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Founders’ Leadership Series: Key values for a successful entrepreneur

2017. augusztus 01. 17:21

NESsT is headquartered in San Francisco, where entrepreneurship, innovation, and technology meet to solve problems in our daily routines and in global issues that will impact generations to come.

Our colleague, Nathalie Figueroa, visited the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center to hear leading investor and Stanford Business School professor, Andy Rachleff, share the key values he’s observed in entrepreneurs of successful businesses he’s worked with.


Watch the full one-hour interview or read the key takeaways below!

  1.  Ask yourself: What do you uniquely offer to people that they desperately want?
  2. On market fit and exponential organic growth: Spend no money on marketing initially. Identify product market fit by seeing how it spreads through word-of-mouth. For exponential organic growth, uniquely serve them.
  3. On Growth: Appealing to everyone appeals to no one. “I’d rather have 70% love us and 30% hate us than 100% kinda like us… From there on,  growth took off.”
  4. How to maintain the company culture? A great leader needs to model the behavior they want. Everyone models their behavior behind the CEO.
  5. Recruiting talent & the Fear of Loss strategy: People are motivated more by the fear of losing out on an opportunity than by the joy of gaining. Potential hires commit when they think, “I don’t want to miss out on the opportunity of working here,” as opposed to “What a great opportunity!”
  6. Your Vision: You need a compelling vision. It has to be authentic. If the leaders of the project do not have a vision it doesn’t do well. You can teach management skills, you can’t teach the vision.
  7. Skills of a CEO: Judgment distinguishes the great entrepreneurs and CEOs. They’re seldom the smartest but they are the oneswith the best judgment. You will never see the exact same pattern, but your judgment should improve. “Pay attention to everything that goes on around you so you can develop that mental database.”
  8. What recommendations do you have for competing with a lot of people? Don’t. It’s impossible to beat someone at their own game. Don’t compete if you don’t have an unfair advantage.
  9. Leadership Tips: Beware – the most dangerous people are high influence and low judgment. Intuition is one of the most important skills.



Kiva lenders raise $30,000 for Project Pietà!

2017. július 28. 20:23

In less than a week, over 900 people trusted in Pietà by becoming their lenders and partners through the campaign organized by NESsT and Kiva! They are not only making this vision possible, they’re making it stronger.

Project Pietà is a social enterprise and clothing label that was founded by Thomas, a fashion designer, specifically to help inmates independently earn income to support their families while in prison. They are also able to build valuable work experience to assist in securing jobs upon release.

Inmates are paid a portion of the sale price for each unit of clothing they produce, resulting in a reliable income they can send home to their families. Upon release, former inmates can continue working with Pietà or seek jobs at other companies with Pietà’s recommendation and support.

The Kiva loan will help Project Pietà grow its business to employ more than 90 current and former inmates by 2018. Pietà plans to open an additional retail store in Peru and a new distribution center to support increased online and international sales. The loan will go towards the initial rent, furniture and computer equipment needed for the launch of these new facilities.

Thank you from the Founder, Thomas Jacob

“We reached our goal! Thanks to everyone from around the world who is now part of our mission! It feels truly amazing to see so many people believing in Pietà and believing in every human being! Thank you for the privilege of your love and your support in the name of all the inmates part of the Pietà team. Now, it’s time for us to keep up this important work and develop Pietà locally and internationally.”

Read about the context of Pietà’s work and why NESsT was compelled to select Pietà for our Peru Portfolio.


The Prison System in Peru

Poor education, low wages and social exclusion are among the factors that are contributing to the growth of crime in Peru. Among the serious problems these jails face are overcrowding and a high rate of repeat offenders.

However, almost 60% of the total prison population are pretrial detainees. Every day, 31,000+ people are imprisoned without being convicted of anything – in some cases for up to two years – as they await trial.

Of all people in prison, more than 70% of male inmates and 85% of female inmates in Peru’s prison system have children to support at home and no opportunities for earning income legally while awaiting or serving their sentences.

Pretrial detention and incarceration causes loss of income and employment, and the ability to support family members or pay for housing that may drive other individuals to criminal activity. Americas Quarterly reports, “[Pretrial detention] creates a vicious circle: many of those caught in pretrial detention are already poor and unable to afford bail, which further hampers their ability to obtain legal counsel that can help them negotiate the pitfalls of the judicial system.”

Pietà directly tackles a key factor that has been found to correlate with future criminal offense: future employment. Through their work, Pietà furthers the use of rehabilitation through economic inclusion that is paving the way for prison reform.

Who are the partners of Project Pietà?

Project Pietà partners with inmates from all backgrounds: 18-68 year olds, men, women and trans folk, people with sentences of two years or 35, LGBTQ+, university grads and the illiterate. Most resounding is the fact that 95% of them have children, and the largest group working with Pietà are teen parents.

Pietà fulfills this desire for youth and adults who want to learn practical skills, earn a dignified income to support themselves and their family, and achieve their potential. They are able to send money to their children to continue their studies, and support the mothers who are left without a key source of income. Some are also able to reduce their sentences for each day of work they complete.

