Livelyhoods, the brainchild of two 20-something activists, takes Kenya’s youth off the streets and transforms them into eco-friendly entrepreneurs.
In a slum in Nairobi, Kenya, where an attractive daily salary clocks in at $2, a group of two-dozen 18- to 25-year-olds in crisp blue polo shirts peddle their wares. At one point, many of them sold scavenged scraps of plastic or metal on the streets. Some sold drugs. Now, they sell clean cookstoves, solar lamps, sanitary products, and LED lamps. They work as iSmart sales agents for Livelyhoods, an eight-time award-winning organization run by a pair of 26-year-old women pushing a business model of job creation and sustainable products. On average, their sales associates make $75 a month, but of the 80 young adults who’ve passed through the program—many of them single parents and first-time job holders—a number have already been promoted to managerial positions.
“We are selling products that aren’t currently available within slum communities and have a really big impact,” says executive director Maria Springer, who, along with co-founder and COO Tania Laden, founded the business almost two years ago. The pair run the store along with a team of four former sales agents and a steady flow of fellows coming from America’s top schools. And they’re getting ready to open the second store after a successful, and slightly unusual, fundraiser raised them more than enough cash to do so.