Roughly 10% of the world population – which is over 700 million people – live in abject poverty. As the greatest social determinant of health, poverty is predominantly driven by inequality. Situations such as overcrowding and uneven land distribution, in conjunction with disparities among equitable access to resources, also lead to scarcity in vulnerable regions.
Notably in Uganda, circumstances such as large family size, inherited health issues, and lack of skilled laborers are among the leading drivers of poverty. They are considered the world’s youngest population, with a youth unemployment rate of around 62%. Countries with a youthful population have high numbers of young people and smaller numbers of older people.
Since there are more potential workers in a youthful population, there is a higher potential for income. However, many of the employment opportunities available are in the informal sectors, instead of in developing businesses. The government does not tax informal wages. This relative instability creates a reliance on unskilled labor.
Also common among youthful populations is a higher rate of disease. Many governments do not handle disease outbreak well, which can jeopardize their future economic stability. This poses a myriad of issues as children are far more likely to die of illnesses than adults. Those who are working likely face a considerable responsibility to support and provide social services essential to vulnerable populations. Vulnerable populations usually consist of the children and elderly, who are more socially and economically dependent (United Nations).
In Uganda, and in many similar countries, it can be both challenging and expensive to register a new business. While ranked the world’s most entrepreneurial country, Uganda has historically faced issues with business growth. Challenges ranging from high levels of corruption to inefficient government services have hindered potential business growth.
How Business Can Help
In order to foster economic development and provide dignity, business is key. Entrepreneurship creates programs and projects, which are aimed at improving living conditions in underdeveloped communities. Tackling issues such as environmental pollution or inadequate housing is made possible by workers – and their employment helps to raise them from poverty. Secure employment allows people to remain independent and able to take advantage of the goods and services that businesses provide (ADEC Innovations).
Businesses should also ensure that they are respecting human rights, especially of the disproportionately represented, including persons with disabilities, women and children, and indigenous peoples. They can do so through various actions and solutions, such as creation of products and services tailored for lower income customers or investing in poverty eradication activities (SDG Compass).
When a business provides mentoring and education to their employees, they also provide dignity. Through mentoring, one may develop business skills in exchange for labor. These acquired skills can lead to higher levels of success for the individual.
When mentors provide expert guidance in a specific area, the mentee receives a specialized education and skill set that equips them for a successful career in business. Mentor/mentee relationships can also create partnerships for future business endeavors, which further boosts economic gain.
Mentoring is mutually beneficial for all involved. Mentors themselves may benefit from exposure to different perspectives, a rise in self-confidence, and increased job satisfaction. Mentees also gain much outside of career development. They may learn how to self-reflect, develop stronger communication skills, and learn from other’s experiences. Organizations also benefit from mentoring through higher engagement among employees, higher retention rates, and increased productivity (Guider).
Access To Capital
Beginning a business starts with access to capital – the funds and resources needed for operational costs and growth. For many, a sum that large is difficult to come by. Around 29% of businesses fail due to lack of sufficient capital, so partnering with someone who can handle the upfront costs can benefit hopeful entrepreneurs.
Access to capital provides the essential elements people and businesses need to regulate their economic well-being and promote savings. Other benefits include investment opportunities, job creation, and growth. Additionally, financial access can empower women, making it easier for them to build wealth and create small businesses (World Bank).
Business Connect’s Role
Business Connect aims to strengthen partnerships and collaborate across cultures, building businesses to help alleviate poverty in communities. We want to share tools for success and empower future entrepreneurs, rather than simply provide charity. In our efforts, we strive to provide access to capital, foster mentorships, and enable individuals with the tools needed to start a profitable business.
Lou Haveman, founder of Business Connect said, “[w]hen you look at a problem of the world and you can find a business solution, which brings profit to you and blesses people at the same time, you have found something that is very rare.” Through their partnership with Business Connect, Ugandan entrepreneurs have been able to find further opportunities to expand their businesses. Additionally, our business partners in Uganda have been able to do things like pay for their first child’s birth and install water filtration systems in schools.