*Pictured are our partners from the prisons in Lurigancho & Santa Monica.

“Many of the prisoners that Thomas Jacob [founder of Pietà] works with do not need to be trained, as they had backgrounds in tailoring and garment-making before they were incarcerated. ‘Sewing is a widespread skill in Peru,’ says Jacob. ‘Knitting and embroidering is typical in the provinces, and generally among the most modest class, who are the most exposed to delinquency. But for others it has changed their lives.’” – The Guardian

Don Carlos, one of the founders of Pietà, is an exemplary role model that has made it possible for more inmates to work. He has been in Lurigancho for 13 years and his passion and diligence led to the development the stamping workshop that he directs and enhances every day. With Pietà, Don Carlos manages four inmates and oversees the workshop as point person to Thomas.

“If you don’t have something with which to occupy your time, your head fills up and that’s where the stress and sickness comes in. The best thing to do is to work. There are few people that believe in that, but we should promote the opportunity to work.” – Don Carlos

The Founder and Behind the Name

“Project Pietà clothing is the brainchild of Thomas Jacob, a French designer who moved to Lima in 2011 to pursue a job with a Peruvian fashion label. A chance visit to a neighbouring jail, Casto Castro, with a friend who was teaching the inmates French opened Jacob’s eyes to the possibility of a clothing project behind prison walls. ‘There were some unused sewing and knitting machines (in the prison). There were also a lot of wonderful, open-minded people – very far from the image you may have of prison inmates here – who wanted to get by, to learn a skill, to work, to earn money,’ says Jacob. ‘These people came from underprivileged upbringings and were idling in prison with nothing to make of their days. I felt that it was an amazing possibility for them to create something strong,’ he explains.” – The Guardian 

Over the course of five years, Thomas has developed closed relationships with the inmates, sometimes seeing them more than their family members.

His vision expands beyond providing income and development opportunities for inmates while they are in jail. Pieta also hires inmates after their release. As they continue to expand their business, Pieta will provide training and employment opportunities in logistics, operations, and sales so that inmates directly manage the brand.

Beyond its commercial concept, Pietà represents much more than just a fashion label. Founded and registered by Thomas in 2012, it started full-time operations in 2015,when he left Chanel Latin America to focus on Pietà. Its name – coming from Michelangelo’s Pietà – represents resurrection, a second chance for inmates who want to fight for their families and succeed.

View their collection.  Get in touch with Pietà on Facebook.  

Growing Social Enterprises in the Balkans – Irina Asaftei from NESsT Romania chats with Goodbiz

2017. július 25. 21:43

After years in the finance sector, Irina Asaftei realized that she wanted to go beyond her focus on generating profit.  She joined NESsT after working in Romania, Uganda, Singapore, the Philippines and the UK, specializing in project design and management, organization development, capacity building, and communications for NGOs tackling a wide array of social issues.

Goodbiz hosted Irina from NESsT Romania at their introductory event “Community for Better Investment” in March 2017. Check out her interview on what makes the NESsT methodology stand out, how enterprise founders without business training are able to run their own businesses and thrive, and how NESsT decides what issues to invest in. Plus, she shares her insight on how projects like this can evolve across Europe in markets like Slovenia.




Supporting youth from orphanages and foster families to become developers

2017. július 19. 22:36

After forming part of NESsT’s publication Closing the Talent Gap of the BPO/IT Industry in Poland, Coders Lab decided to launch their own social enterprise to make their programming lessons available to youth from underprivileged backgrounds.  

Many young people in Poland undertake work where development opportunities are limited or remain unemployed entirely because they are unable to meet the desired qualifications of the labor market. In particularly difficult situations are the young people leaving foster care and government institutions. Faced with the need to become independent, they give up on further education in favor of low quality jobs available. Without prospects for further professional development, they remain in at risk of marginalization.

At the Coders Lab Schooling Program, young people at all levels of education learn programming from scratch, enabling them to work in IT. Coders Lab founded the “Keep Up the Pace” Foundation to implement the professional education program, Możesz ITy, that will make it easier for homestay and foster home children to live independently. In addition to the programming course, young people will take part in soft skills workshops to help them develop effective communication, teamwork and time management skills.

NESsT supports Coders Lab in implementing this venture. With a $ 25,000 NESsT investment and non-financial support, Coders Lab is refining the business model of their social enterprise, establishing partnerships, measuring social impact, and piloting an educational program.

NESsT works with Coders Lab, Siedlisko and Dimpact under the NESsT Empowers program, which aims to facilitate access to decent and stable employment for people from marginalized communities. Through the program,NESsT invests in social enterprises that prepare people from these communities for employment. This is possible due to the cooperation of companies from the fastest growing sectors of the economy with social enterprises.

