Recently, I was having dinner with a friend and startup investor. We were discussing Black Revolution, and he asked if we would be employing a ‘Buy one Give one’ model like Tom’s Shoes or Warby Parker. For the unfamiliar, Buy one Give one means that when a consumer in the developed world buys a product, a similar product is given to a person in need in the developing world. While I respect both of these companies tremendously for their success and commitment to improving lives, I responded that Black Revolution will not be sold under such a model.
The challenges of the BoGo model have been well documented. Oftentimes, when western companies donate goods in the developing world, local merchants and artisans are forced out of business. It’s hard for a small business owners to sell or make shoes at a profit when new ones are being given away for free. At re:char, we believe that we can generate the greatest social and economic change in Kenya by giving people skilled, high-paying jobs, not handouts.
re:char currently employs twelve Kenyans in sales, management and engineering positions (that’s over 50% of our team). Western Kenya has some of the highest unemployment in the world, particularly among young males. As re:char grows, so will the number of jobs and job-training for local people. However, as a social enterprise, it’s at times challenging to find the growth capital to expand our business in Kenya. Many social enterprises serving customers at the Bottom of the Pyramid must rely on grants or impact investments to cover capital expenses and to grow their business. We believe Black Revolution is the first step to building a more sustainable model for social enterprise and global biochar deployment.
The proceeds from Black Revolution are used to grow our operations in Western Kenya. While we don’t give away a kiln in Kenya for every bag of Black Revolution sold, we use the profits to invest in capital equipment– things like new fabrication tools or production hubs. As our business grows in the developing world, we can hire more people and serve more customers. We can also lower our cost of goods sold, passing savings along to our farmers. Our friend and fellow social entrepreneur, Manoj Sinha (Founder of Husk Power Systems) recently had these kind words to say about Black Revolution and our model:
I think you guys are going to make a killing using this model. The value proposition is completely aligned with climate change and people’s inclination towards using environmental friendly stuff. You should be in Lowe’s and Home Depot.
We launched Black Revolution as an experiment. We wanted to see if we could change how business works in the US and abroad. We hope you will join us in this endeavor, and help us to improve the lives, livelihoods and environment of people around the world.