LivelyHoods develops a trained network of formerly unemployed, disadvantaged youth and women to bring sustainable, clean energy solutions to their own slum communities across Kenya. LivelyHoods sales agents are empowered with skills and clean energy products on daily consignment to reach the last-mile with clean lighting and cooking solutions that bring social, environmental, financial and health benefits to low-income consumers. Our unique value proposition to trainees is a low-risk, high potential training and income generation opportunity. For the low-income households that we serve, we provide affordable, easy access to beneficial products and behaviour change communications that improve their lives.
LivelyHoods provides free training to unemployed, undereducated youth and women in slum communities to equip them as clean energy distributors bringing access to affordable and efficient energy through innovative products and solutions. We mobilize youth and women trainees through community outreach conducted by our in-house training team, who establish relationships with community leaders and groups to reach individuals who can most benefit from our training. We also have large training partners who refer trained youth or women to our training program across the country. We reach the last-mile in a way that very few other models can, because we work with primarily women who are from that community. We are able to work with these women because we provide products on consignment, so we don’t require them to take on any financial risk, and they can successfully reach our target customers because they understand the needs and dynamics of their communities.
The three-week training that we provide to unemployed, disadvantaged youth and women, covers basic sales skills, marketing techniques, behaviour change communication, customer service, professionalism, budgeting, and entrepreneurship. The training also focuses on personal empowerment through confidence building, communications, decision-making, and time management. Once the trainees graduate and begin selling full-time, they meet every morning in their local branch and share their experiences from the previous day to encourage self-reflection, peer learning, and skill development. Each agent is also supported to save 10% of their income, teaching them the importance of savings, budgeting, and managing expenses. LivelyHoods also provides one-on-one coaching and support to female sales agents, as well as flexible working hours, to help them overcome any challenges they may be facing with balancing their family responsibilities or pressures. Our model bakes in ongoing training and sales coaching for all sales agents to continuously build their capacity, confidence, and income.
Selling door-to-door, LivelyHoods sales agents bring products directly to the customer’s business or home in a direct ‘push’ marketing model, as opposed to a sit-and-wait approach, which would be ineffective with products that require behaviour change communication. We source products directly from manufacturers and purchase them in large volumes to stock our 10 branches across Kenya. Manufacturers support us in above-the-line marketing and in market activations and roadshows to support our below-the-line marketing strategy. Agents check out products every morning, essentially accessing daily business capital in the form of products, and return any unsold products at the end of the day. They engage in door-to-door sales, street-based guerilla marketing, and group pitches in workplaces and institutions, reaching consumers where they live, work, shop and travel.
The products we sell are either developed, produced, or assembled in Kenya, or have been designed with the Kenyan market in mind, and we come in at the distribution stage, once the products has been developed and manufactured. Our distribution model is flexible allowing us to supply the products best suited to a given community. We develop supplier relationships quickly and efficiently given that the suppliers look to us to get their products into the hands of those that stand to benefit most from them. The clean cookstoves we distribute, which account for more than 50% of our sales, are adapted to the Kenyan way of cooking, primarily with charcoal, and are both simple to use and aspirational, which appeals to the Kenyan market. However, customer education requires extensive behavior change communication and consistent follow-up, which our model encourages through door-to-door, peer-to-peer communication. Our sales agents develop a relationship with their customers rather than just pursuing a one-off transaction.
From the very beginning, LivelyHoods has engaged in a participatory approach to program design, engaging a pilot group of young men and women to survey the community, and identify and express their needs and challenges. This collaborative innovation is often overlooked in favour of theoretical approaches to development issues. The international development publication DEVEX has called our approach ‘entrepreneurial aid’, as opposed to the more typical ‘development aid’, “assistance in which agencies help those on the ground to help themselves through training and employment programs to battle high rates of youth unemployment, among other challenges”.
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