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!
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.