I have to admit to sitting down to write this letter at least a half a dozen times. The thing is, it’s 2016 now, and the rains are over (both figuratively and literally) and we’ve broken ground on our amazing new dairy and poultry facility in Kisumu that will have the ability to house 100,000 chickens and provide pasteurized milk region wide. I’m so incredibly proud of what our team has accomplished in making it a reality and it really does represent the amazing things that are in store for Nuru Social Enterprises. And so the last few times I’ve started this letter, I wanted to end after this first paragraph. Because if it’s really about the destination and not the journey (as those much wiser than me say), do you really want to hear what it took to get to this point? But today I realize that possibly the best way to share 2015 with you is to take you on this journey with me, and maybe you’ll laugh a little and wince a little and ultimately realize just how great this adventure that we’re lucky enough to call Nuru Social Enterprises truly is.
So imagine. Imagine a team with no construction experience. Imagine a contractor who forgets to add the foundation to his plan to build. Imagine our two expats on the ground leaving within two months of each other. Imagine the long rains season hitting just as we are supposed to break ground. Imagine a water tank which is our main source of water about to tip off the building. Imagine chickens eating other chickens. Imagine not having the funds to build what you originally wanted to.
Except, yes, this was our reality in 2015. There were days when it seemed that Nuru Social Enterprises took one hit after another with no break in sight. But you know what? We made it. Some people call it resilience or determination. Those who know me well call it stubbornness. Either way, here’s what I learned.
1) This business of being an entrepreneur is never easy. I know that’s almost a “no duh” moment to most of you reading this. But think of it this way. Nuru Social Enterprises is an entrepreneurial business in itself, just getting itself up and running and then there’s Nuru Kenya Social Enterprises. And then, there’s our poultry and dairy and consumer products businesses, all businesses we launched. All succeeding. But this is like being an entrepreneur squared or quadrupled.
2) We talk a lot about enabling local leaders but NSE is walking the walk. Yes, it happened by accident. And yes, we still think expat talent on the ground could help in certain areas. But the two people running our poultry and dairy businesses are people that have been with Nuru International for over four years. They’ve “grown up” with Nuru, and we’ve learned from them as much as they’ve learned from us. It’s heartwarming to see and it’s also good business.
3) We can make the tough decisions when we need to. As a stakeholder in Nuru, I’m guessing that’s reassuring to read, but I’m writing it because I think it needs to be said. Calling it in Ethiopia was a tough decision, not only because of the team we’d hired but also because of the promise we saw in what could have been. But we made the decision because banging our fists against a brick wall, otherwise known as the regulations against foreign investment, meant wasting valuable time and resources that we could use in other countries.
4) There will never be a truly bad day in this business. So we’re a for profit business. And that means, one measure of our success is our profit. We’re making gains on that front which is heartening in itself. But here’s the secret of why I never really have a bad day. It’s the social in NSE. We’re making impact daily. We’re providing eggs and yogurt and pasteurized milk to families. And so yes, water tanks may fall over, our day may include examining cow dung as we turn it into bio gas, and we may scream at the number of permits it takes to put a building up in Kenya. But we promise you, the people on this journey with us, that there is never a dull day, there is never a day that we’re not making impact, and there’s never a day that we don’t strive to leave the communities we serve better than when we came.
And so, I thank you for supporting us in 2015 and please stay tuned to hear about our exciting Kisumu expansion.