News

21Dec
Business Updates

BRINGING AFFORDABLE HEALTHCARE TO THOSE MOST IN NEED

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Melissa Menke participated in the 2013 edition of the Cartier Awards as a finalist for Sub-Saharan Africa. Her company Access Afya offers affordable access to professional healthcare clinics for people living in Kenyan slums.

Melissa Menke, the founder & CEO of Access Afya, readily admit that her company has gone a long way since participating in the Cartier Awards in 2013. Whereas the company was in pilot phase with only one working clinic when she first applied, it has since expanded to three clinics and will be opening two more clinics next year thanks in part to the funds raised during pre-seed and seed financing this year.

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Melissa Menke participated in the 2013 edition of the Cartier Awards as a finalist for Sub-Saharan Africa. Her company Access Afya offers affordable access to professional healthcare clinics for people living in Kenyan slums.

Melissa Menke, the founder & CEO of Access Afya, readily admit that her company has gone a long way since participating in the Cartier Awards in 2013. Whereas the company was in pilot phase with only one working clinic when she first applied, it has since expanded to three clinics and will be opening two more clinics next year thanks in part to the funds raised during pre-seed and seed financing this year. Melissa has also gained attention abroad for her social enterprise. Most notably, she was named a Global Health Fellow by Forbes and participated in the Forbes 400 Summit on Philanthropy this year.

Melissa is also currently developing her field-based healthcare offering in addition to the micro-clinic model she presented at the Cartier Awards 3 years ago. While the micro-clinic model is impressive in that it brings affordable healthcare to poor neighborhoods where public hospitals and clinics are scarce, the field-base model takes this idea a step further by bringing affordable healthcare directly to children in schools and casual workers in factories. This is achieved with minimum equipment for maximum efficiency with just a nurse, a community health worker and a backpack. The field-based model is more convenient than conventional clinical care, and is able to find things earlier that need medical attention.

Since its inception, Access Afya has provided healthcare to over 10,000 people living in the Nairobi slums. Melissa takes pride in the fact that Access Afya “tracks outcomes, not just outputs”. By treating people with respect, making sure there is an individual follow-up and guaranteeing a sustainable and affordable system, Access Afya has gained a base of loyal customers. The company is now looking to run its model in other cities outside of Nairobi within two years’ time.

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08Nov
Business Updates

SCAPPATOPO SOON TO HIT THE EUROPEAN MARKET

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Carla Delfino is the Cartier Awards 2014 laureate for Europe. Carla hails from Italy and is the founder and CEO of Imperial Europe, a company that produces organic not-toxic repellents to control but not to kill pests.

ScappaTopo which means “Run Away Mouse!” in Italian, was Imperial Europe’s first product to hit the market in 2013. As the first multi-sensory mice repellent that is non-toxic to humans, household pets and wildlife, the product was an instant success in Italy.

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Carla Delfino is the Cartier Awards 2014 laureate for Europe. Carla hails from Italy and is the founder and CEO of Imperial Europe, a company that produces organic not-toxic repellents to control but not to kill pests.

ScappaTopo which means “Run Away Mouse!” in Italian, was Imperial Europe’s first product to hit the market in 2013. As the first multi-sensory mice repellent that is non-toxic to humans, household pets and wildlife, the product was an instant success in Italy. The sales revenue has been multiplied by 2 each year since its launch 3 years ago and has attracted quite a bit of media coverage. Indeed Carla Delfino is regularly invited to present her product and to talk about her experience as a woman entrepreneur on Italian TV networks such as RAI and La7. She was even able to secure additional funding from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Programme and from Latium Region innovative female entrepreneur fund.