In response to the needs of employers, they collaboratively formulate vocational training programs for people with stable jobs. In addition to training, social enterprises also offer first aid and early career support and counseling. The program understand that it is social enterprises that are best prepared for the professional activation of marginalized people because they understand the social problems best and have a track-record of working with them.
Thanks to the NESsT Empowers program, 3,500 have received employment or income opportunities to date. In the next five years our goal is double this number and support 7,000 people.

NESsT Empowers is an initiative whose implementation in Poland is possible thanks to the support of J.P. Morgan.

Video produced by Burban Film. We sincerely thank the El Passion team for their commitment to film production!

Decent Work— Adding Dignity to the Numbers

2017. július 11. 20:43

By Nicole Etchart and Loïc Comolli,  NESsT Co-CEOs, July 11, 2017

An estimated 800 million people will need access to decent work in the next five years.[1],[2]  Social enterprises throughout the world present an opportunity to meet this need.

They use innovative business models that connect vulnerable groups to formal labor market jobs; these models range from workforce development and job placement to direct employment. Despite the importance of this work, the majority of these enterprises are only measuring outputs such as number of jobs, and not the quality of these jobs and whether they are truly “decent” and moving these groups out of poverty and toward a path of social mobility.

The reasons for this are many. Qualitative measurement is costly and complex. There are few widely accepted indicators or practices, making many in the sector believe that efforts to date are quite subjective. However, despite these challenges, the growing interest and support for social enterprise across the globe calls on us to begin to make an effort to measure their qualitative impact. Doing something, even if small and somewhat imperfect, is better than doing nothing at all.

This is why in 2015, NESsT decided to begin measuring the quality of the jobs and contracts generated by its portfolio of enterprises. Measuring impact was not new for NESsT. Since it’s founding in 1997, we have been measuring the performance and impact of our portfolio. Our performance measurement has evolved through three phases; each one augmenting the scope and types of indicators collected.

The current set of indicators (from Phases 1 through 3) includes 36 metrics collecting data at the social enterprise and beneficiary levels. These indicators framed our definition of ‘decent work.’ See Table 1 for the list of indicators.

NESsT launched Phase 3 focusing on job quality measurement, in response to its new strategy to exclusively support social enterprises that provide employment and income to those most in need.

Were these jobs moving these communities out of poverty by providing them with a secure and livable wage?

Although we had some indications that this was happening among the beneficiaries of our portfolio, given the lack of both financial and human resources, we had not measured it in a systematic way. It was now necessary to collect job quality metrics to validate these beliefs and to do so we put the following process into place:

  1. Research existing employment measurement models to understand their objectives and applications

NESsT reviewed existing measurement systems from international organizations (e.g., ILO) measuring employment quality to understand their applicability for social enterprises. Furthermore, the research surveyed 25 emerging market countries to collect employment metrics and use as benchmarks for jobs created by social enterprises. These metrics include minimum and average wage, poverty rates, job longevity and job security, and employment subsidies. The research also analyzed employment barriers for the following target groups: at-risk youth, ethnic minorities, women, people with disabilities, immigrants and the elderly.

  1. Pilot job quality definitions and metrics on a sample of social enterprise beneficiaries

We consulted a cohort of social enterprises and their beneficiaries to define the concept of job dignity. These enterprises include employment, placement and supplier business models. The results led to seven key concepts that social enterprises and their beneficiaries consider important for dignified employment, including (a) adequate earnings, (b) decent hours, (c) stability of work, (d) work-life balance, (e) fair treatment, (f) safe work environment, and (g) social protection.

We decided to measure primarily on the first three concepts, and added demographics concepts to capture the profile of social enterprise beneficiaries. The research then grouped job dignity and demographic concepts into three categories and 16 indicators (see Table 2 below).

Table 2: Dignity Indicators

Although we recognized the importance of understanding work-life balance, fair treatment, safe work environment, and social protection, we decided to keep the survey simple, and not overwhelm beneficiaries with too many indicators. We hope to add these dimensions the future.

NESsT collected these metrics on a sample of 50 vulnerable individuals employed by our portfolio enterprises. The main findings of the pilot include:

  • 46% of beneficiaries stopped their education at high school
  • Beneficiaries worked 36 weeks of the year for the social enterprise
  • Majority of beneficiaries have worked for the social enterprise for less than one year
  • Beneficiaries were optimistic about the operations of the enterprise, but they were concerned about their job stability
  • Beneficiaries received wages above the minimum wage for their countries
  • Share of social enterprise income to total household income is much higher for employees than suppliers

We identified and addressed a number of challenges to streamline the metrics and data collection process during the rollout phase. These included:

Table 3- Dignified Employment Pilot Challenges

Challenge Solution Implemented Working with external consultant versus in-house staff to collect data NESsT validated the survey methodology and tools with external researchers and ecosystem actors before starting the pilot. Data collection was conducted by NESsT Portfolio staff – persons that are working closely with social enterprise managers but not with beneficiaries who were subject of the survey. Interviewers were very well trained and prepared to do the survey to mitigate the risk of data distortion. Income data are a delicate topic, need to build trust during the survey Face-to-face interviews were much more efficient than phone interviews – beneficiaries had the opportunity to ask questions and to understand objectives of the research. It helped to build trust and relationships with the interviewee. Geography and weather conditions In Peru and Brazil, it was difficult to interview members of remote communities. In some cases NESsT asked social enterprises to conduct interviews since they are closer to the beneficiaries. Furthermore, NESsT plans to collect data taking into account weather conditions: e.g., end of the year in Peru due to the rainy season and March/April in Central Europe to avoid travelling during the winter. Resources – time, money, staff Data collection is time and money consuming and NESsT is looking for more efficient ways of conducting this process. We are researching different technologies including mobile apps to reduce costs. During the pilot we conducted interviews to coincide with portfolio site visits to save money and time for our staff. Educational and social background of beneficiaries Some beneficiaries have difficulties understanding survey questions, to calculate income, and even to communicate with interviewers. Direct face-to-face contact with interviewee helps to communicate efficiently. In some cases tutors or social enterprise staff assisted during the interviews or confirmed the validity of the data (e.g., in the case of people with mental health problems). Language We had to translate the questionnaire into five languages and keep it consistent. We adjusted the questionnaire to the realities of five countries through internal trainings. Sampling size and representativeness Due to limited resources, we need to keep sample size at a reasonable and feasible level, while keeping it representative and inclusive (all countries, all marginalized groups, all business models). NESsT decided to survey 100% of social enterprises in the portfolio, and around 10% of the beneficiary population. We will use quota-sampling, which is representative. Benchmark data It was challenging to find reliable benchmark data for all countries and all types of business models, including the industries in which they operate. While in Central Europe statistical data is current and available, in Latin America it is more challenging to obtain. For these reasons we limited benchmark data to a few, easily- available variables including: minimum and average wages, poverty line, purchase power parity. Cultural and legal differences Many country differences exist in terms of labor laws and social protection. To address this issue, we limited the number of indicators to income level and job longevity. These two indicators allow us to compare results among countries and to aggregate data at the portfolio level. Methodology does not measure impact in terms of long-term psychological change of beneficiaries NESsT does not have the capacity to conduct such research and to track this dimension of impact. We might consider this in the future, as an additional survey conducted less often than annually (every 3-5 years). Methodology was sometimes too complex Based on the feedback from interviewers, we re-designed the methodology after the pilot, reduced number of questions, removed data that was not relevant for us and made an e-version to simplify the process of gathering and aggregating data. Now the questionnaire has 17 questions and takes approximately 10-12 minutes to complete.

During the pilot phase NESsT also upgraded its current Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to manage and analyze the new job quality metrics. We worked with an outside vendor to customize our CRM platform for the new metrics.

In late 2016 and early 2017, NESsT rolled out its employment survey in order to begin capturing baseline. Data was collected on demographics, income and job longevity through a questionnaire tested and validated during the pilot.

We collected data from 16 enterprises in our portfolio (out of 28) and a sample of 10% of their beneficiaries. The sample represents approximately 350 individuals and included supplier models, employment models and placement models.

No doubt that this was not an easy process. In addition to having to plan around the effects of El Niño in Peru and the long distances needed to reach beneficiaries living in remote communities, capturing the data from the beneficiaries themselves was also challenging.

A key goal of the survey was not only to understand individual income- from both suppliers and direct employment/placement models- but how it compared to overall household income. Often interviewees did not have this information and did not know how to obtain it. We used a series of proxy questions to derive the information.

In relation to job longevity and security, we asked interviewees if they had a contract, and if so, we asked its duration. But since some do not, it was also important to know if they thought they would have this job the following year. The results of this were quite positive, with 80% having a contract that they expected would be renewed and 85% believing that they will still have their jobs next year.

By sifting through the data to benchmark against minimum wage and poverty level, we are beginning to capture a very clear picture of our portfolio and their beneficiaries. On the plus side, we see that beneficiaries are earning between 56-256% of minimum wage in their countries.  Once we are able to compare income earned in 2016 to that earned in 2017, we will begin to understand how income improves in correlation to enterprise performance.

On the delta side, we are concerned that the data shows that some of our supplier models are contributing a smaller percent of household income than we had expected, and we want to understand why; although we were pleased to see that overall household income ranges from 98-580% of the poverty line, depending on the country.

By creating this baseline, we can set precise goals and indicators with our portfolio on where beneficiaries should be a year from now.

This in turn will help our portfolio companies make more informed decisions related to their businesses and weigh the trade-offs between reaching more people versus providing their current employers and/or suppliers with better quality jobs and contracts.  

It’s critical that we analyze the outcomes of these efforts and similar ones with our colleagues so that we can learn from each other and begin to benchmark the sector overall. Ultimately, this data will be shared in the form of dynamic data and storytelling with the social enterprise sector, and other intermediaries- investors, accelerators, incubators, – that are supporting social enterprises.