We provide our products on consignment to local entrepreneurs, allowing them to have merchandise upfront. By having access to capital, business owners are able to turn a profit quicker and continually invest in their business.
Through mentorship, Business Connect equips entrepreneurs with the tools needed to begin new businesses. Learning the skills needed to succeed in business allows individuals to retain their dignity and to help others in their communities.
When we partner with locals to help them grow a business, it not only helps them better themselves, but also impacts their communities and ultimately their country. For people who would otherwise not be able to afford large expenses, the stability that comes with having a business uplifts individuals and communities.
If you would like to be part of this network, please connect with us. We are always looking for ways to make new connections and grow together!
Being an innovative businessman and entrepreneur, Tim White, the creator of one of Business Connect’s newest products, Crud Cloth, was always passionate for human centered design and creating sustainable products that help the unmet needs of people around the world. He always strived towards helping people have a sense of cleanliness and restoring the dignity for those in need.
Tim’s passion for helping people has fueled him to travel across the world to multiple countries to learn more about humanity’s struggles with clean water and hygiene. His willingness to learn first hand and educate those on how to use water products shows how genuine his passion is. Originally, Tim created the Crud Cloth for the sole purpose of cleaning up after a long bike ride through the mountain trail or after a day of camping. However, his partnership with Business Connect to distribute Crud Cloth around the world may have never happened if he did not take his passions to a more personal level. Looking back at his experiences in the Dominican Republic and seeing how important hygiene was for all people no matter their circumstances, Tim realized that the Crud Cloth could have a much bigger impact worldwide.
His passion for sustainable products also stems from his love for outside activities and the importance of cleaning up afterward. Tim and his family love to get dirty! As avid mountain bikers, Tim wanted to create the perfect product to help him and his family clean up after a trail ride. After meticulous trial and error, the Crud Cloth was born, solving all of the problems that regular wipes and washcloths could not. It is truly a shower in a bag that can clean a person, leaving them smelling amazing and feeling refreshed.
Before the creation of Crud Cloth, Tim worked for Kohler Co., a manufacturing company, where he created Kohler Clarity, a safe water filtration system. Since 2016, Kohler Clarity has been a part of a disaster relief and community development effort around the world to help people access safe drinking water. With help from Business Connect, Tim and Kohler were able to distribute the water filters in the United States and internationally in countries that struggled with clean water.
According to the CDC, 2.2 billion people still lack safe drinking water in their homes. Tim knew that the water filters would have a positive impact on homes affected by this global issue. Still, he felt that the distribution alone would not be good enough.
Tim has traveled to numerous countries across the world in order to research and gain feedback on the filters. He spent his time learning more about the water issues first hand and how the filters were helping and holding up. He met with hundreds of less fortunate families to educate them about how to use the filters. Honest feedback was something that he found to be extremely important because it would give him an even better understanding of how he could help meet the needs of people struggling with water issues around the world.
In the Batey
One experience in particular changed Tim’s outlook. On a trip to the Dominican Republic, he worked in the homes of a Batey, a sugar plantation town, where he noticed something very eye opening. Most homes he visited had pristine cookware and plastic surrounding the couches. Tim realized that even in very different circumstances, people’s dignity comes from similar priorities.
“I realized at that moment that it doesn’t matter if we are upper or middle class in Minnesota or poor in a Batey; having nice things and keeping them nice is a source of pride and an aspirational thing.”
Tim understood that there was an ongoing global issue with water and hygiene. In fact, 3 billion people worldwide lack basic hand washing facilities at home and more than half of the global population does not have access to safe sanitation.
Tim has learned so much about the importance of hygiene and the dignity that it brings to people at a universal level. Since his experiences in the Dominican Republic and traveling across the world for Kohler Clarity, Tim has created the Crud Cloth. It is a product that mimics a shower to the best of its ability in a portable fashion.
When looking back at his experiences, Tim realized now that the Crud Cloth and its use can go beyond the convenience it can bring for a mountain biker after a ride or a camper after a day in the woods. He noticed that his invention had the potential to make a difference on a global scale.
