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BeeBIZ - Business Incubation Zone out of converted containers.

Krizevac Project & the Beehive Centre, Malawi, will give land, construction expertise, machinery, childcare and enduring oversight.

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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

Problem - Creation of jobs and enterprises is not keeping pace with rapid urbanisation in Africa. Worklessness is a big problem in city slums. In India, cities are a source of wealth for the rural poor, in Malawi however, food and money is more often sent to relatives in the cities. Solution -20 forty-foot containers will be adapted into an enterprise area of workshops, offices and classroom spaces, with shared cafe, toilets and meeting space in Malawi. Entrepreneurs learn by doing and BeeBIZ will make it easy for people in nearby slums to start businesses. BeeBIZ will help entrepreneurs to try, to course correct and eventually succeed. This is different from learning in a classroom. Containers represent resilient units of infrastructure which can be adapted quickly and cheaply. They have a structural integrity which survives the rain and difficulties of construction in Africa. BeeBIZ will collate, share & test the best ideas for container conversion from around the world. Collaborating with OpenIDEO, BeeBIZ will seek new, innovative ways of adapting containers and will shape a "silicon valley" of small social enterprises, piloted in the Beehive Centre for Social Enterprise, Malawi. Budding entrepreneurs will have easy access to electricity, water and the internet and will be co-located with Microloan operators, and advisers. BeeBIZ will be a place to get businesses going, creating jobs and job creators in a scalable, shareable system.

WHO BENEFITS?

Beneficiaries will be new entrepreneurs in poor urban cities in Africa and the people they employ. As a non-profit organisation, Beehive Centre for Social Enterprise will take any surplus from this to support the women and children in a Children's Centre. This Centre will provide childcare for women who want to train and start businesses in BeeBIZ. BeeBIZ will provide a downloadable e-Book of the best container conversions and will use social media platforms to share best practice.

HOW DOES YOUR IDEA TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE CONTEXT OF URBAN SLUMS AND CLIMATE CHANGE?

The Beehive Centre for Social Enterprise in Malawi(see www.krizevac.org) has used and adapted containers already, though in smaller, less cohesive ways. We now want to grow this expertise. We have also adapted a South African soil stabilised brick making process which doesn't require burning of bricks and so does not deforest the locality. We have trained welders, carpenters and machinery to build in an appropriate way but also quickly and cheaply. The Beehive Centre has worked with local chiefs, churches & mosques since 2007 and is known and respected in Chilomoni township. We have land ready to be used for this purpose. The great thing about the containers is that they can be moved, added to and combined in different ways. They are an immensely flexible method of trying things out. Located nearby to BeeBIZ would be the Beehive technical school, a rich source of budding new entrepreneurs, who now need a space to start their businesses. We have, in our team of international volunteers, based in Malawi, the architect winner of the 2015 Ireland Home of the Year Award http://www.rte.ie/ten/news/2015/0514/701118-home-of-the-year-winner/. This eco house is environmentally outstanding and we expect our container designs to be outstanding in being appropriate for their location, purpose and ways of dealing with ventilation and lighting. The majority of trainees in tailoring and design at the Beehive Centre for Social Enterprise are women. BeeBIZ will be located nearby to the Beehive Children's Centre which will provide subsidised childcare to further support women.

IN-COUNTRY EXPERIENCE

  • Yes, for two or more years

EXPERTISE

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for at least two years

GEOGRAPHIC FOCUS

  • Yes

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF

I run a UK charity www.krizevac.org & have been based in Malawi for 10 of the last 25 years involved in aid and development work. I am co-founder of the Beehive Centre for Social Enterprise in Malawi and my passion is the continuing transformation of a township on the edge of Blantyre City.

IS THIS A NEW OR RECENT IDEA FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION? HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM WHAT YOU ARE ALREADY DOING?

BeeBIZ has been an idea we've had for some time, but has never been a priority. It certainly is now! Need for jobs and job creators has never been greater and the wealth of willing graduates from Beehive's vocational training has never been better. The timing is right to colocate a volume of new enterprises alongside this vocational training. We have land, some startup containers available and willingness to ship more and design & shape them into a business village.

HOW IS YOUR IDEA DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SIMILAR INITIATIVES? WHAT ARE YOU DOING DIFFERENTLY? WHAT UNIQUE ADVANTAGES DO YOU HAVE?

