At Business Connect, we have partners from all around the globe. We are thankful for the opportunity to connect with people from the Philippines to Honduras, and between. In addition to our international partners, we do have a small but mighty headquarter team based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Our team’s offices and warehouse are located in a building called the Connect Building. This is a local community building that encourages local business growth and supports our international efforts in distributing water, sanitation and hygiene products.
The building was purchased and renovated with the goal to bring everything together in one place, increasing efficiency and fostering growth. Originally, Business Connect’s headquarter team worked out of their homes and the products were stored and processed in various warehouses. The move to the Connect Building brought a stronger sense of unity and allowed us to have a bigger presence in our local community.
The choice of location was a strategic one. As the Burton Heights Neighborhood continues to grow, we wanted to be a part of it. The building was centrally located for our team and allowed us to be community focused. We were able to hire many local workers to renovate the building and make it our own. As we developed our network, we also found local businesses that would rent out our extra space. This has continued to make the Connect Building a center for entrepreneurship, business development and networking.
In addition, we have Business Connect manufacturing partners working out of the Connect Building. Village Water Filters, who produce the VF100 and other popular water filters, do their assembly out of our building. We even welcomed our newest addition to the Connect Building a few weeks ago, Crud Cloth. They manufacture a shower-in-a-bag which can be used for cleaning up when running water is not available.
As our presence continues to grow, we hope to have even more entrepreneurs work from our offices. The Connect Building has also become a community meeting place, hosting the Burton Heights Business Association and other community organizations. We are thankful that this building has allowed us to have a greater presence in our local community as well as better support our international network. If you are ever in the Grand Rapids area, stop by the Connect Building at 2146 Division Ave S and connect with us. We would love to welcome you to our headquarters.
We know it has been a tough year and a half with the pandemic around the world, especially for our partners working in developing countries. They have had to take creative approaches in order to keep their businesses going. Cosas Mejores, one of our distributors in Guatemala, did just that to keep afloat during the many lockdowns they had to endure.
During pre-covid times, Cosas Mejores built homes for low-income families in and around Antigua, Guatemala. When the families moved into their new homes, Cosas Mejores would also give them a VF100 water filter as a welcome gift. These projects were powered and funded by volunteers that came to work on the homes. Cosas Mejores was also selling filters to other groups that did work in the community.
Of course, the pandemic lockdowns put a stop to many volunteer trips and halted much of the work being done. Even today Guatemala is still in partial lockdown and locals have very limited access to vaccines. Unfortunately, things are not looking like they will go back to normal anytime soon.
This pushed Cosas Mejores to think of a creative way to use their current resources to generate new streams of revenue. Since they had many local carpenters as well as a welding shop from building the houses, they decided to create wood furniture to sell. This allowed them to keep their workers employed and cater to the demand for tables from the local shops and homes around Antigua. As the city is a center of tourism in Guatemala, this pivot is an excellent example of listening to the market and making adjustments accordingly. The furniture helped to diversify their sales portfolio to reach new markets and continue to grow their business.
At Business Connect, we desire to help our distributors build successful businesses, not only with our products, but any product that will help them grow. We know that business creates sustainable change in our communities. In this case, Cosas Mejores was able to develop their business even further by adding to their product portfolio. If you need business coaching or additional ideas, please reach out to us. We want to help you be a profitable and successful entrepreneur, so that together we can better the lives of others in our communities.
Helping others is more than a passion. It’s our calling. The proportion of people living below the poverty line — less than $2 a day — is growing quickly and we need your help to create hope and change lives through business! We are ready to teach more young people and women how to become sustainable entrepreneurs distributing clean and life-enhancing products while informing their communities of the health risks of using fuel like kerosene or drinking dirty water. Are you looking for a way to get involved? Sponsor an entrepreneur! Contact us for more details on how you and your business can help today.
Have you checked out our Facebook page lately? These amazing photographs we received tell the story of how Business Connect introduced the Sawyer water filter to the in-country staff of Compassion International and they still follow the model we established with them. It is very exciting to us when we receive progress reports that show the outgrowth of the work we did in the past and is being continued to this day. Have you taken our products to the mission field, used them for disaster recovery or humanitarian situations? Send us your impact photos to share on Facebook and our social media channels today!