“Everybody gets dirty. Whether you are a mountain biker like me, a golfer, or a camper, you will find yourself covered in grime. You may not have access to a shower at the time and the Crud Cloth can help you with that. However, some people do not have access to a shower period.”
Crud Cloth is special in the sense that it has that universal appeal.
Tim saw this golden opportunity and took it. His original vision for the product to be used by anyone who enjoys outdoor activities still stands. However, that vision grew into an even bigger mission. The mission is to distribute Crud Cloths worldwide to countries that are in need of a sustainable hygienic product built to clean people and leave them feeling better and healthier. There was no better way for Tim to do that than with Business Connect. Tim felt that Business Connect was the perfect choice to partner due to the great relationship and similar vision Tim and Jereme Lambert, CEO of Business Connect, shared.
“My work with Jereme and the team at Business Connect was amazing while with Kohler. We built a relationship where I knew as soon as I wanted to do something with Crud Cloth globally that Business Connect would be open to my ideas and willing to make something happen.”
Crud Cloth has since been making its impact in the United States and internationally. It has helped many families stay clean and give them a sense of dignity. Tim’s work with Business Connect distributing Kohler Clarity and his more recent product, the Crud Cloth, has helped over one million people around the world fight against the water and hygiene crisis that they struggle with everyday. Tim’s passion for invention and innovation for sustainable products has made a huge impact in the movement towards a cleaner and healthier world. His genuine concern for the less fortunate has brought a new hope for those struggling.
Support Crud Cloth and Kohler Clarity
At Business Connect, we share the same passion Tim has for distributing sustainable products made to help fight against the water and hygiene crisis. This is why Business Connect works with global distributors to distribute the Crud Cloth and Kohler Clarity worldwide. Buying the Crud Cloth or the Kohler Clarity will help support the cause and significantly impact the ongoing hygiene and water crisis in a positive way. Special thanks to Tim for working with us here at Business Connect to help those around the world who are in need. Thank you to all who have and continue to support us on our mission to provide citizens living in the global south with affordable and easy access to clean water, through the creation of a sustainable, local business model.
Here at Business Connect, we are all about being part of the solution to the water crisis, so it’s only fitting for us to acknowledge World Water Day. Today, we wanted to share on our heart behind our distributors. While any individual here at Business Connect can speak for our team, a person at the core of our business, Jereme Lambert, our CEO/Co-Owner, shares our heart the best.
A Q&A With Jereme Lambert, CEO/Co-Owner
We were able to take a moment to interview Jereme to share our heart for our international team and why they’re so important to us.
How is Business Connect different from other water businesses/charities?
JL: For years NGOs (Non-Governmental Organization) have talked about bringing the private and public sector together to bring a difference. There’s lots of public sectors like the government and NGO’s, but we are working globally from a private perspective bringing business to the water crisis.
It goes back to our name, Business Connect. While we are about bringing clean and safe water to the world, it’s more than that—it’s about connecting and empowering businesses to solve that problem. We don’t just go and fix the water solution, that’s not our goal. Our goal is to empower our international distributors to be part of the solution but through business.
What’s the heart behind focusing on international distributors?
JL: The heart behind that is to bring economic change while solving the problem of the global water crisis. Bringing water to countries is important – we all know that’s important. However, doing that through local independent distributors and empowering them is a way to also bring economic advancement. It creates business development, it creates companies, jobs, and ultimately brings economic change.
The reason why we do international distributors instead of doing it all ourselves is to empower them to be self-sustaining.
(Starting from scratch) How do you mentor your international distributors?
JL: The steps for mentoring are very relational. Sometimes someone reaches out to us or sometimes we look at the water status of a place and reach out to them.
After that connection is made, whether we’re starting from scratch or are working with people who have established a company in the area, the next step is our team traveling to that place. We go to build a better relationship while finding people who have the heart to help others. After that relationship is built, we then help train by talking about how to better manage their company. We then introduce them to the network those doing the same as them; to NGOs, and stores that would sell their products.
