Today we celebrate International Women’s Day by acknowledging the incredible female-led social enterprises that we have invested in over the years. Ranging from an ambulance service in India to a toilet franchise in Kenya, these women’s businesses are as broad as the audiences they serve.
Roshaneh Zafar, Kashf Foundation
Roshaneh is the founder and Managing Director of Kashf. Founded in 1996, Kashf was one of the firs microfinance institutions in Pakistan. It offers general, emergency, business and home improvement loans as well as insurance products. The organization allows for closely managed growth through a franchise model with branches in both rural and urban areas.
After meeting Muhammad Yunus, Roshaneh was inspired to quit her job and establish the Kashf Foundation. She believed the Grameen model could both empower women economically and socially in Pakistan. She started with her family’s funds, her personal car and a few volunteers, driving to distant villages to start microfinance centers.
Acumen has invested $2.7 Million in Kashf. Beginning with 15 clients in 1996, Kashf now operates 150+ branches across Pakistan. More than one million individuals and 306,000 families have been reached.
Lindsay Stradley, Sanergy
Lindsay co-founded Sanergy with two fellow students while getting her MBA at MIT Sloan. Before starting Sanergy, Lindsay spent three years at Google and 3 years on a Teach for America placement in New Orleans. Now, she is tackling sanitation in Kenya.
Sanergy builds a network of high-quality “Fresh Life” branded toilets and franchises them to local micro-entrepreneurs. Sanergy employees collect waste from the toilets daily and deliver it to a central processing facility where the waste is converted into organic fertilizer for farmers. “Sanergy has empowered a network of strong women – staff, partners, and customers. Those women are driving change in their communities and continuing to empower still more women,” said Lindsay.
Gayathri Vasudevan, LabourNet
Gayathri is the CEO of Labournet, a firm that provides job training for the informal sector in India. LabourNet started with a simple idea “to look at an informal sector worker and match work to worker, operating as a simple B2C model.” The company delivers training at company operated centers and on-site at client operated locations, and has enabled livelihoods through training for over 50K people to date. Acumen made its first investment in 2013. Over time the company hopes to create an ecosystem of national certification for measurable increases in skills and real income.
Sweta Mangal, Ziqitza Healthcare Limited
Sweta is the co-founder and CEO of ZHL, founded in 2005 with a group of young professional friends who witnessed the disparity between emergency services in India and the U.S. ZHL operates state-of-the-art 24/7 call centers with ambulance tracking systems, and equips ambulances with personnel trained in basic and advanced life support.
Acumen has invested $2.6 Million since 2007. To date the company has served over 2 million people! You can watch her talk at our 2013 Investor Gathering about how ZHL scaled from 2 ambulances in 2005 to over 870 ambulances today.