We are excited to have taken these concrete and pioneering steps to measure the dignity aspects of the jobs generated by our portfolio. The process is by no means perfect. In particular, we need to explore lean data technologies that lower the costs and time for data collection, as well as improve analysis and reporting.

However, these initial efforts have been eye opening. By adding dignity dimensions to the numbers, we can really begin to make qualitative impacts on the lives of those most in need. As one of our colleagues said:

“Even if individual incomes are still small, they can be meaningful at the family level or for a single mother. When conducting the surveys, we encountered cases where two people live on a 400 lei salary. 1000 lei extra per year is a significant amount, representing an increase in annual revenue of 20%.”

By deepening our measurement, we are hearing directly from the people we exist to serve.


[1] World Bank. 2012. World Development Report 2013: Jobs. Washington, DC: World Bank. [2] The ILO defines decent work as “opportunities for work that is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families, better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organize and participate in the decisions that affect their lives and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men.”



CONCORDIA Bakery – A springboard for the future employment of youth in Romania

2017. június 14. 23:43


Alstom Foundation, NESsT and CONCORDIA Bakery are launching their partnership to support the professional integration of young people working at CONCORDIA Bakery.

In March 2017, Alstom Foundation, an organization that is actively involved in improving living conditions in the communities surrounding the sites where Alstom is operating, selected NESsT to help scale social enterprises in Romania. Together, we signed a one-year partnership with The Humanitarian Organization Concordia, member of NESsT portfolio since 2014, to support CONCORDIA Bakery, a social enterprise that employs young people from vulnerable backgrounds.

Through this partnership, NESsT and Alstom will invest in infrastructure development for CONCORDIA Bakery and will offer business consulting to enable the management team to consolidate their strategic proficiency.

The official launch of the partnership took place in May 2017 at the premises of the social enterprise through a baking workshop. Among the participants were Barry Howe, Secretary General of Alstom Foundation, Alstom’s local management team and Sonia Oprean, Senior Manager at NESsT Romania. Alice Stavride, Director of CONCORDIA DEVELOPMENT, Mădălina Constantinescu, Management Accounting, Nicu Petrache, Teacher and Baker Chef and around 20 students of the bakery vocational school represented the CONCORDIA team.

While guests were struggling with cutting the dough and designing the biscuits, Ana, a future young baker, explained the learning process in the school:

“We learned a new method: we write the recipe on the flipchart, together with the working processes, then we place the name of the responsible student for each process. When the working process has ended and the product comes out from the oven, we gather around the flipchart together with our teacher and each student presents the process they were in charge of. Afterwards, we have to evaluate what we liked more, what we disliked, and to share reflection points about what we have learned and how we are going to apply it in the future. We like the fact that we have the freedom to create how we organize ourselves, how we design the flipchart, and we are also free to draw. The teachers taught us that we can make useful products in a way that also bring us joy.”

Mr. Nicu Petrache, a teacher with many years of experience, shared from his experience the transformation of a young student into a good baker:

“When a sculptor looks at a rock, they don’t see a mere rock. In their mind, they already have a vision about the future sculpture. When the young students come to us, we see their potential, but we try to capitalize on their individual talent. We are trying to teach them a craft, while also trying to encourage them to have a vision about their own future. When they will work elsewhere, we hope they will remember to make a product that is useful and necessary to so many people. We hope they will create it with pleasure and dedication.”

The Humanitarian Organization Concordia hosts five vocational schools for baking, carpentry, cooking, attending to restaurants and horticulture. CONCORDIA Bakery is the first social business capitalizing on the training of the vocational schools to produce quality products. The social enterprise was founded with the purpose of offering a transitory working place to the best graduates from the bakery school. This experience prepares students for the open labour market.

The young people come from vulnerable backgrounds and are extended personal and professional support by the organization in order to reintegrate them into society.

Building on the positive experience with the bakery and its extraordinary impact on youth, the management is exploring replication of this model with the other four vocational schools. The impact of the organization could grow significantly by offering more jobs to graduates of all the vocational schools.

The challenges of scaling a social enterprise are diverse and the NESsT and Alstom partnership helps this organization to overcome these challenges. The management team of CONCORDIA is exceptionally perseverant, professional and displays a special interest for continuous improvement. Even with these favourable premises, there are many difficulties in sourcing the right talent for growing the team, in analysing and optimizing the portfolio of products, and in identifying new segments of clients. All these operational issues place pressure on the management team.

NESsT and Alstom Foundation’s support is crucial at this stage when the organization should focus on redefining its business strategy.

The Alstom Foundation is pleased to implement NESsT’s proven methodology with Concordia in what is the Foundation’s second project in Romania. The youth are enthusiastic about the training that they are receiving as it will be a valuable springboard for their future careers.

For those interested to know more, The Humanitarian Organization Concordia hosts a Visitor’s Day every year. For more information, check the organization’s website.