To break it down simpler we 1.) let people watch us do it, 2.) we do it alongside them, and 3.) they’ll go out and do it by themselves. Our goal isn’t to just fix the problem but empower them to help be the solution. It’s also during these steps where there’s a lot of Q & A and discussion.
What characteristics best describe the international team you work with?
JL: Because we work with so many people around the world whose backgrounds are so varied, there are so many different characteristics. However, despite working with contrasting people, we’ve found the common characteristics being love and compassion for those in their community.
A couple examples are a man in Honduras who is an expat and a man in Madagascar who is a professional musician. While both come from different backgrounds, both saw their people struggling with water, and wanted to start businesses to solve the problem.
It’s that heart, love, and compassion for others that drives them to take action to create change. It’s that drive to help solve the water issue but through entrepreneurship.
What’s a new idea that the business has been working on/developing for our distributors?
JL: Over the last 12 months, we’ve created the Distributor Resource Center. In recent years we’ve physically gone to our distributors and have given them thumb drives that contain resources. However, when COVID19 hit, it changed everything; like everyone, we had to go virtually. The Distributor Database allows our distributors to access everything we would have given them on the thumb drive and more. It includes sales sheets, test reports, networks, connections, and everything they might need to move forward and be successful.
What goals do you hope to achieve in the next 3 years for our international team?
JL: Some of the goals for our international team is to build a bigger network, hire more staff, enhance our training, and resources that we provide them. We feel the responsibility to empower them by giving them tools to do better.
Another goal, truthfully, is to be in more countries. As of now, we have an impact list of 78 countries and we’d like to be in the mid 80’s; some of those being Francophone countries. While we do a small amount of work in the Francophone countries, we don’t have any distributors there yet; it’s a realm that I’d really like to see us venturing into in the next three years.
How do you measure success in these relationships? What do you enjoy the most about working with our international distributors?
JL: This is where I’m a little different than others. I measure the success of these distributors by the depth of our relationships. I think about last year – how a few distributors struggled with the loss of loved ones due to the virus. Those distributors called me and I was able to walk alongside them in their grief. That, to me, is success.
I also think about the times I get to have dinner with our distributors in their home. I meet their families, children; we talk and bond. I meet their families, kids – we talk and bond. It’s also my favorite thing and brings me the most joy.
Yes of course we have metrics, sales, and all of those things, but relational depth is really the catalyst of change.
Business Connect’s Focus for World Water Day
As we move into World Water Day, we wanted to take part and focus on our heart for our international distributors. While we work to empower them to be self-sustaining economically to help to solve the water crisis, we celebrate them. As remember and bring awareness to the importance of freshwater, we remember and bring awareness to the importance of our international team.
We want to take this time to say thank you to everyone who has followed our journey.
We also invite you to answer the invitation to take action to help sustainable water development by staying connected. You can follow us on our social media or apply to be a Distributor. Another way is connecting us with a community you know that is in need of water. Our heart is with those we connect with and that means you!
For every 1,000 live births in 2017, 61 of those children died before the age of five. One of the largest contributing factors to child mortality in Burundi is exposure to unsafe drinking water. For children, exposure to waterborne illnesses is one of the leading causes of child mortality in the developing world.
This comes down to a lack of access to wells and filters. To help address this problem, Business Connect is partnering with Think East Africa to provide the entire country of Burundi with access to clean water.
What does that look like? Think East Africa made it their mission to implement a long-term solution to Burundi’s often forgotten struggle for clean water. Their goal is that by the end of 2028 Burundi will have the infrastructure, through the creation and distribution of wells and water filters, to provide everyone in the country with access to clean water.
Think East Africa is working to identify key places in communities across the country to drill and lay pipe for a communal water source where families can come to collect water. The water can then be filtered to ensure that it is safe to drink and use. This allows for families to avoid hiking miles and miles for water, as well as have filters to guarantee the water they collect is safe.
