Because Reasons

The expression “because reasons” is an internet phrase used in place of actual reasons, often when a question is too complex to give a simple answer or the answer should be obvious. So, I love what I do, because reasons.

The mission is to provide gainful employment for people with physical disabilities in East Africa and the vision is to provide 2,000 jobs in the next five years. I’ve spent a year getting started, finding a small team, and preparing them to start our first big client project this week.

At times the task seems daunting and discussing it is often met with doubt and blank stares. I feel the burden of the responsibility constantly and sometimes self-doubt creeps in as I tackle a growing list of challenges. Despite all of that, I love what I do.

  • First, I love the team, their smiles, hard work, energy, eagerness, and optimism.
  • I love that the competition doesn’t matter. I’m glad there are others ahead of us trying to help end poverty by providing jobs; the need is great and they help me raise the bar.
  • I love the chance to innovate. I realize innovation takes time, but it’s worth it.
  • I enjoy a good challenge and this is full of ’em.
  • I feel like all my experiences have been in preparation for this “job”.
  • The team is already able to help support others, like paying sibling school fees or organizing trips to take food and games to schools to encourage younger children with physical disabilities.
  • I am excited by the many others doing remarkable things and I wish I could know and connect them all to increase the impact. I’m starting a network for social impact founders, stay tuned.
  • This business combines so many of my interests, talents, and passions.

I love what I do because reasons, too many meaningful reasons to give a simple answer and yet also wholly obvious.

2017 Review

We started the year set on building schools for children with physical disabilities. Our first project, in Mbale Uganda, was nearing completion with more than 20 children enrolled. However, we quickly realized there were many more organizations serving the education needs, even of the disabled community, than there were creating jobs. So, we pushed our time-frame ahead by a decade and began focusing on creating jobs instead. There is a new organization running that school now so we can focus on the task at hand, to create jobs for people with physical challenges in East Africa.

We picked Kenya as the place to start and I was able to travel there three times in 2017. The first trip, in February, was 40 hours of travel and 80 hours in country. The second trip, in May, I was able to meet Daniel, who is our team leader now. He leads the team of 6, who I traveled to finish training in October.  They are a great group of talented individuals, with physical challenges, who will be an integral part of our way forward.

Before being asked to help start this new organization, I had been developing my own online donation software, which was going to be used to sponsor students in the schools. It was still important to me to continue developing it, as things transitioned from schools to job creation, but it was going to be supplementary and we expected to market traditional data entry work as our primary focus. So, I went to Kenya in October expecting to return to the US to begin finding data entry work for the team. Instead, upon returning, we decided to focus on software.  I knew the software would eventually create some jobs, but we realized our team is really what makes us unique. Our mission to create jobs for people with physical challenges can not simply reduce them to cogs in a machine, so we’re putting the team front and center.

We are creating jobs by making software powered by humans.  In an age when software and technology is replacing a lot of traditional outsourcing work, we will make software reliant on people.  The team will provide customer service and support, they’ll provide time saving site monitoring services and updates, and they will add back the human element.

Looking ahead, 2018 is full of optimism. I see it on the team’s faces as they eagerly await the chance to work hard, thankful for the opportunity to have a good job. I’m full of hopefulness and confidence about the direction we’re headed. I know the team is ready and I think churches, schools, and organizations will enjoy knowing that using our software will help make an impact.

I’m pleased with what we were able to accomplish in 2017. We “pivoted” twice, but still managed to put together a solid team, completed a trial period with the online donation software, and have positioned ourselves for growth in 2018. In fact, I’m looking to hire a secretary here and we hope to grow the size of our team in Kenya.

Please look for some more updates about the software soon and thanks for reading.

Trip Review

Somehow it has already been more than a week since I returned from my trip to Kenya, where I was able to spend time training and assessing the team.  It was a really great trip and I really enjoyed my time there, bonding with the team and better understanding our capabilities. As I shared in the last post, they learned new computer skills well and were even able to correct me when I made a mistake.

It does feel like this weird second life, jetting off to Africa, having adventures while my family stays in the states. I wish I could work with them there longer, just to set the tone for the organization and to model good work ethic and hustle. Still, I know we have the right group of people there to move forward and they’ve already demonstrated initiative and hard work. They have met and exceeded my expectations.

The team recently completed an assessment survey for me, the results of which really validate why we are doing this. Our goal is to create jobs for people with disabilities who may otherwise have a hard time finding work. In the survey we asked what this job has meant to them and here are some of the responses:

I’m able to pay my brother’s and sister’s school fees and am even feeding the family. I thank God a lot.

I’m able to cater for my basic needs which I was not able to meet before.

