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.
DANNY, our partner in the Philippines, wears many hats. He is presently the head of National Commission for Art Galleries of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts of the Philippines. He is also an art curator and a visual artist, a corporate executive, a resource speaker, and in 2014, he became a humanitarian worker.
Super-typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines on November 7, 2013. Haiyan killed over 6,000 people and left 4 million homeless. It was the deadliest ever recorded in human history. Many humanitarian groups got to work directly after: there would be years of rebuilding after a disaster such as this.
Haiyan was a call-to-action for Danny. He helped in various humanitarian relief operations and was involved in the recovery and rehabilitation of the victims of Haiyan. That was when he realized his new calling: ‘a new hat – a humanitarian worker.’
Amidst his artwork, humanitarian ventures, and disaster response, Danny keeps very busy. One of Danny’s interests is quite unique: Danny is an ostrich egg artist, creating and carving beautiful displays into each egg. Many art shows and exhibitions showcase his artwork. He is also a resources speaker. In chatting with Danny on being a resources speaker, he chuckled and after a pause, jokingly noted,
“…I talk a lot!”
Danny ascertained that victims of natural disasters–at all times–require shelter, food and water. He connected with various non-governmental organizations to find ways to facilitate the provision to all the victims. In one of his experiences, he facilitated a donation of a 20-foot container of bottled water from another country. Although the donation was generous, it wasn’t an environmentally-friendly donation. It was costly, not sustainable, and a logistical nightmare.
Danny believes that access to clean, potable drinking water is a basic human right. He searched for a better alternative to bottled water. In his search, he was directed to Business Connect and our Global Director Darin Fey. He was then introduced to our VF100 Water Filter. The VF100 is a portable and complete filtration system that removes 99.99% bacteria, protozoans and viruses. It is the perfect solution for Danny’s disaster response missions. Danny knew right away that the VF100 was a quality filter. He noted that it makes his own already-filtered water even clearer and better quality.
His first purchase of water filters were brought to Vanuatu of the South Pacific: a time when the area was ravaged by the devastating cyclone Pam. The victims of Pam welcomed the distribution of the VF100 water filter gratefully. Wonderfully, in the isle broadsheet, in an article titled, “Philippines brought water to Vanuatu,” Danny and his work were featured. Danny now carries the VF100 to each of his disaster relief operations. He believes in the product as a formidable solution for disaster sites and rural development areas.
Water Refilling Stations
Private companies known as water refilling stations are where many people allocate water in the Philippines. These businesses provide water and fill consumer’s containers for a per-gallon fee. Danny noted that the price for water has gone down as water refilling stations keep growing across the landscape. The introduction of the VF100, though, has made it so that some of these families no longer have to pay for water.
Danny joked “We’re practically running them (water refilling stations) out of business!”
Danny’s Water Filter Stories
After adding the VF100 to his repertoire, Danny could now provide water economically and efficiently to communities in need. Danny lit up when retelling his experiences of traveling around the world, risking his own life, and providing relief to those left resourceless by natural disasters.
In 2015, the Gorkha earthquake shook Nepal “practically… every other hour,” as Danny was there. This was an extremely scary experience for Danny as he was there during the heat of the event. He was there for only 10 days, luckily. Another earthquake struck in the next few days following his departure. Just as frighteningly, the building Danny stayed in collapsed with this next seismic event. Danny was so thankful to get out just in time.
‘Just a Stream’
Danny told of his venture to the southern Philippines, where typhoon Vinta had just devastated a rural and economically disadvantaged community. The trip included a plane ride and a trip by boat. Danny found out, after speaking with the mayor, that the number one problem in the community was diarrhea and cholera, two water-borne diseases. When Danny found the reason for these issues, it was shocking to him.
“When I checked their source of water… it was just a stream. They said the department of health checked it… they said it passed their standards, and I said, really?” Danny provided. Per the U.S. DNR, though some spring-fed streams are relatively safe, agricultural, human, and animal waste contaminates them easily.
Danny distributed the VF100 to this community. About a year after the disaster, Danny got back in touch with the village mayor. Incredibly, the cases of cholera and diarrhea had virtually disappeared. With a smile, Danny stated “I can only attribute that to the water filter.”
Danny also brought the VF100 to aid a series of disasters in Indonesia of the Krakatau volcanic eruption, causing flooding and soil liquefaction; the catastrophic cyclone Idai that hit Mozambique, and the volcanic eruption Taal, which covered the 15KM radius with ashes and destroyed the water system in the area.
A Challenge to You
You’ve read about Danny’s efforts in bringing the VF100 water filter to communities in need, and the ways in which it has eased those communities of disease and thirst. At Business Connect, we aim to help you do the same – however we can. Want to run a business and become an in-country distributor of our products? We provide this opportunity as well as mentoring and equipment to help you start your project. Click here for questions, concerns, or any interest in becoming a network affiliate!
Madagascar is the 4th largest island on earth, just off the southeast coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. Around 27 million people known as Malagasy call it home, many of whom have Indonesian heritage. Even with beautiful ecological diversity and a flourishing cultural heritage, clean water is still needed in many parts of Madagascar.
