Interview on Social Entrepreneurship With Ibukun Babarinde

Ibukun Speaks with us on Social Enterprise; Raising Funds, challenges and motivation:

In recent years, social enterprises are springing up as reactions to the slowness of governments in solving social issues. Individuals are seeking opportunities to create long-term change and they are using old age entrepreneurial skills to make this change.

Last week we had a 25 Minute Phone conversation with a #femaledoingwork Ibukun Babarinde who runs such an enterprise in Ibadan Nigeria. She gave us a deeper look and an opinion from a person who is already making such an insightful change.

Koyona From GrowcoMgt: Good Morning Ibukun and thank you for agreeing to jump on this call with me. Today I want our readers to learn more about social entrepreneurship. Please introduce yourself.

Ibukun Babarinde: My name is Ibukun Babarinde, and I run Mentor Missy project under the social initiative called X-Mafem Investment international.

Generally, X-Mafem International delivers social reproductive health education, counselling and products to Young girls in low-income areas in Nigeria.

The Mentor Missy project is a medium through which we reach out to girls in their schools in rural areas. We carry out outreach in these schools where we educate them on menstrual hygiene management, understanding their menstrual cycle and also, we distribute free sanitary pads in each of our outreaches to the young girls in the schools. In addition to that, which is one of our unique points, we create a follow-up platform for mentorship for the girls and other sexual and reproductive health issues. Majorly, Mentor Missy project focuses on menstrual education, however, we also cover issues that attend to sexual and reproductive health generally.

KFG: Alright, thank you very much. How do you separate yourself from a regular NGO? Because from what I have heard it is really pretty much the same as what an NGO does you are impacting socially – basically, but, how did you separate yourself and call yourself a social entrepreneurial as opposed to someone who runs an NGO.

Ibukun Babarinde: Yeah, when I meet people and I discuss what we to do in terms of reaching out to young girls in low-income areas, some of the questions that come up are; Are you a charity? Are you an NGO? Are you in business?   I try to respond to those questions.

X- MAFEM investment international like I said earlier is a social enterprise that delivers services and products so Mentor missy is an initiative under X-MAFEM International.

We are a social enterprise and what makes us different from the regular NGO is the fact that we have built sustainability into delivering social impact.

A regular NGO identifies a social problem in their community or wherever they can and they devise interventions to solve that problem. Most of the time, it’s usually a one-off event or a program that patains to that particular problem, for example, may be they want to clean up a particular environment, they just figured that maybe a group of community are hungry and they feed them one-off but for us what we do that makes us different as an enterprising organisation is the fact that actually – X-MAFEM Investment international started out with the aim of solving social problems just like any other NGO and then we did a couple of outreaches whereby we educated the young and we gave them sanitary pads and in the process of evaluating the project – we found out something that was critical which is the fact that we are trying to create a need that might not be met.

This is what I mean – We reach out to rural communities within which are  groups of young girls and women that fall into either of these two categories:

  1. It’s either they do not currently have access to feminine sanitary products that are important to maintaining good hygiene during their monthly period, or
  2. People who have access but cannot afford these products.

So what we do is to make available low-cost sanitary materials – products which include sanitary pads, panty liners, deodorizers and all, available to those people. The enterprising aspect of it is that we make them available at low prices as against the high prices available which then covers the category of people who don’t have access to, as well as people who previously could not afford these products, they can now afford them because it comes at a lower price to them.

KFG: Just to clarify what you have said in a nutshell, what separates you from a regular NGO is that, you are not just necessarily giving these women these products, you are making available to them a wide scale of sanitary materials at a lower cost than what they will receive in the market, so that way you are also generating income while meeting their needs.

Ibukun Babarinde: Yes and I would just like to hit the nail on the head at this point by saying what actually separates the social enterprise from a normal enterprise is that – with a regular enterprise the focus is Profit. But with an SE, the focus is the impact you are creating.

Also; one of the things that distinctively separates a social enterprise from an NGO is that an NGO is not for profit, while a social enterprise is for profit – and then – looking at it from the other end of the equation;

What separates a social enterprise from a Normal business is:

A social enterprise helps people solve a social problem at a lower profit margin – it is not profit-driven. We are not profit-driven but we stay profitable which lets us run at a lower profit margin just a little bit below the regular profit margin which a business would run.  A social enterprise is in between a business and an NGO.

KFG: I like to actually define it as using entrepreneurial innovation to solve social issues.

Ibukun Babarinde: Yes, that is exactly what it is.

KFG: How do you register a social enterprise in Nigeria if not as an NGO? Because we don’t have a legal representation for that kind of enterprise.

Ibukun Babarinde Yes, you are right that in Nigeria we don’t have a structure for a social enterprise but X-Mafem is registered as a corporation, as a business on its own just that our model of operation is that of a social enterprise.

We pay our taxes based on any revenue we generate and since we are new in the business, we are roughly around one year, so all the systems are not fully developed and matured as such, but then my understanding is that as a social enterprise, on the legal side, you run as a regular business.

KFG: Okay

Ibukun Babarinde: Yes. And you are registered as a business because I don’t think it will be okay to be registered as a Not – for – profit while you are making a profit.

KFG: Okay that makes sense, so but then, that means you would function under tax regimes that cover regular corporations. That’s the unfortunate part?

Ibukun Babarinde: Yes, it is.