However, every entrepreneur faces challenges and Carla is no exception to this rule. Despite the success of ScappaTopo in her home country, Carla has yet to launch the product in the EU as the Biocide Registration Regulation required by the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) is a complex, lengthy and costly process. Still, Carla is undeterred and has submitted all the necessary documents in the hopes of receiving the product authorization by the end of this year.
Carla has made great strides since winning the Cartier Awards in 2014. She broadened her distribution model to encompass a new e-commerce website which has been attracting an average of 50.000 visitors/month. She also set about improving her existing product ScappaTopo and developing a new line of products. A special diffuser was designed making it possible to spray the ScappaTopo aroma in larger areas such as food processing facilities or industrial premises. Carla plans to market this diffuser through a professional sales network directly to the end users (restaurants, bars, hotel, food processing industries, etc.). Carla is also in the process of designing a special non-toxic repellent called Wonder Ants to repel ants and cockroaches. She is currently trying to secure funding for the R&D of this product and plans to submit this project to the next H2020 Programme call.

Learn more about ScappaTopo here

Check out ScappaTopo’s Facebook page here

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04Nov
Business Updates

DIAMOND CAB: TRANSPORTATION AND LEISURE ACTIVITIES FOR WHEELCHAIR-BOUND ELDERS

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Doris Leung is a 2013 Cartier Awards finalist for the Asia-Pacific region. She hails from Hong Kong and is the founder of Diamond Cab, a company that provides barrier-free taxis for wheelchair users.

Doris Leung first came up with the idea for Diamond Cab when her mother began to experience mobility problems. She soon realized that there were no wheelchair-accessible cabs available in her hometown Hong Kong. She decided it was time she take matters in her own hands and founded Diamond Cab in 2011.

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Doris Leung is a 2013 Cartier Awards finalist for the Asia-Pacific region. She hails from Hong Kong and is the founder of Diamond Cab, a company that provides barrier-free taxis for wheelchair users.

Doris Leung first came up with the idea for Diamond Cab when her mother began to experience mobility problems. She soon realized that there were no wheelchair-accessible cabs available in her hometown Hong Kong. She decided it was time she take matters in her own hands and founded Diamond Cab in 2011.

Since its launch 5 years ago, the company has expanded its Diamond Cab operations and now counts 7 cabs in activity. Doris has also diversified her range of services by starting Diamond Leisure in 2014, Diamond Leisure organizes barrier-free outings for wheelchair-bound elders using Diamond Cab. She now plans an average of 6 outings per month with activities ranging from bowling to buffet dinners. These activities have the advantage of being free for the wheelchair-bound elders staying at select nursing homes thanks to her strategic partnership with the Lee Hysan Foundation. Every week these leisure activities are organized by young Diamond Leisure Officers, creating cross generation inclusion and changing the traditional culture of senior care. Additionally, Doris is currently working on another offer called Charity Tour where she plans on replicating the Diamond Leisure model on a bigger scale and making it free for all wheelchair users and not just the elderly.

However, Doris must make sure that her fleet of cabs does not get too obsolete and is always on the lookout for opportunities to further expand her business. Indeed 4 of her 7 cabs are getting higher and higher mileage which is why she is seeking US$ 210,000 in funding to replace them. She is also looking for new sources of funding and new investors, sponsors and strategic partners in the travel business sector to further develop her Diamond Leisure activities and hire more staff members.

Learn more about Diamond Cab here

Check out Diamond Cab’s Facebook page here

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04Nov
Blog

Maternova’s Zika fashion solution

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How an ingenious fashion solution is revolutionizing Zika treatment

Maternova was founded by Meg Wirth, 2011 Cartier Awards finalist from the United States and has since brought on Allyson Cote as cofounder. Maternova combats maternal mortality in childbirth with a web-based marketplace for products, tools and information and by aiding clinicians in the field.

By Leah Hardenbergh - Intern at Maternova, Inc.

Maternova is a marketplace for maternal and newborn health innovations. If there is one word to summarize working in the sphere of maternal health, it is dynamic. The issues we address are vast and constantly evolving with the changing health risks worldwide for mothers and newborns. Due to the nature of the industry, we are constantly searching for innovative solutions for the latest threats to mothers. This is what led us to our project currently underway: a line of mosquito-protective clothing to protect mothers and newborns from Zika.