In 2017, the World Health Organization reported that 44 percent of the poorest residents in Burundi lack basic access to water. With this amount of people in the country living without without this access, the potential growth in local communities is limited. Local economies can’t grow unless people’s basic needs are met.
For Think East Africa’s project in Burundi, maintaining a community-driven focus is of the utmost importance. They have based their operations for this project in Burundi, in an effort to get their team acclimated to the Burundi culture and the needs of its people. This makes the overall mission of creating the infrastructure for water to become accessible in communities across the country possible. With this mission in mind, they plan to drill over 3000 wells and distribute 100,000+ water filters.
Business Connect prides itself on creating these partnerships with local distributors because they understand the culture and true need of clean water. That is why Business Connect is taking its locally sustainable approach to solving the clean water crisis and partnering with Think East Africa to reach those in desperate need of clean water with the tools that provide access to it for years to come.
Michelle, a sales rep at Kohler, took a two-week Safari to Africa. Michelle was visiting a reserve and met someone from Pride n Purpose, who told her about the need for water filtration in the community. Michelle began telling her about the benefits of the Kohler Clarity water filter, a filter that she said would definitely help greatly in the schools.
Michelle then decided when she returned home that she wanted to do something about this conversation she had. Michelle had sent out a few emails and then Kohler put her in contact with our global distribution director Darin. Business Connect already had a relationship with a distributor that could help make Michelle’s drive to make a difference a reality.
Once the details of what Michelle wanted to do were figured out, a Championed Project was set up that allowed for donations to go directly to her project. The donations that Michelle’s Championed Project garnered were enough to provide each classroom in the school she visited a Kohler Clarity filter provide students at school access to clean water. The impact that Michelle’s project had on the lives of the school kids innumerable.
The government news organization even wrote up a small article talking about the tremendous impact Michelle’s project had on the local school. According to the article, the filters installed helped 192 students get access to clean water directly from their classroom. Community members stressed how important these filters are in helping to stop the spread of waterborne diseases in their community.
Before the filters were implemented, students were simply drinking from an open bucket when they needed water. The filters have made the drinking water safe, the benefits to students’ learning will be reflected in better performance through their education.
Michelle’s Championed Project helped to bring water filters to classrooms. These filters and their placement in the classroom helps to develop a child’s learning potential because they aren’t exposed to water borne diseases or concerning themselves with whether or not they are going to have clean water in a given day. They can primarily focus on their education, which leads to developing potential locally, spurring business development, and supporting one another as a community.
Clean and safe water is such an important building block in enabling human growth and success, and the presence of Kohler Clarity filters has helped to directly impact the lives of kids in schools working to get an education and give back to their community. All this spurred by one woman with a passion for making a change in people’s lives.
Mukuru families have been purchasing Kohler Clarity water filters since 2017, and the distribution of the Clarity has made a significant impact in the community. The Kohler Clarity has become popular water filters amongst the community and more people are wanting to bring them into their homes.
This rate of adoption even garnered attention from a clinic run by an NGO within Mukuru that got in contact with Douglas Mukisa, our local distributor, and thanked them for helping to get water filters in the hands of Mukuru residents because households with Kohler Clarity filters are having less health issues than those without access to the filters.
The clinic wanted to reach out and support the efforts that are being done to distribute water filters to the community because it’s such an effective method of addressing problems that can have rippling effects in the lives of people living in Mukuru.
However, cost can still be an inhibitor to families being able to get clean and drinkable water for their families. Community members have called inquiring about pricing for filter systems for their home and had worries about the price of being able to provide a very fundamental need.
So, in an effort to both expand the reach of how many people will have access to filters but also how to make those filters more affordable to families, Douglas is working on partnering with a local bank to provide short term loans to families to be able to get filters into households and change lives.
Local organizations will help to support people getting the loans so that the loans are repaid and people have water filters in the household, allowing as many people as possible can get clean water in Mukuru.
This partnership is going to grow the business potential for not just Douglas in the Mukuru area, but to other places wanting to invest in selling filters outside of Mukuru to help their own communities.