NESsT Partners Spotlight: Guilherme Fernandes

2017. május 22. 22:57

Guilherme Fernandes has contributed to NESsT Brazil’s financial and strategic growth. As CEO of Ashmore Brazil, he spearheaded his company’s role as a financial and capacity-building ally for many years. Guilherme was involved in selecting enterprises for our portfolio, providing finance mentoring to Retalhar, and delivering workshops to the LGBT portfolio in 2014.

A heartfelt thanks to Guilherme for sharing your passion, expertise and kindness with NESsT Brazil!  We asked him what inspired him to become a champion for NESsT.


Why did you first become involved with NESsT? 

Guilherme Fernandes: I worked for Ashmore Group and the Ashmore Foundation as a sponsor for NESsT in Brazil. They introduced me to the social venture fund idea and I was firstly intrigued by it. Once I met the NESsT team and their ideas and methodology I decided to become a Business Advisory Network (BAN) member right on the spot!

What does NESsT’s mission mean to you?

GF: It means a lot, since it targets employment and generating wealth for those who need is, in my opinion, an extremely important need most emerging economies have. It easily differentiate from the traditional philanthropy and shows the importance of developing local social entrepreneurs and their impact in our society.

How has working with NESsT influenced your life?

GF: It had a deep influence as on a personal side it fulfilled a long desire I had to help change and impact life of several people and organizations. I’ve learned a lot with local entrepreneurs and leaders of communities, they are all incredible people that dedicate a great part of their life to help others.

It certainly helped me view the world from a different angle, which had an impact in personal and professional life.

What interests you most about NESsT? 

GF: The fact that NESsT helps other to develop, provide the tools for their own growth and doesn’t just give money or awards. From my perspective a workshop or knowledge sharing is more important than just giving a grant (money).

How does NESsT compare to other organizations working on this cause?

GF: NESsT as an international organization, has the advantage of exchanging experiences and knowledge amongst its offices and this provide a great advantage for entrepreneurs since challenges are similar worldwide.

How do you describe NESsT to others?

GF: I often say NESsT is an organization that helps social entrepreneurs achieve their goals. I emphasize that the most important part is about knowledge and skills and not about the money. That Nesst work with a network of people with different background which provides an advantage as one have different views for the same problem.

 Interested in joining NESsT Partners? Join now. 

Kiva lenders raise $25,000 for Cafe Compadre in 72 hours!

2017. május 19. 20:35

Cafe Compadre’s $25,000 loan was funded in under 72 hours! Thanks to the 766 Kiva lenders for becoming part of Compadre’s mission to improve incomes for coffee farmers through solar tech!

The Coffee Industry 

Buying and selling green coffee beans in bulk from small-scale farmers is the norm. Small-scale coffee farmers are not only unable to access the added value of their product, but they’re also unable to consider how they can improve the quality of their coffee from start to end of the supply chain because they’re cut out from the process.

The only way to access increased income is through greater production of the product. This creates a vicious cycle where their low pay, increased coffee production (of a product that may not be at its highest potential), and environmental strain perpetuate poverty.

Cafe Compadre reverses this cycle by helping the farmers produce better quality coffee to generate higher income for their families. Through the feedback and training provided by Compadre, farmers can focus on quality over quantity and improve their livelihoods.

The Team 

Over the past 20 years, NESsT has trained 14,000 entrepreneurs in over 55 countries and we’ve learned that what propels a great concept forward is the person.

The founders, Juan Pablo, Pepe, Fiorella, and Francois have diverse backgrounds and experiences living with communities in the jungle area. They met as part of the Rural Sector Support Group at their university where they were applying their education to develop machinery and improve the lives of communities in the jungle and highlands of Peru.

This is a diverse team: Juan Pablo and Pepe are mechanical engineers, Fiorella is a sociologist and the fourth co-founder, François, is an alternative energy engineer. By joining the NESsT portfolio, Compadre has been able to expand their sales strategy, develop a financial management system, and strengthen its governance structure and operations.

The team continues to be involved in the Rural Sector Support Group applying their engineering and design skills to further achieve community goals in areas outside of coffee production, such as designing more versatile classrooms for small kids and supporting classmates in using solar energy to dry tea.

While working at the research facilities in Cusco, they got to know the coffee farmers in the area (additional to the communities in Satipo, Junin). When demand for their coffee increased, they started sourcing from Cusco. Now, local coffee farmers are asking to work with Compadre consistently.

This is a sincere and dedicated team that truly cares about the objectives that they’re pursuing. It shows in the way they share their knowledge on organic and responsible farming to promote care of the jungle.

Impact on Communities

Building relationships based on respect and trust is at the core of expanding livelihood opportunities for diverse communities.

As an early adopter of the solar-powered coffee roaster provided by Café Compadre, Cristóbal became a role model for other coffee farmers. Based on this relationship, Café Compadre has  been able to incorporate other farmers who know Cristóbal into the enterprise’s supply chain.