KFG: Okay, what about fundraising, how do you deal with the issue of raising funds because as a corporation, corporations can raise funds through the entry for grants, an investment from venture capitalist depending on what your business is? So, what is your approach to getting funding?

Ibukun Babarinde: Okay, like I earlier explained, we have a Mentor Missy initiative that does outreaches that help us to penetrate new markets, break ground and makes access for us to our market and then we have the X- Mafem investment international, which is a social enterprise. So fundraising for X-Mafem investment international, the approach we go for is the investment because it will be interesting for you to know that even donor organisations nowadays, that is, donating organisations when you are filling an application for a grant or even a donation they will be interested to know the level of sustainability of your intervention. Do you understand what I am saying?

KFG: Yes

Ibukun Babarinde: It gets to that point that they are interested in knowing that, let’s say we are giving you a certain amount now to solve this problem, what about subsequent times? Does it mean that after you exhaust this fund, your organisation would crash or you are on another trail for another donation – do you get? Such that there is a terminology referred to as “Donor’s Fatigue”.

It is that phenomenon where I constantly give you supply for what you need and at some point, I am like you know what – or maybe I am not just able to fund you. What happens to this whole thing that you are doing? This is why Donor Organisations, even though, they are giving the money, they want to see the enterprising aspect of your social intervention that gives them the assurance that the project should be self-sustainable.

So far, the approach we have been going by is applying for investments grants like the one we got with the British Council recently. It is an investment grant that helps us to test an idea for the sale of sanitary products and all.

So, in that light mood, it could have been funny and not so appropriate if they give us that kind of fund and we just use it to buy sanitary pads; give it away. What happens next? So, that is why it is important to build into the system an ability to internally generate funds and revolve it and make it more. One of the things that kind of fund would do for us is to enable us to increase our reach in terms of the solution we are proffering to the social problems that we have identified.

a social enterprise would want to look at generating funds through impact investments from Angel Investors

So essentially, a social enterprise would want to look at generating funds through impact investments from Angel Investors, even capitalist, the fact that it is not exactly profit driven might not be attractive to a capitalist that wants to maximize a profit margin but with the understanding that this is solving a social problem, it is not going to die if you put this particular fund into it, you can watch it grow over time. And another thing that goes for a social enterprise is that you target a wider coverage which gives you the turnover advantage.

KFG: What have you learnt so far from starting and running X-Mafem and Mentor Missy.

Ibukun Babarinde: Ok, well it has been interesting running the project and the enterprise. Like I said, one of our early learning was the fact that we have to give sustainability towards whatever we are doing and we adopted an approach that has promised to help thus far.

So far, I would say that a social intervention has to be self-sustaining in terms of generating funds to run the system. Also, many times when we make plans, we really don’t know the enormity of what we are doing, or what is on currently prevalent – until we start doing those things.

One of the things that came out for me in the course of running this is the fact that – in the aspect of managing the logistics and the activities of the project. We have to engage the school management, and then it is very important also in doing a social enterprise to get buy-in and the support of key stakeholders in whatever intervention you are providing.

They are the people at the receiving end – without their support, it will have no impact. If you don’t get the buy-in you will realize too late that they didn’t want this kind of solution even though there is this problem, so you have to figure out what sort of solution will be most appropriate for them. For us, one of the things that we also picked from that is the fact that at the very beginning, we did a survey that helped us to get the kind of information that the girls would want to know about and then the kind of sanitary materials that they would prefer and all of that. So, constantly reviewing your little steps and making improvements on them is one of the things that I would say has been helpful for us and is quite insightful for me.

 KFG: How do you go about validating an idea for social impact? Besides going to the community chiefs and telling them this is what we want to do and telling the women you want to have talks with them. How do you validate an idea like that?

Ibukun Babarinde: OK. well, there are studies that have already been done in that area and it makes it more evident when you actually visit the site of intervention and it will be easy for you to create and devise a solution that is localized and suitable for the particular location you are intervening in.

So to validate the idea, you have to be on available and take opinions from the people in terms of the kind of solution they would prefer to the problem that they are currently facing. I think that’s the best way it can work.

Because even though we might have similar problems facing people in the different communities. But the people are quite unique! The solutions that might work for community A might not work for community B and the dynamics might be different which might affect the outcomes of the intervention.

Being on around and familiarizing with the community is very important in validating an idea for a social problem.

KFG: Okay, that’s wonderful. So what major challenges do you face – we know how Nigeria is –so I bet our challenges are unique to our market.

Ibukun Babarinde: Well, in terms of being a social entrepreneur – the major challenge will be to get people to buy into the idea in the first place. In market entry or in launching an idea, there are usually the early adopters – they are excited about a new thing and they want to try it – so we put forward our best foot.

One of the things that I would say helped us – is the fact that we are giving out free samples – so in a way we have been able to size up the market and the acceptability of our possible products – in terms of … will they be willing to accept this kind of things – and so the further step we will want to take now is to determine at what price they will be willing to take it.

As a social enterprise, generally, I believe that people want to be sure that your approach and intervention is genuine and of course it will be easy for them to see that. And then what will be more important to them is the sustainability – the fact that they want to continuously have access and take advantage of the supplies.

KFG: Thank you very much Ibukun, this was very insightful. We look forward to learning more about the impact you make in these girls lives.

Ibukun Babarinde is the founder of X-MAFEM and the convener of the Mentor Missy project.

Contact Information For Mentor Missy:

Contact number – +2347032715212


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