing to back our ventures as they look to mitigate risk and take advantage of emerging opportunities in light of COVID-19.

With love and compassion, 

The entire ygap team


Alumni Survey Responses

We surveyed our alumni ventures to understand how COVID-19 has affected their businesses and how they’re working through these current challenges.

 
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