As a social enterprise, our focus at Business Connect is on building a distribution network that sells life-enhancing products to the poorest people in the world. The Stanford Social Innovation Review shared how getting these products to the last yard of the last mile will create the most sustainable and positive social change IF you have the sales experience to reach the right customers and close the deal. If you would like to learn more about our needs-based approach and how we use our years of business experience to create relationships to fight global poverty, read “Social Enterprises Closing the Deal.”
During a recent visit to the Humanitarian Outreach of the Mormon Church at Temple Square in Salt Lake City and World Vision in Federal Way, just outside Seattle, Lou took time out to visit the City of Rocks National Reserve in Idaho where old granite spires tower out of the desert. The Reserve protects a portion of the California Trail where emigrants marked their passage with the axle grease at Register Rock. As he walked around and imagined what it might have been like to ride in a wagon train crossing this stretch of land 175 years ago, he wondered about water, because there was none to be seen in this barren landscape. The average person in the developing world uses less than three gallons per day. In the U.S. alone, the average consumption per person per day is just over 100 gallons. We hope this gives you “water” for thought and you are willing to help us expand our reach to create a more sustainable world!
Until Next Time,
The Business Connect Team
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On my recent trip to Africa, I asked iKhaya Lodge to have someone meet us as we arrived in Cape Town. His name was Frank Mountanda. We have used him to get around Cape Point, Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch Gardens, the Water Front, and other similar places in this area. He has been incredibly helpful, reasonable, and knowledgeable. He is married to a South African woman, has two young daughters, and his own tour guide business. What is interesting is that he is from the Republic of Congo and is a refugee. He has a history so similar to those people we are attempting to assist.
When the Republic of Congo was in the midst of civil war, he was a young man and being forcefully recruited to join the war. As his name and language were a dead giveaway as to where he was from, he fled for his life. He came to South Africa as a refugee. Over a period of time he was able to obtain legal status and finally citizenship. He met a local girl and married and their two daughters now attend a private school.
Over the years he has built up his business. He speaks French, Italian, English, and two tribal languages. He said to me, “You have to believe in yourself. Without that, you will not go far.” He has returned to the Congo more than once and has brought his mother to South Africa. He has taken a bad experience and turned it into an asset where he can relate to many nationalities, languages, and circumstances.
His status as a refugee is not unusual nor uncommon. What seems to be uncommon is how well he has been able to turn tragedy into something extraordinary. What we have to determine as we think about our future engagement and partnership with the UNHCR Maratane Refugee Camp in Mozambique, is how can help empower refugees to push forward. I am convinced that giving people hope in the refugee camp to move on with their lives within the country they find themselves is far more productive than waiting for a foreign visa that is highly unlikely to ever arrive. Living in the false hope of someone assisting, embracing a victim attitude, blaming circumstances will never bring about the kind of productive life God wants each of us to have.
To learn more about Business Connect and read the rest of Lou’s reflections in our monthly newsletter, visit this link: http://eepurl.com/bA-KYH
As the United Nations Foundation launches the Sustainable Development Goals today to provide the opportunity for a generation for people and the planet, we at Business Connect are clearly focused on Global Goal 10, Reduce Inequalities as we have the opportunity to make an active contribution through our mission, Creating Hope Through Business.
Since the UN began taking note, there’s been a reduction in extreme poverty by half, which means 700 million fewer people living on less than $1.25 per day, and gains in gender equality with more girls enrolled in education and greater political participation of women in the developing world. But data shows that income inequality is on the rise, in developed and developing countries alike. According to the OECD, income inequality is at its highest level for the past half century. The average income of the richest 10% of the population is about nine times that of the poorest 10% across the OECD, up from seven times 25 years ago.
And this is a problem for all of us.
Some income inequality is inevitable, even welcome. It helps drive progress and incentives for those who work hard, develop skills and take risks. But high and growing levels of income inequality are a significant threat to stability both within and across countries. The World Economic Forum’s report: ‘Outlook on the Global Agenda 2015’ ranks deepening income inequality as the most significant trend of 2015. According to those surveyed, inequality is closely related to challenges including “poverty, environmental degradation, persistent unemployment, political instability, violence and conflict”.