I no longer depend on my mother, in fact I am helping her.

This excites me and I’m proud of each of them.

Dusty Shoes

I like the story a pair of shoes can tell. The new scratches are likely from my daily hike up a steep cliff side to the dining room.  There is a stain from spilled chai, taken with friends.  Of course, there is red dust.

I’ve realized each of these hold a deeper value, for me, than they used to.

I  appreciate the beauty and glory of God’s creation, of the Great Rift Valley, more as an adult than as a kid growing up here. Chai with friends has and always will be a special time, but these new friends represent the culmination of my life’s experiences preparing me for this time. I’m fortunate to have traveled to Kenya three times this year, but this is the first time I’ve stayed long enough to get my feet dirty. Apparently I’ve missed it.

So, I sit here writing this, eating my kuku choma, having just washed my Doxycycaline down with a cold Stoney Tangawizi, and processing the day and my time here so far.

The team, these new friends, have done a great job bonding and growing as a team. I’m proud of the way they help one another throughout the day and especially at the computer.  They sing, laugh, and cook together and they’ve welcomed me into the group. I’ve taught them new stuff and they’ve practiced it until they get it. Today they graciously made suggestions when I got stuck.

They are eager and grateful for the opportunity and they understand what a successful program would mean for other people with disabilities, and so we press on.  We have a lot of ground to cover, but I’m confident they are up to the task.

Finding work and creating jobs

We have launched our pilot program in Kenya, where a team of six recently assembled to begin training and working.  It was an exciting first step toward accomplishing our goal of creating jobs for 2,000 people with disabilities in the next 5 years.

This start has had it’s challenges and rewards.  Our first internet connection wasn’t as reliable as I had hoped, a big issue when you expect to provide online work, but a new connection seems to have solved that. The team has finished the first round of work tests and I’ve been very pleased and encouraged by their results.  I was told repeatedly that accuracy was going to be an issue and they have met and exceeded my expectations.  The first assignment had only one error.

One interesting aspect of what we are trying is that we provide housing for the team.  They have apartments with kitchenettes, but they’ve decided to prepare meals together to share responsibility and resources. I’m proud of the way they have bonded as a team and have supported each other.

We will complete another week or two of training, much of which will be unfamiliar work for them. I’m beginning to understand what our work capacity will be, as a team of six, but the next round of training will really help to refine and improve our capabilities.

I travel to Kenya at the end of the month. I’m excited to meet the whole team and spend some time working together.  I’ve met Daniel, the team leader who is doing a great job, but it will be really good to get to know everyone else. They will set the tone and pace for the next round of hires and it’s my job to make sure they are properly equipped and motivated to lead that growth.

From here, it is a matter of finding and creating work for the team.

We will find work. I will begin trying to find companies and organizations that will appreciate the significance of the opportunity we are providing, the work we are doing, and the value we are offering.

We will create jobs. We are also developing software that we will use internally and that we will market as SaaS products. Software as a Service products will be slower growth, but we have the chance to create stable design, developer, marketing, and customer service jobs.

Please stay tuned for updates, pray for continued team unity, and share what we’re doing. Thanks for reading.

Updates at The Final Step

We are close to launching a pilot program in Naivasha, Kenya, where we will begin testing everything we’d like to accomplish with The Final Step.  The updates and details are as follows:

  • We will be bringing outsourcing opportunities to East Africa to create jobs.
  • We’ve put together a team of five people with disabilities that will begin work, performing a number of jobs in common outsourcing areas, for example, data entry work, image processing work, website support work, or similar typing work.
  • We will be performing business process outsourcing work for clients, but we are also producing some of the work ourselves; we’re building subscription software that will rely on the team to fulfill.
  • Travel to work can be difficult and many individuals don’t have adequate resources to work from home, so we are providing housing where the workers will come to stay and work during the week.
  • The apartments have been renovated and furniture is being moved in.
  • A group of at least 10 pastors just met at the apartments to pray for the property, workers, leadership, and The Final Step. One of those pastors will be oversee the property and team as it grows.
  • Through the pilot program we expect to learn how quickly we can scale a group of qualified workers who can live and work together as a team, performing a high value work for organizations and businesses in the USA.
  • If it works, we’ll add more workers at the current location and expect to open additional locations using the same model.
  • My family will remain in America, though I’ll travel from time to time.

Our goal is simple, we aim to create jobs for people with physical disabilities.  We know we have some challenges to overcome, but I’m already encouraged by the progress and I’m excited by the opportunity.

  • If you’ve read this far, please pray for Kenya as Tuesday, Aug 8, is election day.