Mark Gunton

Closing the Market Gap: The Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership trains female entrepreneurs to sell a varitey of products in remote regions

Before we met Ana Veronica Ojeda Quispe in the state of Puno, Peru, she was a single mother struggling to provide for her five children through small, part-time jobs. She ran away from home when she was just 11 years old to escape abuse and was living without the support of her family.

Ana Veronica’s story is not unlike that of many women who live in rural and peri-urban communities in Peru. They lack the opportunity to access quality jobs and thus become trapped in a cycle of poverty. Their communities, which are several hours from larger city centers, have minimal access to essential products such as shampoo and fortified food for children, which contribute to a good quality of life. At the same time, many multinational and national companies face challenges in getting their products to rural, base of the pyramid (BoP) locations.

We at the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership (CGEPartnership) saw this as a market opportunity. We created a distribution social enterprise model that closes the market gap by training and empowering female entrepreneurs as a door-to-door distribution network in remote regions. Our model aims to create livelihoods for female entrepreneurs and to increase the access and affordability of essential and pro-poor goods to BoP communities. Entrepreneurs receive sales and financial training, a uniform and a basket of products on consignment. They sell door-to-door, in markets or from storefronts in their homes and earn commission on all their sales. The long-term goal of our distribution enterprises is to improve the health and quality of living for our entrepreneurs, their families and communities.

The innovation in our model is not only in the direct sales network of our female entrepreneurs allowing for the highest level of market penetration, but also comes from our product range. Our product range is broader and more dynamic than any single traditional outlet or proprietary direct selling channel. It includes items ranging from fortified foods to personal care items to household products to solar lamps. We achieved this product basket by partnering with large national and multinational companies such as Unilever, Procter & Gamble and Nestle as anchor suppliers. These companies understand that the BoP market will drive innovation and economic growth within the next decade and they are responding to the growing demand of the BoP. We are continually adding new partners and we encourage companies to partner with us in order to grow their market reach as well as social impact.

In Peru, our distribution enterprise has almost 300 entrepreneurs actively selling in four regions: Puno, Juliaca, Cusco and Abancay. We are adding a new peri-urban region in Lima soon. By the end of the year we will reach nearly 1,000 entrepreneurs and, at scale, more than 3,000. We will be forming our second distribution enterprise in Haiti in a few months where we are currently working with 70 entrepreneurs as part of a pilot. By the end of the year we plan to reach 350 women in Haiti, and 2,000 at scale. Future enterprises are planned in Mexico, Nigeria, Colombia and Bangladesh, among other countries. All enterprises are for-profit. By taking an enterprise-based approach we are able to replicate successful models and recycle profits to grow and sustain our businesses and impact well beyond the reach of traditional donor-funded programs.

Since joining us, Ana Veronica has increased her income by 70 percent, enabling her to save enough money to buy school supplies for her children. She is proud to be a role model for them in teaching them how to work hard, generate income and prioritize their education.

Author’s note: I am looking forward to attending the IDB BASE Forum in Mexico City, starting today, where I can share more of our stories and lessons learned, and meet new partners who are interested in joining CGEPartnership to bring opportunity to BoP populations in Latin America and beyond. To learn more, visit here and here.

Mark Gunton is CEO of the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership.

Education, Social Enterprise
marketing and advertising, scale, social enterprise