Dear reader: As our CEO and founder Doug Seebeck looks ahead to his retirement later this year, we’ll be publishing blogs from Doug that are reflections from his book “My Business, My Mission” written in 2009, as well as perspectives and reflections that go back to his early years.
My heart is filled with joy and gratitude as I reflect on our dream that started 25 years ago. One simple purpose: to end extreme poverty through business so that every image-bearer of God could experience abundant life. Rose Mutuku is one of those amazing image-bearers.
Last month I had the distinct honor of meeting Rose at her food processing business in the semi-arid district of Machakos, Kenya. Climate change is causing hotter dry seasons, more erratic rainfall patterns, and good water supply is scarcer than ever before. Her people have been long known for having their hands out for food, as farming outcomes are so unpredictable in their sandy soils.
Early in her career, Rose worked sourcing sorghum from these farmers to be used for a malt at a major international brewery. She became increasingly frustrated with being a transactional trader, as she saw first-hand the struggles of these smallholder farmers to put food on their tables, while all the value and money was created in the capital city of Nairobi.
Then, God gave her a big dream. Quit your good-paying job and set my people free! She obeyed God’s call and launched Smart Logistics Solutions. Her simple purpose is to bring greater value and income to local farm families by creating great products from the indigenous crops that can thrive in eastern Kenya. But her dream is much bigger than that—she wants to restore the lost glory of her homeland and her people!
Ideas started blooming. She began with an innovative idea of producing pre-cooked beans so busy mothers could come home and, within 15 minutes, have a hot nutritious meal ready to go for their hungry families. Not only does this reduce the usual two-plus hours of cooking over charcoal, but this faster meal prep also helps stop deforestation in her homeland, allowing for reforestation and the redemption of normal rainfall patterns.
Rose then added a line to produce Supa Noodles, where she enriches white flour with nutrient-dense flour from legumes like cowpea, millet, pigeon pea, and sorghum. She exclaimed, “We will never stop our kids from eating these white noodles like your ramen noodles in the States, so I am making them better and healthier!"
The Partners Worldwide staff team, Business Affiliate volunteers, and investors have partnered with Rose to supply access to new relationships, knowledge, capital, and markets. She is now preparing to install equipment for a new product line for dehydrated vegetables. This will allow the farmers to produce even more crops, use water sources more efficiently, and help the ecosystem begin to flourish!
Rose partners with 28,000 farmer families, many who are now friends, and whose incomes have increased dramatically—some doubling and tripling. She has a team of 25 employees at her plant and many more in the villages she serves. She’s the epitome of what we aim to do at Partners Worldwide—to come alongside entrepreneurs so they can sustain their families AND create more jobs to sustain many more families.
Rose is a living testimony that when businesspeople understand their calling as redemptive agents of God, the result is like the parable Jesus shared of the good seed planted in good soil that yields 100-fold. Yes, 100-fold! Rose is celebrating her 10-year anniversary - she is a fierce and passionate entrepreneur, always learning, failing, adapting, and failing again, but never giving up.
Thirty-four years ago, I was just starting to learn and build relationships with these farmers while living and working in Kenya. Thousands of families worked tirelessly together on food security, education, health care services, and income generation to improve the lives of their people.
When I asked Rose if she happened to partner with any farm families in Mangalete, her eyes grew big with excitement as she replied, “I have some of my best producers from that village!” With tears in our eyes, we gave each other a hug--of rejoicing for what innovative business can do to utterly transform the lives of hard-working families, so that all may have life, and have it abundantly.
Twenty-five years ago, I saw a quiet but certain stirring in the global marketplace. Today, it is a revolution, and it is anything but quiet, as entrepreneurs are radically changing the lives of people in the most marginalized communities on earth.
I am inspired to see entrepreneurs like Rose: serving Christ and their neighbors by using their business skills in the marketplace. We are accelerating our war on poverty, and we are going to win!