With such a large land area, Madagascar has very diverse terrains; from volcanic mountains to highlands to rainforests to sandstone cliffs. An urgent need is a consistent access to health centers and clean water. Some locals must walk ten to fifteen kilometers to reach a dirty pond or river. For basic health services, they must walk up to a day in the forest to the nearest health center. According to UNICEF, in 2009, 70% of children suffered from moderate malnutrition and other health issues in these communities.
Mercy Ministries was created with these clean water issues in mind. Mercy Ministries Africa aims to support and encourage the development of disadvantaged countries by providing appropriate humanitarian aid to the poor regardless of gender, race, or religion. Their core team is in Madagascar, with other teams in Zimbabwe, South Sudan, and Comoros.
Mercy Ministries in Action
Their work begins by helping local communities learn how they can use the resources they already have available. Their main project, focused on medical outreaches, began in Madagascar about 15 years ago. The team was able to help some members of the community. Still, they found that these outreaches were very limiting. At this time the number one killer in Madagascar was Malaria. Many also suffered from respiratory and waterborne illnesses. As the team visited various villages, they were heartbroken. They often saw many kids lying sick in the villages. Mercy Ministries focused on training local people in these rural villages by equipping them with basic health knowledge for prevention. Each local healthcare worker was paired with a government healthcare official for 3 months to learn preventative healthcare. This provided a simple yet effective foundation for health in the villages.
At the same time, Mercy Ministries works to identify core needs in a community. In addition to healthcare training, Mercy Ministries identified clean water as an urgent need in many communities. Those living in the village often have to walk many kilometers only to retrieve muddy or greywater. They used to use sand and gravel to filter the water, but these filters did not prevent waterborne illnesses. The team knew they had to find another option.
A Simple Clean Water Solution
Mercy Ministries found a simple and efficient solution in the VF100 water filter from Business Connect. The filter did not need electricity, which is perfect for bringing clean water to the remote villages of Madagascar. During the next outreach, the team began distributing as many VF100 water filters as they could. When the villages first received the filters, they saw the clear difference in the water. The families were so thankful to receive the filters as it was clear the water filters would save lives.
Years later, the Mercy Ministries team was thrilled that these villages child mortality rate had dropped significantly. Their work is transforming the health of the people living in poverty. Over the years, they have been able to provide health education to 55 villages. Their efforts helped 250,000 people that did not have access to healthcare before.
The economic situation varies between communities, but still 80% of the population lives on less than $1 a day. Still, Mercy Ministries is able to sell the VF100 at full price in urban areas. Families of 8-10 people are able to afford their own filter in some villages. In others, villages must share the filters between multiple families. Selling the filters for profit in the urban areas allows Mercy Ministries to provision filters for those living in poverty. Southern Madagascar especially has a lot of poverty and there is very severe famine – so much so that people will eat clay to survive. To create a sense of ownership in these communities, the team put a system into place where villages contribute what they can. They recognize that while each community faces a different economic situation, clean water is essential for the health of everyone.
Partner With Mercy Ministries
Mercy Ministries hopes to reach even more villages with clean water so that they can continue to improve the health of those communities moving forward. They know that these simple water filters are life-saving, but they still face the biggest challenge of cost. To meet their goals, they hope to find sponsors and develop a water filter business to raise funds. If you would like to partner with Mercy Ministries in their work to provide clean water to Madagascar, please visit their website. If you would like to reach additional communities with clean water, connect with us. We would love to provide you with water filters and coaching about how to develop a sustainable business.
When asked what it takes to be a woman in entrepreneurship, Ninky of Johannesburg, South Africa, took a moment to gather her thoughts, and answered with a sure, calm nature.
“Patience. Lots and lots and lots of patience. And tenacity.”
An eloquently-spoken businesswoman and entrepreneur, Ninky is passionate about providing safe water solutions in her corner of the world.
Ninky grew up in Soweto, Johannesburg. She later went on to university in Cape Town at the University of the Western Cape, where she studied research psychology. Upon graduation, Ninky worked in several companies in research positions, studying and producing data on consumer and social behaviours. Her last full-time job was working for The Coca-Cola Company as Research Manager for several countries in Africa. Through her research and work for different organizations, Ninky has been able to experience and understand much of Africa as well as the needs of families –women and girls–in particular.
A Harsh Reality
“For women in a lot of countries in Africa to cook a meal, they need to go out into the forest, gather wood, bring it home, make a fire, and prepare a meal. It isn’t as simple as turning on a stove. For rural women, this is what they face every day.”
This burden of ‘unpaid work’ falls on women and girl children mainly, resulting in loss on income generating activities and school-work time. She described how the crux between water and cooking exists as well: much of the water is collected from natural sources and must be boiled before use, which creates a need for fire. For the majority of the world, women still have to depend on naturally-sourced items to provide for their family’s needs.
“Wells, rivers, harvested rainwater, stuff like that.”
Another aspect of harvesting water is the parallel between schooling and hygiene. Girls on their menstrual cycle also have a tough time keeping themselves clean. Without clean water to wash themselves, upkeep is nearly impossible and most girls would thus miss school for that time.
