Steve Andrews Finding Impact

FIP 46: Tackling Unit Economics with Steve Andrews

This week’s Finding Impact Podcast (FIP) features, Steve Andrews, Founder and CEO of NewLight Africa. After spending years in the solar industry, Steve found himself asking what else did his customers need? Since 2010 Steve has been hard at work bringing life-enhancing products to rural people across Africa. Frustrated by the challenges of scaling up through the existing (non-profit) model, Steve is pursuing a for-profit model with a strong focus on marketing and solid distribution network, in order to rapidly scale-up impact. With around 600 million people living without electricity in sub Saharan Africa alone, and the off-grid population outgrowing grid expansion, there is an enormous opportunity to create a sustainable business whilst creating incredible social and environmental benefits.

On this episode, Steve will show us the benefit of taking time to understand the unit economics surrounding your business. We’ll also learn more about:

  • The importance of listening to your customers and selling what they need in a way that works from them
  • Can community based models be scaled? Is there a limit to their growth?
  • What are the benefits to starting small with a focus on unit economics?
  • Does each decision you make impact the potential profitability for your company?
  • When is it okay to turn down opportunities that you feel may not be right for your business?
  • If you can build it and make it profitable in one county, you can do it in two and if you can do it in two….
  • How can a cookie cutter core model work for your business?
  • How to develop a financial model for scaling your social enterprise.
  • How do you choose your unit economics? (county, state, city, country?) what will be right for your business?
  • When does a change of direction become a distraction and how to keep simplicity at the forefront of your plan.
  • Are your KPIs ‘vanity measures’ or are they helping your business to grow?
  • When is your model tested and ready for the “replicate” button?
  • The importance of a realistic and generous margin for error

Links to Resources:


Connect to Steve:

What was your favourite lesson from this episode? Let me know on Twitter by clicking here!


Christie Peacock Finding Impact Sidai

FIP 006: Building a National Distribution Network, with Christie Peacock

In this episode, Christie talks us through how she built out Sidai with a national distribution network. Christie has been supporting small farmers and livestock keepers in Africa for years, as CEO of Farm Africa for over 10 years, and setting up Sidai as a business over 5 years ago. Sidai gets high quality inputs, services and technical knowledge to farmers across Kenya. They’re achievements have been outstanding in a relatively short period of time, including being able to get any product just landed in Kenya to any corner of the country in under 24 hours. Just phenomenal.

Some of the things we discuss include:

  • Tips on coming up with a business plan without having much market data, which include falling back on educated guesses from industry experts and making plausible financial projections
  • The benefits of a national distribution network, which adds so much more value to your business than just reducing the cost of your end product – ie more clout with larger manufacturers and suppliers
  • How starting with franchising as a business model is a challenge when instead go for building company owned stores
  • And successful franchising requires a sufficient carrot or stick, and when starting the company it’s hard without either
  • How selling products is unlikely to be the challenge, but instead, achieving sufficient margins on products to be viable
  • How creating your own branded products is likely to be key in increasing the margins, but then you have to learn about regulatory approvals and their complex processes.
  • Recommendation to build out the distribution network rapidly, with a mix of franchise or company owned stores, to enable supplier agreements with big companies early on.
  • Leverage as much of the existing supplier distribution systems as possible, helps to increase margins.
  • Focus on getting inventory management IT in place and internal controls as tight as possible, as this could easily eat your margin and waste all other efficiency gains.
  • Control leakages – pilfering is going to happen so prepare for it, but also the way stock is accounted for in the system, and accounting for currency fluctuations.
  • Christie’s tips for hiring great staff, including those who show passion about farming and the stories they spontaneously tell in an interview


Connect with Christie:


FIP 001: Motivating Community Health Workers with Liz Jarman

In this episode, we talk to Liz Jarman about how to motivate a network of community health workers whilst ensuring real-time performance management through their health mobile phone app.

Specifically, on this episode you’ll learn:
  • About the decision to carry out a randomized controlled trial and how it didn’t stop them continually iterating the model.
  • How extremely positive results of a large randomized controlled trial caused them to pivot from seeking 100% cost recovery to “a low cost way to save lives”.
  • How going digital has enabled real-time reporting of key performance indicators whilst giving government officials accurate data on what community health workers are actually doing.
  • How their ‘Fast Start Program’ has become key to getting new community health workers excited and motivated to achieve their Impact KPIs (key performance indicators). Peer-to-peer coaching has had more impactful results.
  • Kenya was just selling the high-impact products to get to breakeven. RCT results and develolution was just starting to establish (health devolved to counties but no one meant what that would mean). Tried community health model, pushing on an open door.
  • “Motivating community health workers is recognition, status, being part of a larger family.”
  • Living Goods’ government engagement strategy, and how it differed from Uganda to Kenya, and some specific tactics  used to cement a mutually beneficial partnership.
Useful links from this episode:
– Interview on YouTube (TBC)
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