Meeting Cristóbal proved fundamental as it led to the adaptation of the technology and business model to meet the real needs of coffee farmers, and ultimately to market demand. Through Cristobal, 10 additional farmers were trained in roasting coffee. Compadre trains farmers on details such as the right heating curve at which to roast their coffee. 

Certified testers approve the coffee that will be sold by Compadre, and those that are not approved are given feedback on how to improve their coffee to be able to access higher income. 

Marcelina was the third person to match the requirements and practices.

Upgrading the Coffee Plant

Cafe Compadre has garnered the support of tech company Autodesk who has provided access to free software to upgrade their solar-powered coffee roaster. The current model involves smaller roasters. By upgrading their model, they will be able to scale their production 5X (from 5 tons to 25 per year).

At first the idea was to sell the solar roaster, but it was more costly for each farmer. The uncertainty of each season’s productions made it a risky investment for them and so the solar-powered roasters were stationed on their land for any coffee farmer to be able to roast their coffee beans. Cristóbal has a contract with Compadre for the solar-powered roaster to be positioned on his land because he wants to enable this opportunity for as many colleagues as possible.

Follow their movement to use clean energy to improve livelihoods and fight environmental pollution.


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Sustainable Fishery Trade: Building Partnerships in the Bay Area

2017. május 18. 18:47

Simone Pisu from Sustainable Fishery Trade (SFT), an enterprise that connects small-scale fishing families directly to the market, spent two weeks meeting with important sector leaders in San Francisco.

SFT is currently in due diligence as a candidate to enter the NESsT portfolio. Our portfolio team uses a hands-on approach, planning with each social enterprise to create the strongest case for investment possible. This process supports enterprises to develop sales and marketing plans, to shape their business models and corporate governance structures, refine their operations and establish key partnerships.

Simone’s trip began with a private reception where he had the opportunity to share his experience as a social entrepreneur in Latin America with 30 corporate and foundation leaders. The rest of the trip focused on building partnerships with successful technology companies in the Bay Area.

Box connected specialists in front end development, web app and product design and offered pro-bono support to SFT to refine their communication strategy. Special thanks to Director of Engineering, Sumathi Swaminathan, Sr. Web Developer, Eugen Taracila, and Product Designer, Lu Liu for partnering with Sustainable Fisheries Trade!

As part of Accenture’s Skills to Succeed program, Accenture consultants co-hosted a live virtual training with NESsT for social entrepreneurs in Latin America focusing on three topics: recruiting a strong team, pitching, and deal negotiation. Simone joined the Accenture team at their office and was able to received specialized advice throughout the day.

Symantec also hosted an all-day workshop for where Vineet Sood, Principal Software Engineer, and Kristyn Greenwood, UX Manager, helped Simone lay out SFT’s entire user experience interface for two applications – one for small-scale fishers and the other for restaurants. This workshop has provided the foundation for SFT’s upcoming project with Startup 5G Peru where they will finalize their mobile applications.

And his meetings with the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and Seafood Watch from the Monterey Bay Aquarium have led to two international conference invitations that will allow him to strengthen their positionality within the sector.

Pictured: Simone and Simone Jones from Seafood Watch after their meeting discussing artisanal fishing in Latin America.

We believe that by connecting entrepreneurs like Simone directly to institutional partners in the due diligence process, NESsT is able to strengthen enterprises and build a stronger portfolio.

We asked Simone about his experience.

How have you been able to improve your business as a result of this trip?

We finally landed on the business model and can describe it in one sentence. We also have a better understanding of how our technology supports our business. Above all, I would say that we are on a good path and understand what can be improved.

After being able to speak with many leaders of the sector, what would you say is SFT’s added value to the sector?

We are pioneers in Peru for using an approach that introduces technology into the artisanal fishing sector. This is in line with the direction that philanthropic foundations and investors are taking. We have knowledge of the territory and the artisanal fishing sector in Peru, which presents problems that are also common  in other places where the model could be replicated.

How did you feel when you were in San Francisco?

It was a new and exciting experiment. It is a very inspiring and motivating environment with many opportunities. At the same time it is orderly and quiet so that the head is clear of other problems.

How have you grown personally?

Every new experience is a challenge. Leaving the comfort zone helps you to test your skills to understand limits and new horizons and learn how to overcome them. This process highlights your strengths and also reveals weak points to be improved.


Reflecting on 20 Years of Impact

2017. május 15. 22:27

By Nicole Etchart, Co- Founder and Co-CEO, May 11, 2017

NESsT enterprises invest in communities where poverty is accepted as a perpetual reality: communities that live in vulnerable environments — often secluded — that face discrimination and who simply have not been given an opportunity in life.

Until a few years ago, Mari, an indigenous woman and mother from the Curimarca community, subsisted on the sale of potatoes. This seasonal business keeps her community living below the poverty line, like so many in Peru. Today, Mari is a moss supplier for Inka Moss, a NESsT enterprise that sells this product to the Asian and U.Ss markets for orchid cultivation and water filtration, and as a result, pays her a fair price for the product.

