Introducing the 2017 GSBI Accelerator Cohort

Miller Center
Feb 9, 2017 · 8 min read
Photo Credit: Resonate

“When I heard, “And the winner is Wendo Dorcas” that evening I took the trophy to my room, sat on my hotel bed and cried until my ribs hurt. I cried for the woman who did not have confidence in herself, who considered herself inferior, who was fearlessly afraid, who was so proud of herself for doing something she had never done before. She had pitched and won. Yes! The villager as I commonly, proudly, refer to [as] myself, had won $10,000 plus a trophy.”

Dorcas’s story is one among many from uplifted women in Resonate’s programs. Its program encourages women to write and share their stories with others. Women are being encouraged to reach for — and achieve — greatness, to love themselves, and know that they can pursue leadership with confidence.


Resonate is not alone in its vision to change lives for the better. It is one of sixteen social enterprises involved in this year’s Global Social Benefit (GSBI®) Accelerator program at Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship.

Miller Center addresses the problems of poverty by focusing on women’s economic empowerment — “women rising” — and climate resilience through our Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) programs. We believe that by investing in these two target markets, the pains of poverty can be sustainably addressed. The GSBI Accelerator supports trailblazing social enterprises through business training and in-depth mentorship. We are excited to embark on the 2017 program with our newest cohort! Each enterprise expresses innovation at its core as they cater to different needs around the globe.

Photo Credit: Food For Education


Although the cohort impacts lives all across the globe, there is a concentration of enterprises in Africa this year. Over half the organizations work in these African countries:

● Kenya

● Uganda

● Niger

● Burkina Faso

● Nigeria

● Ghana

● Rwanda

● United Republic of Tanzania

● Zambia

Plus, the social enterprises work in sectors that range from education to energy to agriculture, and more.

In the education sector Building Tomorrow, Inc. and Food for Education provide schoolchildren with the facilities they need to stay in school. Building Tomorrow, Inc. works to improve education in hard-to-reach rural areas of Uganda by constructing new schools and supporting various improvements in the quality of education offered. Food for Education works in neighboring country Kenya and provides vulnerable children with nutritious, heavily subsidized lunches in public schools to improve attendance, performance, and nutrition. The lunch subsidies are covered by the profits from Food for Education’s food delivery business.

In the energy sector are enterprises like Simusolar and VITALITE Zambia Limited. These organizations work in Tanzania and Zambia, respectively, each offering energy-efficient products at an affordable price to underserved households. Both offer mobile financing with payable increments over time. Energy-efficient products include solar home systems and clean cookstoves, among others, which enables communities to be more resilient to the effects of climate change.

In the agriculture sector:

Excel Bit Com Limited — helps smallholder farmers in Ghana cultivate rice, soy, and maize by providing them with fertilizer, tractors and other products. The organization then trades the produce with buyers and processors to help the farmers reach this end of the supply chain.

KadAfrica — equips Ugandan girls who aren’t in school with knowledge, skills, and assets to begin their own cooperative passion fruit farms, enabling them to become financially literate leaders capable of generating income through agriculture.

MoringaConnect — changes the story for 120 million small farming families who use the nutritional, medicinal and economically valuable crop “moringa.” MoringaConnect changes the leaves into super-food tea and snack products, sold under Minga Foods. They also use the Moringa seeds for beauty products under True Moringa.

AFRICAQUA and Tugende are the remaining two African enterprises. Working primarily in Kenya, AFRICAQUA is an organization that sits at the intersection of women rising and climate resilience: It offers affordable access to safe drinking water for rural and urban communities plus it trains girls in enterprise development. Tugende is an asset finance company in Uganda that helps people take control of their economic futures by owning the productive assets they use to make a living. For example, Tugende has been offering lease-to-own financing of motorcycles (locally referred to as “boda bodas”) to over 4,500 motorcycle taxi drivers. Through the financial support, taxi drivers are able to own their bikes and make greater profits.

Photo Credit: Hippocampus Learning Centres


Two of the social enterprises outside of Africa work in education initiatives and don similar names at opposite ends of the world. Hippocampus Learning Centres (HLC) works in India, and its business concept is being replicated to Mexico as Hipocampus Centros de Aprendizaje. The enterprises offer educational programs to serve those most in need of them in the regions that they serve.

India: HLC works to provide affordable, joyful education in small towns and villages. The enterprise hires teachers that deliver consistent high quality education in a sustainable and scalable manner. Through programs such as its Full School Programme, the EnglishSTAR Programme, Training Academy and its Pre-School Programme, HLC offers rural districts of India the power of choice.

