Exciting news! Last week we held our SPRING Selection Camp. We invited our final 50 shortlist to one of our local events in Nairobi, Kampala or Kigali to pitch their business to our judging panel for a place in our final 18 cohort.
Attendees were full of energy and we heard about a huge range of innovative business solutions that address the problems girls face. These included everything from self-adjust glasses that you can use without a prescription to an SMS based pre-order system for groceries in informal settlements.
Throughout the week, each entrepreneur arrived armed with the facts to prove that their business could help girls learn, earn or save without harm. We learned that by lengthening the space a fire has to burn on a stove cooking becomes faster and more efficient, and girls save hours of time that they would have spent collecting firewood. We heard how, by providing sanitary pads that were affordable and easy to access, girls did exponentially better in school, and that a bicycle business might be the solution to levelling the playing field between boys and girls in education.
After each pitch we caught the entrepreneurs for a chat to see how it had gone. “I’m still breathing so I think it went ok!” said one, whilst another beamed “it was crazy, an incredible experience!” But why did they specifically want to be a part of SPRING, we asked? “This is huge for us. A really exciting opportunity to expand our target market and focus on girls as a consumer with SPRING’s support.”
The Selection Camp also gave entrepreneurs the opportunity to network with the SPRING team and discuss challenges they’re facing. For many, branding, distribution and industrial design were the key areas where they wanted to work with SPRING. Often the businesses had already demonstrated that their product or service worked and was generating income, but were unable to scale it effectively without further support and expertise.
Roo Rogers, Creative and Business Leader for fuseproject and member of the SPRING consortium, praised the range of companies and the innovation entrepreneurs demonstrated at Selection Camp. “We heard from a hugely diverse crowd with many different business solutions to the issues girls face. The competition was extremely high”
The commitment to improving the lives of girls was evident from each and every entrepreneur. “The amount of energy and passion we’re seeing around delivering impact for girls has been inspirational” said Sachin Gupta, SPRING Project Director. “There is also an impressive amount of expertise – the businesses we’re hearing from have managed to get to a fairly advanced stage in a relatively short space of time and are ready for SPRING to help them reach and benefit more and more girls.”
The big question now is: who will make it to the final 18? Our judging panel are working through the decision process this week and so stay tuned – we’ll be announcing results soon.