Same Planet, Different Worlds: Experience of a Ugandan Slum Social Entrepreneur in Silicon Valley
In October 2017 last year, Cedrick Karibwende was accepted into Black Box Connect, 20th Edition. Blackbox Connect is a two-week, residential program designed to immerse international startup founders in the Silicon Valley culture. As part of the Google for Entrepreneurs network, Outbox recommends startups based in Uganda for the program each year. Cedrick’s Fit Feet became the sixth startup to participate in the program from Uganda. FitFeet is a social enterprise that skills young un-employed people from slum areas in Uganda to run their own shoe making micro-franchise businesses.
Outbox had the opportunity to meet-up with Cedrick Karibwende to share his Black Box impact story. Below is his point of view:
WHAT DID YOU SET OUT TO ACHIEVE IN THE PROGRAM?
Before leaving to attend Blackbox, I set out to learn as much as I possibly could both through the program and the various sessions we would be exposed to. I went with an open mind, ready to make new networks and learn new things.
WHAT DID YOU DO?
My first few days attending the program were overwhelming. Being amongst a group of individuals who have achieved so much and are on track to achieve even much more was both inspiring and intimidating (at times). The sessions being so varied, and packed with very vital knowledge was also a bit of a test on how well I could fully be present and immerse myself in the experience.
After a while, it started to become clear why I made it to the program as I related more with the experience of my fellow entrepreneurs from 13 countries across the globe. Together we shared challenges, solutions and forged relationships that will probably continue for a very long time.
WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM YOUR COMMUNITY?
The Blackbox experience in my view was too grand to be fully defined. The energy that I picked up from the sessions, time spent with fellow entrepreneurs, and the Silicon Valley mindset was so strong that it totally transformed me. I have taken this energy with me and used it to redefine my company’s culture in terms of what our bigger goal is, how we intend to get there, and how what we want to be remembered for (in terms of impact) on our way to our overall goal.
Given that I had never been with a group as diverse as the Blackbox 20 Cohort prior to attending the program, every single day was a new experience for me. It was both enlightening and encouraging to learn how similar entrepreneurs are, regardless of where they come from.
The fact that we all, in our own ways, are working tirelessly to make our communities, countries and continents better places, and that we all face somewhat similar experiences in our vastly different environments, was a source of affirmation for me to keep working harder and never give up on my endeavors.
HOW WERE YOU IMPACTED?
The exposure from BlackBox hugely impacted me in a way that I was forced to consider the possibility of my venture having an even larger impact than I earlier thought. The encouragement to dream bigger, aim higher and work towards grander goals certainly redefined my thinking as a social entrepreneur.
By the end of the program, I had recalibrated my goals to include expansion from footwear manufacturing to other sectors such as electronics assembly. Identifying the skilling function as the core success factor of my venture as we scale was a very important realization for me. I have as such decided to dedicate the first half of this year to setting up a state of the art training facility from which women and youth franchisees will get high quality footwear manufacturing skills that they can then pass on to others.
WHAT ARE YOUR NEXT STEPS?
With a clearly defined end goal in mind, I have mapped out my next few years in terms of the level of impact, and product lines that I envision my organization should take on. I intend to steadily grow and learn from every experience, with a dedication to always stay true to the identity of my organization; whose primary focus is to transform vulnerable communities into thriving hubs of commerce and innovation.
I feel privileged to be a part of a socially conscious revolution in Uganda that values the impact that entrepreneurship can have as far as solving socioeconomic problems is concerned. My wish is that the Impact Investment scene in Uganda could get more support.
As an organization, FitFeet also suffers from the effects of this inadequate support (especially in terms of funding). With a need to fully equip our existent micro-franchise and consolidate its activities to transform it into a state of the art skilling center, funding to the tune of amounts to which we currently have no access, is a huge necessity.
BlackBox Connect recently selected Jacqueline Mutumba from DigiHealth to attend the 21st edition of the program in San Franscisco taking place on 26th Feb — 9th March 2018. Jacqueline Mutumba is an alumni of our Up Accelerate program. Her startup, Digihealth is addressing the challenge of poor data collection by designing and improving low-cost open source digital tools to improve data collection, analysis, and visualisation to drive better decision making and enhanced service delivery. Digihealth is an alumni startup of the Up Accelerate cycle II program, an accelerator that supports young people addressing challenges in sexual reproductive health with seed funding, mentorship, business training and technical guidance. The initiative is supported by UNFPA. Learn more about Jacqueline here https://outbox.co.ug/initiatives/upaccelerate