Mexico: Hipocampus Centros de Aprendizaje offers affordable care and early childhood education to Mexican families with children between one and six years old. It is able to do so by leveraging modern teaching techniques, technology, women and community empowerment, and corporate alliances.

Education is a powerful tool for everyone, whether in Mexico, India or elsewhere. This example of business replication speaks loudly for the good that can be accomplished through social entrepreneurship.

Photo Credit: Yellow Leaf Hammocks


Also in Mexico is Someone Somewhere, an enterprise that works to empower artisans. Someone Somewhere sells clothing that connects global adventurers with rural artisans through its products that combine traditional handcrafts with functional and fun designs. Someone Somewhere recognizes the struggle that Mexican artisans face in trying to keep up with today’s demands. Its connection to a new consumer base opens life-changing opportunities.

Another enterprise working in artisanal empowerment is Yellow Leaf Hammocks. Yellow Leaf Hammocks is an outdoor lifestyle brand, dedicated to “blissful relaxation” and sustainable job creation. Through global sales of “ridiculously comfy” hand woven hammocks, it helps artisan mothers in rural Thailand create a brighter future for their families and communities. From receiving less than a dollar a day working as field laborers in slash and burn agriculture, hammock weavers are able to earn a solid middle-class income and escape the cycle of extreme poverty and debt slavery.


Imagine the world without light — no doubt it would be a very dark place. Our world heavily relies upon energy and electricity to be productive, safe, and connected. Social enterprises involved in energy recognize the unmet need of those without electricity, and offer affordable, alternative clean energy products payable over time. Nizam Bijli works in Pakistan to offer affordable, pay-as-you-go (PAYGo) solar energy. The solar energy it provides is coupled with mobile payments, monitoring, and data-driven credit scoring. Through this approach, Nizam Bijli is able to provide electricity to off-grid homes in Pakistan, effectively allowing kids to study, families to supplement their income, and off-grid access to modern society. Health is also improved as homes switch from using kerosene to solar.

Photo Credit: Be Girl


One of humanity’s most urgent development problems stems from women’s lack of access to effective and affordable Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) solutions. Be Girl offers MHM products globally to address this persistent barrier. Its “period panties” deliver affordable high-performance products designed for womankind. The for-profit social enterprise is dedicated to enabling women and girls to radically improve their quality of life. Its approach is to eliminate stigma as a barrier to opportunity, so that women are empowered as agents of change for themselves, their families, and the world.


At Miller Center, we are proud to accompany all of the organizations in this year’s GSBI Accelerator program. Their missions provide those most in need with safe drinking water, improved livelihoods and better access to education, support in agriculture, and so much more. Each one understands, inside and out, a specific need that exists in a specific region, and then works tirelessly to provide a solution. It is through the dedication and innovation of the entrepreneurs that lives can be changed for the better.



Offering affordable means to safe drinking water for rural and urban African Communities

Be Girl, Inc.

Offering women Menstrual Hygiene Management solutions that effectively enable girls the autonomy to improve their lives

Building Tomorrow, Inc.

Providing children access to education in hard-to-reach rural areas of Uganda through the construction of new schools

Excel Bit Com Limited

Helping smallholder farmers in Ghana cultivate rice, soy, and maize by providing them with fertilizer, tractors and other products

Food for Education

Providing vulnerable children in Kenya with nutritious, heavily subsidized lunches in public schools to improve attendance, performance and nutrition status.

Hipocampus Centros de Aprendizaje

Offering affordable, quality care and early childhood education for children 1 to 6 years old to Mexican families

Hippocampus Learning Centres

Providing affordable, joyful education in small towns and villages in India with teachers that deliver consistent high quality educational outcomes


Equipping girls who out of school in Uganda with knowledge, skills and assets to begin their own cooperative passion fruit farms


Changing the story for 120 million small farming families who use the nutritional, medicinal and economically valuable crop Moringa

Nizam Bijli

Providing the under-served and the off-grid with affordable, Pay-As-You-Go solar energy coupled with mobile payment, monitoring, and data driven credit scoring.


Using storytelling to empower women and girls in East Africa to build self-confidence and unlock leadership.


Offering energy-efficient products with mobile technology and PAYGo payments

Someone Somewhere

Connecting global adventurers with rural artisans from Mexico


Providing financial services to help people take control of their economic futures by owning the productive assets they use to make a living

VITALITE Zambia Limited

Offering energy-efficient products with mobile technology and PAYGo payments

Yellow Leaf Hammocks

Helping artisan mothers in rural Thailand create a brighter future for their families and communities through the sales of hand woven hammock

Miller Center

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Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University accelerates global, innovation-based entrepreneurship in service to humanity.

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