• Over the past eleven months, I have written inspirational stories about entrepreneurs and other leaders pushing the development agenda forward through their ventures or social enterprises.

    Each and every one of these leaders dared to dream and put action into their dreams. The results were successful businesses and social enterprises. From these stories, I have learned a great deal. But one thing is for sure; the leaders, in their own way set to accomplish a strategy or a set of strategies which worked for them.

    I have compiled a few of these approaches for your perusal and possibly trial as we head into a new year. Who knows, the world might learn a thing or two from your venture.

    Do what you love

    Earlier in the year, I met a young Kenyan lady whose business started as a result of her love for unique handbags. Often, she couldn’t get the kind of bags she wanted, and when she did, she had to change something on the bags to make them suit her taste.

    On realizing the trend for a while, Janerose Gatobu settled to design her own handbags. Soon, everyone around her was inquiring about the unique bags. Thus, her business in designing bags was born.

    Ever since, Gatobu, a lover of African print has been using Ankara and leather materials to produce the bags under the name Jagari designs, which she sells to individuals and commercial entities.

    Support the existing systems by addressing gaps

    While governments and development agencies are working towards sustainable development in the society, they cannot fully address the situation without the help of the public sector and development-conscious individuals. This is how you come in.

    As an entrepreneur, you need to identify such gaps and come up with a strategy that would address the challenge. Take for example Elewa, a Kenyan startup that targets the education sector. The online resource was created to provide simplified, visual and insightful information to students in their revision. Teachers and schools can use the platform to identify past national exam papers for use by their students as part of the revision.

    The platform uses the internet, although according to the founder, Mike Kipkorir, it is optimized for easier accessibility across all devices and to utilize the internet minimally.

    Tackle social ills

    While some people lose sleep over how to improve the financial standing of their ventures, others do so in pursuit of justice for the underprivileged.

    Equality Effect, a non-profit charity organization, uses international human rights law as a crowbar to pry open justice for women and girls in Ghana, Malawi, and Kenya. Through the organization, women and girls experience improved health, safety, and standard of living.

    According to Fiona Sampson, executive director of the Equality Effect, the organization has developed 160 Girls App, which enables police to investigate rape cases by providing them with detailed steps on how to handle the inquiry. The app is used by police as a resource to assist defilement victims and their guardians. When help requests are made, the app allows the police to respond effectively and efficiently in real time.

    Think outside the box

    With mobile technology gaining momentum across Africa, it makes more sense if ventures focused on coming up with solutions to meet the growing need for communication, and to acquire information.

    For one young Namibian student, Simon Petrus, the vision is clear as day. According to him, the mobile technology could grow even faster reaching to those in inaccessible areas, through his invention- a sim-less mobile phone that does not require airtime to make calls.

    The student at Abraham Iyambo Senior Secondary School made his creation from spares of an old phone, television parts, and other electronic devices. The phone is able to make calls to any place through the use of radio frequencies. The new creation also comes with a light bulb, fan, and charger socket, and functions off power supplied through a radiator.

    Give back to the society

    Other people are motivated to create a social enterprise as a means to give back to the society.

    Jack Yakubu Nkinzingabo, a Rwandese, teaches street children photography as a means to give back to the society that supported him when he was growing up.

    A former street kid, Yakubu established ‘Learning4Change’ which offers photography workshops to street children in Kigali. Through such initiatives and exposure, he hopes to give them an opportunity to learn, engage socially, and improve their situation. He does this through partnerships with Goethe Institute, among other well-wishers.

    He is also creating a positive perception of Rwanda, away from the genocide and poverty monologues. “I wanted to show the new images of Rwanda,” says Yakubu in an interview. “I wanted to capture the way we live, feel and dance, speak, look, walk, dress, and do our hair,” he said during an interview with the African exponent. “My goal is to bring out the culture and traditions of Rwanda people so as to change the view of my country,” he added.

    As we get to the end of the year and the beginning of another, take time to identify what business you want to venture into.

    Do you want a business that gives back to the community, addresses the needs of the society, is outside the box, or tackles social ills? Whatever your goal is, just embark on the journey and make it work. It worked for the above and many others across the region and world. Yours will too if you are committed and strategic in how you implement it.

    Image credit: US Embassy Nairobi/Flickr