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Maternova was founded by Meg Wirth, 2011 Cartier Awards finalist from the United States and has since brought on Allyson Cote as cofounder. Maternova combats maternal mortality in childbirth with a web-based marketplace for products, tools and information and by aiding clinicians in the field.

By Leah Hardenbergh - Intern at Maternova, Inc.

Maternova is a marketplace for maternal and newborn health innovations. If there is one word to summarize working in the sphere of maternal health, it is dynamic. The issues we address are vast and constantly evolving with the changing health risks worldwide for mothers and newborns. Due to the nature of the industry, we are constantly searching for innovative solutions for the latest threats to mothers. This is what led us to our project currently underway: a line of mosquito-protective clothing to protect mothers and newborns from Zika.

WHO declared Zika a public health emergency in February of 2016. It has since been proven that the Zika virus is the cause of microcephaly and other severe brain defects in infants. Active Zika virus transmission by mosquitos has occurred in Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Pacific Islands. Person-to-person transmission and other cases of Zika have been reported in a number of additional countries and regions. Zika is a general public health threat, but with its especially profound effects on pregnant women and newborns, we knew we had to dive in and act fast.

The first step was to research existing options for Zika protection for women. We found a number of solutions in different phases of development, including ways to trap mosquitos, set up bed nets for protection, spray around the household, use personal liquid repellents, and develop a vaccine.

While a variety of approaches exist, there are shortcomings and gaps in full coverage. Vaccines do not emerge overnight, and we did not want to sit around and wait for one to be developed, tested, and distributed. Personal liquid repellents are expensive and give off a strong odor, which discourages use. Bed nets and household sprays have promise, but can only protect women in their own homes. But what about the rest of the time? Women in poor areas of Brazil, Colombia, and other countries where Zika is emerging spend much of their time outside the home, including selling products in the market and washing clothes in the rivers. What novel mechanisms could be employed to offer protection?

Then we thought: mosquito-protective clothing! It is the perfect way to protect women outside the home in day-to-day life. So, we went back to researching to see what was out there that we could bring into the Maternova portfolio.

Much to our dismay, the options were scarce. Out of the few things we did end up finding, none of it seemed like clothing women would actually choose to wear (unless they were dressing up as a beekeeper or astronaut). Our solution? Create our own line of clothing to protect pregnant women from Zika.

The underlying force of our product is mosquito-repelling nanotechnology that is embedded in the fabric. The nanotechnology binds the repellent in a molecular structure that keeps it active for longer, meaning it can withstand 50 washings without losing effectiveness. It is environmentally friendly and proven safe for pregnant women. With a grant from Grand Challenges Canada, we were able to set up a clinical trial in Eastern El Salvador to test the use of this fabric, through a program where Zika mother kits were already being distributed.

Meanwhile, we are working with a Brazilian designer whose hometown was hit especially hard by Zika. She is designing pieces that can be adjusted throughout pregnancy. Most importantly, this is protective clothing that women actually want to wear. A garment that is stylish, comfortable, and protects you and your baby from disease – what more could you ask for? These pieces will be distributed anywhere and everywhere for women at any level of risk at any stage in their reproductive journey.

We are excited by the potential of this project for mothers and newborns everywhere. At Maternova, we are always striving for practical solutions for threats to maternal and newborn health, and cannot wait to see where this path leads. Although this began as a reaction to Zika, the scope of the effects are not limited to Zika – any mosquito-borne illness could be addressed with this innovative solution. We hope that you will continue on this journey with us to see how far this can go in the dynamic world of maternal and newborn health!

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09Aug
Blog

The Skill of Asking Questions for Customer Interviewing

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8 practical guidelines to prepare for a customer interview

By Mary Cronin - Cartier Women's Initiative Awards coach and CEO of Thousand Seeds

"Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers." Voltaire
Asking and framing questions is a skill. There are many benefits derived from good questioning techniques. By asking the right questions we can gather the maximum amount of information in a shorter timeframe and assess what is going on more effectively. As part of developing our business and doing customer development we want to understand customer problems and needs as opposed to pitching "our" solutions'.

