My name is Joanna Leath, and I started my MBA in Fall 2012 and graduated in Spring 2014 as a Business Generalist and with a Certificate in Non-Profit Management. I currently work at Boeing. I am extremely passionate about service and social enterprise.
I interned in summer 2013 with The Paradigm Project (TPP), a low-profit organization that manufactures improved stoves for people in developing countries. Paradigm works with a company called EzyLife to manufacture and distribute stoves, which are called jikos in Swahili. Currently, many women in developing countries cook inside their hut on a three stone fire with wood or charcoal. In addition to being time consuming and expensive to collect fuel, this type of stove produces massive carbon emissions that cause respiratory problems in women and children and also go on to pollute our planet. The Nature Conservancy estimates that the rural poor generate 25% of global carbon emissions. Thus, Paradigm has produced stoves that burn more efficiently and produce decreased carbon emissions.
However, the benefit does not stop there. In addition to being a healthier and more environmentally friendly option, the stoves create jobs for people in the area. Since Paradigm seeks to distribute stoves that are manufactured locally and creates sales teams comprised of local men and women, it is able to have an economic impact on the community in addition to an environmental one. Paradigm’s focus is to empower people and to shift the way the Western world thinks about people in developing countries. Rather than charity, they seek to create opportunity by investing in the developing world through projects that help the people socially, physically and environmentally.
Paradigm carries several types of stoves which are either wood-burning or charcoal jikos. While The Paradigm Project is headquartered in Colorado, they are doing work in South America and Eastern Africa. EzyLife is the company on the ground in Kenya, which is where I am working. At this time, I am the only person from Paradigm in the office with EzyLife and am also the only American. I work and stay in Nairobi which is a wonderful city!
The duration of my internship was about two months. I was given two business problems, and was to “solve” them by the end of the summer (although it was winter there!). My long-term goals were to increase usage of the jikos among our end-users and increase warranty registrations. My way of doing that was to experiment with text messaging (extremely popular in Kenya) for warranty registrations and to improve the training of our sales staff to combat misconceptions and incorrect stove usage among end-users. One misconception that our end-users have about our product is that certain dishes and certain size pots cannot be cooked on the jikos. However, the people who say it is impossible are the people who generally have not tried it. To combat this, one of my projects was to create a video that our sales team can show during product demonstrations. It has been really fun to plan who will be in the video, what they will wear, what economic level they will be from, what they will cook, etc. I also spent a lot of time in the field, learning about peoples’ experiences with our product and our company and conducting focus groups that fuels the training materials that I was producing.
The best part of my experience was been being “kicked out of the nest” after my first week. I was told the two business problems, was shown around for a week to become familiar with the company, the product, and the end-users, and then I was completely on my own. In a lot of ways it was terrifying, but I have loved seeing myself create my own projects and be a self-starter.
I was excited to finish my materials and see the results. I also really loved my safari a few weeks later. I definitely worked hard, but I wanted to take advantage of the beauty and adventure that is Africa while I was here!