Converted containers aren't new. We've had many of our own. The creation of this "particular silicon valley of social enterprise" is our innovation: placing this entrepreneurial catalyst in the midst of abject poverty. As with so many things in Malawi, it's not the idea, but its implementation which is the bigger difficulty. After nearly a decade of vocational training deployed in this area, it's time to accelerate the conversion of this training to jobs and new enterprises.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR IDEA?

Is the existing solar array in Beehive adequate for expansion? When can we include expansion of the solar system and bettery bank in Beehive? Funds available for insulation & shading roofing material? Number of containers already available within Beehive? Relative priority against competing initiatives? Rates & rental of eventual units to be determined. Is the container as good as the hydraform block system for simple, replicaple, rapid building? Can a planned canteen & student tuck shop be included as part of BeeBIZ? Should the expansion of the new Beehive data entry business be included in BeeBIZ?

WHY DO YOU THINK THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HASN'T BEEN SOLVED YET?

Lack of funds & lack of sufficient empty containers.

HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BASED ON FEEDBACK FROM YOUR COMMUNITY?

Qualitative interviews with targeted potential beneficiaries, including students revealed a number of interesting points: - Beehive tailors mostly want to work from home rather than in containers, with some notable exceptions, though all are interested in a "market place" and support to export goods. - Microloans are needed by many - Beehive has already started piloting its own microloans scheme. - CoG or Cycle of Good - a project making goods for export from blown-out inner tubes revealed that export quality production is still some months away. - Discussions with the design team & architect revealed BeeBIZ will fit well with existing plans and three 40 foot containers are likely already available for use. - Nearly all students at the JPII Leadership & IT Academy interviewed were interested in taking up premises which offered electricity, the internet and office space with shared amenities.

WHAT WOULD YOU ULTIMATELY LIKE TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS IDEA? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP TO GET THERE?

Ultimately, we would like to achieve a community of in excess of 20 small businesses, co-located within the Beehive Centre for Social Enterprise. These businesses will grow, move on and occupy bigger premises elsewhere in the city and yet remain part of the network of business relationships which sustains BeeBIZ. The vacated premises will then be used by new startups. There will be over 100 jobs created through BeeBIZ in flexible infrastructure which will be retained and reused to fulfill evolving needs of enterprise creation.

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Answer?

How does your idea connect to the broader system of the city where you plan to implement?

We work regularly with the Blantyre City Assembly planning department and have support from them in improving roads and access to the township of Chilomoni. Beehive itself comprises an IT Academy, whose graduates will benefit, a tailoring & design college, a bicycle repair business, bookshop, knitwear factory, plant & vehicle hire organisation, computer hire operation, construction business, children's centre and a central team to look ofter the HR & finance support for the whole. The children's centre will provide discounted childcare to support women in BeeBIZ into work.

Attachments (1)

Container Conversions Across the World.docx

Compilation of container adaptations from around the globe...

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Spam
Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi Vince,

Below is some feedback from our experts. We'd love to hear your responses! 

How exactly will this organization would stimulate entrepreneurship? 

Solid idea– it seems promising. I know this idea of a workshop / vocational training / lending library has been implemented with mixed results in other geographies. I wonder what could be learned from those interventions before diving into your own implementation. Also, It would be great to see more details of who your users are. I'd love to hear about interviews you have done with carpenters, metal workers, and other craft men and women both practitioners or those considering a career to see what their current challenges are. What are their hopes, their dreams, their struggles, their biggest opportunities? How are they similar and different across demographics and vocations?

Spam
Photo of Vince
Team

Great - Thanks for your encouragement.

Just back from Malawi - so here you go!

We've had an ongoing course-correction approach in growing Malawi's Beehive Centre for Social Enterprise based on local feedback, local demand and competition within Malawi. Part of the Beehive is a higher-educaton college for Tailoring & design as well as IT and leadership which began in 2008. We did employ some trainers from similar set ups in Malawi and have shared good practice and curriculum material and there's been a consistent approach to learning by doing. Of significant impact also has beeen the early implementation of "human formation" training alongside technical education: a Columbian from a nearby vocational training institute pointed to the importance of factors other than technical skills as being key to success in graduates finding work or becoming job creators. 

It's the graduates from the Beehive Centre who are most interested in incubation units. There has been a co-location of small enterprises and vocational education in the Beehive since 2008 and the Malawi governmental authority for such training, TEVETA, has not only approved Beehive but partners with it in the creation of new curriculum material.