What can you do to help?
A $300.00 donation will provide funds to help start a new business opportunity in the developing world. Business Connect is a social enterprise (L3C) committed to providing citizens living in developing countries with affordable and easy access to essential resources, such as water and light, to strengthen education, health and economic growth opportunities within the communities it serves. We now have an international network of distributors in almost 40 countries and we work at the “bottom of the pyramid” to help bring an end to global poverty with the poorest of the poor. Why there you ask? Because we believe every citizen has a right to basic, clean and green resources. We are focusing on women and young people with donated funds as they are known to stay within their communities to help provide basic resources needed for their families.
Your donation does not stop there. It is only the beginning as we set out on a relational journey to empower, teach and train new entrepreneurs basic business skills including accounting and impact investing. We promote empowerment to help our representatives grow their business from community to community. If you would like more information on how you can get involved, contact us today.
Goal 6 is at the root of why Business Connect was established as we formed our mission to address the critical need for greater access to vital natural resources through the creation of a sustainable, local business model in developing countries.
You see, through our experience and as the first international distributor for Sawyer water filtration products, we recognized that unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation cause 80% of diseases and kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. Children are especially vulnerable, as their bodies aren’t strong enough to fight diarrhea, dysentery and other illnesses. Clean and safe water is a priority and we are still getting the word out how Sawyer water filters can meet the need of so many.
90% of the 42,000 deaths that occur every week from unsafe water and unhygienic living conditions are children under five years old. Many of these diseases are preventable. The UN predicts that one tenth of the global disease burden can be prevented simply by improving water supply and sanitation. These are the reasons we do what we do with passion and seek out partnerships of like-minded individuals.
Founded in 2010, Business Connect is a social enterprise (L3C) committed to providing citizens living in developing countries with affordable and easy access to essential resources, such as water and light, to strengthen education, health and economic growth opportunities within the communities it serves. Working within 36 countries across Africa, Asia and Central and South America, we mobilize people to achieve their goal and supply the world with life-enhancing green technologies while embracing a multi-dimensional bottom-line approach committed to employment, profit-sharing, transparency and faith.
The Statistics are Still Staggering
663 million people don’t have clean water and when a community gets access to clean water, it can change just about everything. It can improve health, increase access to food, grow local economies, and help kids spend more time in school. The WHO reports that over 3.6% of the global disease burden can be prevented simply by improving water supply, sanitation, and hygiene.
In Africa alone, people spend 40 billion hours every year walking for water. Women and children usually bear the burden of water collection, walking miles to the nearest source, which is unprotected and likely contaminated. Time spent walking and the resulting diseases keep them from school, work and taking care of their families. Along their long walk, they’re subjected to a greater risk of harassment and sexual assault. With safe water nearby, women are free to pursue new opportunities and improve their families’ lives. By supplying access to clean water, women would have the freedom to pursue an education or earn extra income. In addition, a business opportunity evolves as they learn how to create more income selling clean water or other much-needed clean resources like solar lights and generators or clean cook stoves.
Clean water can greatly alleviate the world’s disease burden, but only with education and hygienic practice. Clean water alone can reduce water-related deaths by 21%. Sanitation alone can reduce water-related deaths by 37.5%. Handwashing alone can reduce water-related deaths by 35%. Every $1 invested in improved water supply and sanitation can yield from $4 to $12 for the local economy, depending on the type of project. Clean water transforms lives, communities and generations — and at a surprisingly low cost. Just $30 can provide clean water for one person.
We call this the ripple effect — how the impact of safe water and sanitation touches so many aspects of life and economies. Yet it is often overlooked by those planning investment. Want to help? There are so many ways! Contact us today!
For more information, we are following posts on a series produced by The Huffington Post, “What’s Working: Sustainable Development Goals,” in conjunction with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The proposed set of milestones will be the subject of discussion at the UN General Assembly meeting on Sept. 25-27, 2015 in New York. The goals, which will replace the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (2000-2015), cover 17 key areas of development — including poverty, hunger, health, education, and gender equality, among many others. As part of The Huffington Post’s commitment to solutions-oriented journalism, this What’s Working SDG blog series will focus on one goal every weekday in September. This post addresses Goal 6.