Ninky has seen much of what lack of basic resources like water can do to families in rural South Africa.
“I think the one story that particularly moved me from rural KwaZulu-Natal, a video was sent to me of a young lady who was just going to get water, and it was basically from a hole in the ground. You could see in that particular hole, there had been animals like cows and sheep drinking the same water, from the same source. She just walked and drew the water with a bucket, drank some, carried her bucket and then went home.”
This harsh reality touched Ninky and sparked a desire within her to do something about the daily problems women and children face. Around 2017, she met Darin Fey, our Global Director, who was showcasing a VF100 Water Filter at a clean energy expo. Ninky was impressed by how simple yet effective it was and bought a few. She registered an entity named Village Water Filters South Africa, eventually, becoming one of our top distributors of the VF100 model in South Africa.
Wonderfully enough, Ninky was able to provide one for the lady competing with cattle for water.
A Woman of 54
Ninky heard of the Woman in Africa 54 (WIA 54) Award through newsletters and online publications she subscribes to. When sharing about how she heard about the initiative she laughed and said that an invitation to participate just showed up in her inbox and she responded to it. With another chuckle, she said that she forgot about it for many months. That was in March 2020.
The Women in Africa 54 Award is an initiative set up to support women entrepreneurs in Africa. It selects women from each of the 54 countries who have demonstrated industry success in areas like agriculture, health and creative industries. Upon being selected, women receive training, mentorship, networking opportunities, as well as international exposure.
Ninky eventually heard back from Women in Africa 54 and proceeded to complete an interview and other requirements. A few months later, they contacted Ninky that out of 4,000 applicants continent-wide, they’ve narrowed the selection down to just 10 per country, a total of 540 companies. Ninky was selected to be one of those women, representing South Africa.
It gets better: the WIA 54 initiative had another stage of narrowing. Ninky went through more sessions and seminars. They then selected only one woman per country from the 10, narrowing the pool down to 54 women total. Ninky was named.
“Our company was chosen… we will be receiving opportunities to receive mentoring, network, training, as well as opportunities to pitch to investors.”
Besides patience and tenacity, Ninky has learned that entrepreneurship requires a long-term view. With a sly smile, one that could’ve been born out of experience, Ninky provided that success doesn’t happen overnight.
“It’s super stressful. There are months where you don’t have any (profit) at all… but telling yourself that in a few years that this is where you want to be, and having a plan–that’s what it takes.”
Being first-in-market is another valuable asset for Ninky and the VF100. For South Africa, Ninky has shared that there is no product quite like it. Being the first to hit the market with any product contains risk. Luckily, for a need like clean water, it is a venture that assumes less risk. Furthermore, Ninky’s outlook on marketing something totally unknown is that it requires extra effort and outreach.
Ninky’s approach in sales has been challenged by the economic disparity in these rural communities. There is certainly a need for the product she distributes, but affordability has been an obstacle for many of the families interested in the product. A challenge is that of maintaining a balance between addressing people’s needs and a profitable business.
She also has realized a niche market within South Africa, in the outdoor and camping community. These are a market of people who take their caravans out into the bush or spend multiple days hiking and backpacking. VF100 sales to this segment of the market have allowed Ninky to keep working towards her goals.
Another area of sales is that of governmental aid and private sector companies. Ninky approached these organizations with a call-to-action, describing the need for access to clean & safe water in rural areas. Utilizing social responsibility programs, these institutions have the capital to greatly impact families needing these water filters. Access to resources through price subsidization has helped many families.
Altogether, a Woman of Power
Inspiring and resilient, Ninky’s story tells not only of business success in distribution, but also devotion to changing human lives. As a woman of power, she has used her empathy to drive her ambition in the world of marketing and sales. And with patience, she has proven that finding equitable solutions to the water crisis can be achieved.
A Challenge to You
At Business Connect, we support those that want to support others. We can help to form a foundation for anyone interested in joining our network of distributors. If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a Sales Representative, Regional Sales Representative or Country Distributor for us, click here. We also encourage members of our network and audience to sponsor an entrepreneur like Ninky. If this suits you, visit our sponsorship page here.
2021 has been a difficult year as the world continues to recover from the global pandemic, but we are emerging stronger together. We have had loss and pain, but we are also experiencing victory and growth. We had moments when we simply wanted to quit. It would have been so easy to do so. Truthfully, based on our sales, restrictions in travel, and lack of resources, it would have been easier to do so.
Yet, we could not. There was something in our hearts that made us want to continue. We certainly did not have any special inspiration or miracle that made us continue. I believe it was that we had found something to do in our lives that gave us great joy. It was not money nor even people telling us that we were doing something great. We discovered that we felt we were meant to do something greater with our lives that we did not even initially recognize.
There is nothing more satisfying than to discover that our work is really our celebration. What we do day after day is life giving. With that attitude, comes a persistence that defies logic and gives us hope. This year Business Connect has added staff and new products, as well as grown our network of partners around the world and right here at home.
We are so grateful for you. You have brought your heart to serve others and make a difference. We are better people because of you. This time of the season is the right time for us to say Thank You to you. May the joy of the holidays just be an added bonus to what we believe is a full life. Wishing you all the best.