Press Release: IKEA Social Entrepreneurship and Acumen Academy To Award $50,000 To Social Entrepreneurs in East Africa
Jony Meshesha of Green Face Trading in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Kevine Kagirimpundu of UZURI K&Y in Kigali, Rwanda will each receive $25,000 after participating in the Acumen and IKEA Social Entrepreneurship East Africa Accelerator. The goal of the accelerator was to strengthen the capacity of participating social enterprises in East Africa in order to improve the lives of vulnerable communities. Green Face Trading works with unemployed youth to counter deforestation by providing alternative means of income through organic honey production. UZURI K&Y employs women and youth to produce footwear out of recycled rubber tires. Judges evaluated the entrepreneurs based on their customer understanding, financial sustainability, scalability and potential for social impact. The 19-week long accelerator program began in the midst of COVID-19 in April 2020 and graduated 19 teams of social entrepreneurs from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Ethiopia.
“Our commitment to social entrepreneurs is based in our belief that the world’s biggest challenges need diverse, local problem solvers, and this is what led us to partner with Acumen to support social enterprises in East Africa,” said Åsa Skogström Feldt, head of IKEA Social Entrepreneurship B.V at Inter IKEA Group. “Through our co-worker engagement we have been able to bring IKEA’s capabilities and resources to help scale social enterprises across the region, which is especially important during the challenges of COVID-19.”
Acumen has always invested in early-stage social enterprises willing to tackle the most pressing challenges in their communities, but COVID-19 has exacerbated both the business challenges social entrepreneurs face and the needs of the communities they serve. When this became apparent, Acumen Academy and IKEA Social Entrepreneurship quickly adapted to ensure the program reflected this new reality. The co-created accelerator program combined online learning and peer engagement with individualized support from IKEA coaches and Acumen Academy facilitators who worked with the social entrepreneurs to develop scalable business models and adapt to changing circumstances in light of the pandemic.
“This Accelerator is just one of many ways Acumen Academy accompanies social entrepreneurs in East Africa,” said Jo Opot, Acumen’s head of leadership and strategic partnerships in East Africa. “We’re proud of how the cohort persisted through these challenges because of their commitment to serve poor and marginalized communities in the region. The world needs more builders like them.”
Acumen Academy has led nine other accelerators, but this was the first that they have designed and led in collaboration with IKEA Social Entrepreneurship. “Peers recognize IKEA as a leader in sustainability and impact for a reason,” said Acumen’s Chief Partnerships Officer, Yasmina Zaidman. “Recognizing the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on participating entrepreneurs, IKEA provided Acumen with business continuity grants for 75 percent of the accelerator cohort in addition to the $50,000 in seed funding. They have demonstrated their commitment to stand by partners and social entrepreneurs in times of crisis.”
Meshesha said Green Face Trading plans to use the seed funding to expand their supply chain to reach 2,000 rural youth in nearby villages. “I am from a rural area, so I know the pain of rural unemployment. We are currently working in three villages, but youth in other villages are asking to join our sustainable supply chain as well. This money will allow us to reach more rural youth than we have been able to in the past.”
To learn more about the Acumen and IKEA Social Entrepreneurship East Africa Accelerator and the participants, visit IKEA Social Entrepreneurship’s website.