When preparing for a customer interview prepare about 5 questions. The estimated interview time should be about 30-40 minutes. Be clear about the purpose before you start i.e. is it a problem assessing or a solution interview? Here are 8 guidelines.

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By Mary Cronin - Cartier Women's Initiative Awards coach and CEO of Thousand Seeds

"Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers." Voltaire
Asking and framing questions is a skill. There are many benefits derived from good questioning techniques. By asking the right questions we can gather the maximum amount of information in a shorter timeframe and assess what is going on more effectively. As part of developing our business and doing customer development we want to understand customer problems and needs as opposed to pitching "our" solutions'.

When preparing for a customer interview prepare about 5 questions. The estimated interview time should be about 30-40 minutes. Be clear about the purpose before you start i.e. is it a problem assessing or a solution interview? Here are 8 guidelines.

1. Ask open-ended questions
Open questions deliberately look for longer answers. They require the customer to think, reflect and give opinions. 'What' questions are more effective and less intrusive when you need to ask a series of questions. 'What', 'how', 'describe' helps us to probe and understand the problem in more depth. Keep questions short and unbiased. Don't embed the answer into your question e.g.:
- What are the main challenges you face?
- Describe the first time you became aware of this problem?
A closed question can be answered with a single word, short phrase e.g.:
- Did you like our product? Answer could be yes or no
- How is our product working out? An answer could be 'fine'
Avoid these, as you are not getting any valuable information. They also can make your customer feel as if they are being interrogated.

2. Practice active-listening
To sit in the seat of our customers and understand their problems, we need to actively listen: the customer should be doing 90% of the talking. In customer interviews we want to listen, which is a difficult task as opposed to pitching our ideas or solutions. Listen and observe what people don't say.

3. Avoid telling, counseling or interrupting
Avoid saying to your customers "Have you tried?" or "Let me tell you?". More than likely they have tried the obvious solutions. A simple, open question, that gathers information example is "What have you tried to solve this problem?"

4. Understand the power of silence
Silence is a great communicator. It gives both people time to think. Don't rush to fill the space. This is a valuable skill that can be learned. By listening and being present as opposed to thinking about what you want to say next, you're in a better position to understand. Get comfortable with silence.

5. Ask follow-up questions
Drill down and follow up comments with "tell me or "describe". Often you don't get to the real challenges or the root cause of issues until you drill down. This is also known as the 'Five Why's'. This is one of the Toyota techniques now used in Lean Startup. Asking 'why' five times. A better way is to see it as a learning opportunity. Avoid the temptation to comment on everything.

6. Be specific in your questions
General questions can lack context, hence they are not met with the same energy. Make questions more specific. Focus on examples and a more recent time frame and you will get more valuable actionable information that you can derive insight from. A characteristic of better questions is specificity. By moving from general to specific, you generate a higher level of engagement with the listener. Specific questions often cause more thoughtful and detailed responses which is necessary to gain the INSIGHT you are hoping to get.

7. Be aware that people may not tell you their information in a sequential way
They may jump around so you will have to piece it together later.

8. Discerning Information and Knowledge to gain customer Insights
Information is just many bits of data.
Knowledge is putting all the data together.
Wisdom is transcending this information and knowledge to gain INSIGHTS. As well as the information and knowledge from the interview we want to gain INSIGHT – have "aha" moments.
To do this you need ask incisive questions, use active listening skills and read between the lines. If you don't, you can be led into a false sense that your product or service is doing a good job. By digging deep for specific examples of satisfaction and frustration you can determine the real standards you are being measured against and then you can develop a strategy to meet those.
Your customers are a great source of information. They can help you improve your business, gain a better understanding of your market and the competition, and bring you referrals. If you already talk to your customers, that's great. That's smart. If not, you need to.
Are you asking insightful questions to your customers?

If you would like to know more email me on mary@thousandseeds.com or keep in touch through twitter @marylcronin @marylcronin.

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