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Higher purpose powering women-led social start-ups

Rose Muthoni @rosemuthoni

Social start-ups, enterprise that apply commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being, are now at the heart of the community.

Driven by a “higher purpose”, such businesses prove successful over time, and according to online publication Inc, such organisations that exude a culture of purpose and focus beyond profits are more likely to find long-term success.

As we celebrated International Women’s Day (IWD) which coincided with Nairobi Innovation Week, Fikiri Impact Forum brought together women who run social enterprises to talk about how female-led startups bank on innovation to drive productivity.

Speaking during the forum Wanjiru Kihusa the founder of Still a Mum, a start-up that helps women after the loss of a child encouraged women on innovation.

“Because of innovation we are running business better that our parents did,” she said. Kihusa uses innovation in communication to reach women in far flung areas in the country to ease their pain.

“While grieving mothers in Nairobi meet physically during support group sessions, those outside Nairobi require a more innovative tool. I create WhatsApp groups, complete with a grief counsellor, so that these women access the so much needed counseling to help them through the loss of their child.”

She also depends on social media – Facebook, Twitter and a blog – to create awareness on how people can help families who have suffered such losses. Kihusa uses these platforms to point to other avenues of parenthood.

For a social startup to survive it must, however, be able to fund its activities, an aspect Kihusa says is easily covered by innovation. “Getting financing, in terms of loans is difficult for women.

Most ventures turn to self-help groups and chamas to access funds for operations. But with a little innovation, social startups can access the much needed financing,” says Kihusa. She believes visibility is key.

“You can never overlook visibility. It is the best route towards funding for your social enterprise. I have realised that new media and traditional media give you not only visibility, but credibility as well.

It follows that when you are credible in the eyes of the audience, especially if you receive significant coverage on all media platforms, you are able to attract partnerships.”

While her three-year old enterprise, which won a World Summit award under the Power to Women category, is sustained by donations and partnerships, people willing to give free service also help reduce on operation costs.

According to Kihusa, although women are reluctant to adopt to innovation at first, they thrive very fast once they embrace it. “The social nature of a women is what makes her social startup grow and thrive,” she says. It would be interesting to see how this category of business evolves since social startups have not only scratched the surface.

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