La Chispa 2019 End of Year Report
3.5 years ago, I left the wonderful world of Bridgewater to pursue a career in social impact. It was a tough decision to leave, but I knew I needed to see what else was out there.
I didn’t yet know what a career in social impact meant for me, but I wanted to find something at the intersection of my passion and skills. After 6 months of researching macro theory on how countries develop, talking to social impact organizations, and making my own ¨on the ground¨ experiments in Kenya, I discovered SOMO Africa.
This model clicked for me. It’s anchored in the belief that people closest to the problems know them best. (BW principles will stay with me forever ;) ). They also have some of the best insights into how to make their communities better. The problem is that there are systemic hurdles limiting aspiring entrepreneurs from implementing those insights and solutions. Systemic hurdles such as a lack of access to business training, financing and sales channels. So simply put, SOMO Africa provides those 3 things. In love with this model, I developed their market access programs and joined their board of directors.
Which brings me to México…
For personal reasons, I wanted to live in a place with NYC’s level of energy, but with more eye contact (sorry I´m not sorry NY). Mexico City is that place. Plus, given it ́s entrepreneurial spirit, I was able to continue the work I loved doing.
So about 1.5 years ago I brought SOMO’s incubator model to Mexico City, called La Chispa. It's hard to put in words what an incredible journey it's been. I never would have guessed La Chispa would be where it is today in only 1.5 years. Especially considering I didn't speak Spanish, only knew 1 person upon arriving and intentionally run on a barebones budget.
It's a testament to when you feel like you are in the right place, doing the right thing with the right people, everything just flows.
A look into La Chispa today:
In summary, La Chispa...
believes entrepreneurs have the power to change the world.
searches for people with the vision and determination to improve their communities, but not necessarily the resources.
eliminates systemic obstacles that impede entrepreneurs from creating their social impact businesses. Obstacles like a lack of access to business training, financing, and sales channels.
Featured La Chispa Entrepreneurs:
To keep up to date with all our entrepreneurs, follow our instagram page @LaChispaMexico
Source: Through partner organizations, like Reinserta and CENTRO, we access pools of aspiring entrepreneurs from underserved populations. Our next goal is to expand by partnering with rural NGOs and directly reaching entrepreneurs through La Chispa´s own brand.
Train: Our aspiring entrepreneurs complete a business training course where they go from ideation to actualization. The curriculum takes lessons from IDEO, MIT & SOMO, then simplifies to fit our target populations.
Finance: Upon completion of the course, entrepreneurs pitch to our judges for the chance to receive grant funding. This is to kick start their “minimal viable product”.
Partner: La Chispa´s team of Management Consultants continue to partner with our entrepreneurs to help them grow their businesses and coach them through the inevitable hurdles. They can also access our collaborative sales channels.
Grow: Loan capital is available when the entrepreneurs need additional financing to expand their businesses.
Our 2019 Finances:
Top 2019 Hurdles:
Reaching rural México: One of my top goals for 2019 was expanding into rural México. At this point, the cost of access has been too high to justify the effort. For example, it costs about $300 per person to do a 1 weekend business workshop in rural Oaxaca. In 2020, I will go back to the drawing board and see if there is another way to reach these vulnerable populations at a higher ROI.
Pausing the second cohort of entrepreneurs from a population of formerly incarcerated youth. The decision was reached by the partner organization, mid business training course, that the group was not ready in their reintegration program to start businesses. My hope is that once they are further along in their process they can re-enter La Chispa.
Reduced sales potential in our main collaborative sales channel. This is due to overestimating the effectiveness of uber eats. In 2020 we will enable our food based entrepreneurs to increase their sales with a new food delivery partnership, as well as diversifying our channels via a non ¨dark kitchen¨ (i.e, with tables) and catering.
Overall my vision is to keep moving towards being the lead incubator for grassroots socially responsible businesses. I want La Chispa to be an example for how one can systematically enable people to improve their own surroundings by developing profitable businesses. My dream is to figure out the formula(s) for success and copy this model around the world. In 2020 in particular, the aim is to get a handful of our portfolio businesses into the black, become unreliant on donations, and intake the next cohort of talented entrepreneurs.
Specifics by program area:
Source: I want to find the best hidden talent with the best social impact ideas and help them start their business. In 2020, the goal is to evaluate 500 applicants and accept the top 50 into our program.
Train: In addition to our hands-on training for the above 50 aspiring entrepreneurs, our aim is to build V2 of our online training. This will make it available at scale.
Partner: To help our entrepreneurs learn, work, and sell, I want to open La Chispa´s innovation hub. It will include a coworking space, our business classes, and our collaborative sales channels (restaurant, store, events).
Grow: Continue to collaborate with our 2018 and 2019 businesses to enable them to scale. The first batch of loans are expected to be paid back in 2020.
How you can help!
1. Volunteer: We have positions open in Marketing, Finance, Project Management and Business Training. See details here. Remote options available.
2. Donate: Contribute to our 2020 Investment Loan Fund here. This provides our entrepreneurs affordable financing to enable them to grow. Loans are paid back at 10% and re-loaned to other entrepreneurs.