That's great. William just asked about microcredit and wondered if Solar Sister has included that in its engagement with entrepreneurs. Could you share any information about financing for consumers to purchase energy solutions?
Abby Mackey said:
Well there are two things here (1) recruitment of staff and (2) recruitment of entrepreneurs. Our staff need to be able to fully support entrepreneurs when it comes to business training, leadership development, product supply, customer care, and local community engagement. So traditional salespeople typically do not have the needed background in business development and supporting women while NGO workers tend to not have the sales drive and skills. For us it takes both which is where training is so key. Also, our staff work remotely and are dispersed throughout our different countries of operation so this requires people who can work independently and have the motivation to do so.
In terms of recruiting entrepreneurs, we work largely through existing networks of women. For example, we work with our local partners like Project Concern International, AWF and Mercy Corps who are already engaging women to introduce them to our business opportunity.
Jessica Davis Pluess said:
We've heard that as well from a number of social enterprises establishing their own networks. Have you been working with existing networks in these countries to help with the costs? Also curious to hear what kind of skills sales staff need to have to effectively engage solar sister entrepreneurs?
Abby Mackey said:
I think one big challenge is cultivating local leadership and skills that can support these businesses. Historically, investment in a qualified workforce in developing countries (especially from what we have seen in areas like Uganda) has nowhere near met the demand. We really rely on local staff to support our entrepreneurs and this can be expensive as it requires a lot of upfront investment in training and capacity building.