29 September 2014

soda follows me wherever i go.

My father worked for Pepsi in the United States for nearly 30 years. I worked for Dr Pepper Snapple Group (DPS) in Plano, Texas for 5 years. Then I moved to Tanzania in East Africa, expecting to leave the bubbly world of soda behind me.

But I was wrong. Soda followed me 8,568 miles across the Atlantic Ocean, from one continent to another.

My background is in business. Now I am a Maryknoll Lay Missioner working for justice and international development in a cross-cultural setting. But I still do business. I teach Tanzanians entrepreneurship. I teach the basics of managing a business. I help them ideate, plan, manage and implement small group enterprises. 

These past two weeks, I did all of the above with a new batch of 50 young mothers - Tanzanian girls between the ages of 15-22 who were mandated by law to drop out of school due to pregnancy. I met everyday with these young mothers for those two weeks, and will continue to meet with them until they are successfully operating their own businesses. Interesting enough, one of the local TV stations heard about the work we were doing and showed up to film the seminar, talk with the young mothers, and interview me. I hope my impromptu TV Kiswahili was tolerable. 

my co-facilitator, lucy, leading a discussion with young mothers on why businesses fail. i upgraded to powerpoint.

one group of young mothers discusses and writes plans for raising the capital to start an event decorating business.

one young mother discuss the unique skills of each group member as a local TV station films her presentation.

breaking down the capital requirements of a micro-restaurant business into more manageable chunks.

But it's not just about teaching entrepreneurship and saying, "Figure it out." It's about uncovering opportunities for these young mothers to economically emancipate themselves. And to do that, the director of the local NGO where I work (Education for Better Living Organization - EBLI) and I have been forming relationships with local businesses in Mwanza.

Who have we partnered with in a big way? Pepsi. 

Now for my former co-workers at DPS who may be shocked and appalled to learn this news, I tell you this: as the former 7UP Brand Manager, Pepsi is the producer and distributor of 7UP in this part of the world. In fact, 7UP branding is all over the outdoor market by our house where we buy our groceries every Sunday. So it's cool.

So what are we doing with Pepsi?

1. Providing entrepreneurial business opportunities for young mothers.

How? Young mothers purchase four crates (96 bottles) of soda and receive a Pepsi-branded pushcart (trolley) allowing them to operate a mobile, entrepreneurial business selling Pepsi beverages and other fast-moving items (e.g. chips, peanuts, mobile phone vouchers). Total investment for the young mother: TZS 56,600 or USD 33.94. Time it takes to recoup the investment: < 10 days (based upon actual sales data from young mothers). Value of the pushcart given to the young mother: TZS 350,000 or USD 212.12.

young mother, elieth, with her son, brian, taking control of her new pepsi pushcart.

2. Providing employment opportunities for young mothers.

How? Pepsi sponsors a plethora of local events here in Mwanza. Young mothers are selected for short-term employment to sell Pepsi beverages at highly-trafficked local events, for example, the most recent two-month long Mayor's Cup soccer competition or the annual Miss Lake Zone (think Miss USA but on a smaller scale) event. Average wage earned by each young mother in just four hours: TZS 5,700 or USD 3.45. Average daily income per full day for a Tanzanian: USD 2.19.*

Photo Credit: GSengo

3. Providing business equipment to help kickstart entrepreneurial businesses.

How? Young mothers purchase five crates (120 bottles) of soda and receive a Pepsi-branded table, chairs, umbrella and cooler. This equipment, coupled with the soda, helps young mothers establish their own small business, such as a micro-restaurant (Mama Lishe/Mama Ntilie) which are very popular here. Value of the equipment given to the young mother: TZS 100,000 or USD 60.61.

To help promote our partnership with Pepsi and to celebrate the business opportunities afforded these young mothers, we recently had a press event with all of the local Mwanza media outlets at the offices of Pepsi SBC Tanzania. Joining us for the event was the local district commissioner, the mayor of the city of Mwanza, and the regional commissioner (basically like a U.S. Governor). The entire event was broadcasted as a 30 minute TV special. And yes, somehow I spoke in front of the media during this press event and did side interviews with a few of the media outlets. How? Why me? I don't know. Photos below.

emcee of the media event in front of the cameras talking about our partnership with pepsi and about to introduce me.

one young mother receives her new pepsi pushcart in the presence of the regional commissioner.

regional commissioner holds up brian, the son of young mother elieth, who received a pepsi pushcart.

some bearded guy (oh, that's me!) with bernard, the director of ebli, at the media event with pepsi.

I am happy to say that 15 young mothers are currently operating a mobile, entrepreneurial business with their Pepsi pushcart, earning an income to meet their basic needs and that of their precious child. Nearly 20 other young mothers have received employment opportunities thus far selling soda at local events. Several young mothers are using the business equipment (table, chairs, umbrella, cooler) to run their own entrepreneurial business, one of whom operates a small restaurant, fruit and snack stand, and is currently building a hair salon. Makes me so happy.

To those who have supported my work, both financially and through prayer, I say "THANK YOU!" For those who wish to help out, please visit our Support page to learn more, or you may click here to make an online donation right now

*According to World Vision, the average annual income (GNI) for Tanzania is USD 570. Assuming 52 weeks per year and five days per week are working days, there are 260 working days per year. USD 570 / 260 working days equates to USD 2.19 per day. This number is likely even lower given most Tanzanians work seven days per week. Such a figure would equate to USD 1.56 per day. The exchange rate I use is 1 USD = TZS 1,650.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Karen! It's been exciting to see several of the young mothers around town using the pushcarts to earn a half-decent wage for themselves.

  2. FANTASTIC! It was great to hear about your plans when we where there and now it's even better to see pictures of it happening!!! I love the picture of Elieth, Brian and their Pepsi cart - she looks soooo happy. Keep kickin' it!


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