The reliable provision of internet and power is uncommon in Malawi and, with a large existing 40KVA solar array which to be extended as part of the BeeBIZ project, proper IT enterprise is possible. Some graduate technicians interviewed this month want to establish "fix-it" computer repair businesses, whereas others are keen to have a base to begin their own graphic design or coding enterprises. The potential for out-sourced IT work over the internet provides a real way of overcoming Malawi's biggest barrier to export:  its land-locked nature, and one interviewee had already fulfilled contracts on UpWork - an online labour platform. Different interests from tailoring graduates range from tailoring of school uniform and one-off "national wear" to an embryonic business known as "Cycle of Good" recycling blown out bicycle inner tubes into wallets, bags and such like for eventual sale in the northern hemisphere. I've brought a few suitcases of samples back to the UK to get early user feedback and design improvrements. The majority of tailors compete with local second-hand goods markets which have proliferated in recent dacades so, rather than push for high volumes of common garments, they are trained interested instead to make niche, well-designed quality items (with one notable exception who is keen to make women's knickers).

A common problem expressed by all of the interviewees across demographies and vocations is difficult access to start up capital at affordable interest rates. The Beehive Chairman has approved seed funding for the start of a small microloan scheme as a pilot solution to this problem. One of the early beneficiaries is "Mr Woza Woza" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNCrVoV11u0 who is seeking expansion of his locally popular chili Woza Woza chilli sauce. Malawi's business bureacracy is a tangle of restrictions which we're helping him with: the Malawi Bureau of Standards requires him to have suitable premises and a large, stainless steel electrically-heated catering cooker to enable expansion and sale to supermarkets. We are keen that his presence as part of BeeBIZ will enable him to fulfill his dream of exporting globally. We're currently testing his products for the UK market.

Other small-business start ups we have spoken with this month, keen to occupy BeeBIZ container premises, include a Quantity Surveyor keen to move from employment to running his own business and welders keen to manufacture energy efficient "rocket stoves" which consume less firewood.

The most common dream among school leavers is to be employed, either as a doctor, lawyer or accountant. For almost all, these dreams are utterly unrealistic. Few dream of running their own business, but Beehive graduates are bucking this trend and an increasing proportion are interested to do so. The Malawi economy is very small, possibly for climatic reasons, currently problematic. In February, the World Bank declared, on the basis of GDP per capita, that Malawi is the poorest country in the world. With delayed rains this year, the prospects for this country, which depends largely on subsistence agriculture, are not good. BeeBIZ will enable employment in a periurban township which is unrelated to the whims of climate change and the agricultural fortunes of a population which has become fragile in the extreme.

Spam
Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi Vince, thank you - this is really helpful! Just to make sure I've got it - Beehive has been providing training in technical skills and leadership for about eight years and Beebiz is something that you've recently begun working on to provide support for entrepreneurs? 

Spam
Photo of Vince
Team

Hi Chioma
That's it! Beehive has two areas of land, both located in the township of Chilomoni on the western outskirts of Blantyre City. We've been co-locating a small amount of enterprise and a much larger volume of vocational training for some time, in makeshift old houses and dispersed venues across an area. We've closed down enterprises which haven't worked and nurtured and watered those which have. Some have become sizeable and now fund the children's centre which we run. BeeBIZ is a way of cheaply, and quickly cashing in on the good work done so far and boosting the number of jobs and job creators with simple converted containers. Some enterprises will be autonomous which will simply pay rent, others will be run by Beehive whil others will be a prtnership with shared ownership. The Beehive Centre for Social Enterprise was registered in Malawi as a nonprofit company, limited by guarantee on 21st December 2007. We had a number of volunteers working from May-Sept of 2007 and grew a team of trainers and staff in Q4 2007 for the launch in 2008.

The support for entrepreneurs ranges from small loans, rent-free start up period, payroll & HR support and marketing.

Eventually, we envisage the two Beehive sites being a separate commercial enterprise park (with industrial units which are either the BeeBIZ in an evolved form or built units) and an educational campus with ages from birth to adult. The commercial campus will also comprise the bigger businesses of Beehive's data entry business and the Torrent Plant & Vehicle Hire in purpose-built offices & workshops.

BeeBIZ is an experimental approach on the way to this - we've alway started off badly and got better!

Thanks for your encouragement!

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