NESsT invests in enterprises that empower individuals with the skills, resources and opportunities to break the cycle of poverty. We turned to social entrepreneurship 20 years ago before most knew it existed. More importantly, we have stuck to it, albeit always trying to do it better and for greater impact.

How Exactly Did NESsT Start?

As tensions rose with the fall of the Berlin Wall, NESsT Co-Founder Lee Davis and I were concerned about international donors leaving the region. This endangered civil society organizations and their opportunity to solve issues of poverty and exclusion, and to strengthen democracy in these countries.

Time and time again, impactful organizations were hampered by their grant dependency.

From the very beginning, we realized the power of social enterprises to make significant and sustainable change. NESsT would exist to address the paradigm that dominated the social sector at that time – that of short-term and project-based grant funding. We sought to help organizations gain access to tools and capital to start sustainable businesses.

I believe that we are pioneers because of five major milestones that have now become mainstream in our sector.

Launch of Our First Business Plan Competition (2000)

This was THE accelerator program of the time in these two regions. It offered nonprofit leaders the skills needed to develop a business plan and manage a business.

NESsT went on to launch at least 50 of these competitions in all 11 countries of Latin America and Central Europe where NESsT manages a portfolio.

We did them in conjunction with the major financial institutions and private equity funds in the two regions.

Today, there are hundreds of accelerators helping social enterprises get off the ground, and all of these banks have created impact-investing arms.

Launch of NESsT Consulting (2004)

We needed to practice what we preached and generate our own revenues.  We expanded our impact and brought our social and environmental impact strategies to corporations, foundations and development agencies.

Since that date, NESsT has worked with over 200 clients in 50 countries.

Petrom (the largest oil and gas company in Romania), Minera Escondida (a key mining company in Chile), Nike, USAID, IDB, CAF, Unicef, EBRD, the European Commission, Rockefeller, Packard, Open Society Foundations, Inter-American Foundation, have all contracted us to work with their partners and grantees.

In the case of Nike, we were excited to support a social enterprise in Kenya that brought a papyrus sanitary napkin to the market that would allow young African women to play sports. Loic, now NESsT Co-CEO, started his trajectory with NESsT as our Consulting Director. In that role, he flew to 30 countries in six years and applied for a new passport every two.

Today, the concept of shared value, sustainability and corporate social responsibility have become household words for many.

First Patient Capital Loan Disbursed (2008)

The loan went to Kek Madar in Central Europe that would be used to refurbish a building and expand a restaurant and catering business employing people with disabilities. Eight years later, the enterprise finished paying back its loan, as it sets out to replicate the restaurant, now a highly recognized model, in two new locations.

Since then, NESsT has invested over $14 million in social enterprises, about $1 million in loan capital and is creating its first loan fund.

Now the need for early stage capital is recognized as a sector-wide challenge and more philanthropic capital providers are starting to get onboard. 

NESsT Began Working with For-Profit Social Enterprises and with Technology-Driven Ones (2008)

In Peru we supported rural-based inventors, and currently we run NESsT Innova. Last year alone, these technologies improved access to dry toilets, potable water, renewable energy and improved production processes for 10,000 people.

Our partnership with Kiva engages thousands of lenders to provide loans to these technology companies. Kiva lenders have funded a total of $135,000 in loans to Upasol, Suritex and Inka Moss.

This week, Cafe Compadre is seeking a $25,000 loan to help build a solar-powered coffee roasting plant in Cusco and cover operating expenses to help 40 local farmers increase their income by 70%.

Throughout the Years…

NESsT has been committed to sharing best practices, publishing numerous case studies (more than 100), guides, research studies, books and tools, disseminating them to colleagues and entrepreneurs throughout the world.

All in the Same Boat was translated into 12 languages and went through three print runs — 15,000 copies were disseminated to aspiring philanthropists.

Our research and practice work, has had a direct impact on policy. This has enabled NESsT to draw stakeholders — from deeply immersed to merely curious — to events designed to mobilize the sector.

 Social Enterprise Day has become an annual event for social entrepreneurship in Europe attracting hundreds. (2007)

The Social Enterprise World Forum was the first and continues to be the largest event held on impact investing in Latin America. (2012)

This momentum building globally has paved the demand for tools like NESsT’s Idea2Entrepreneur Platform. It captures the dignity of jobs by measuring qualitative indicators such as social enterprise income, job security and satisfaction, and is on track to reach hundreds of thousands entrepreneurs.

We Would Never Pretend to Have Done This Alone 

The NESsT family is a network of fearless explorers who never knew the route, but paved it instead.

This is why NESsT is consistently invited to provide policy input. Today, we’re spearheading two Social Investment Task Forces in Peru and in Central Europe to foster more capital for early stage enterprises. Our Regional Director Rox, recently turned down a job offer to be Labor Minister for Romania. She chose NESsT!

And, if it weren’t for the hundreds of individuals and organizations who believed in us and supported our uncommon idea and its fruition along the way, we wouldn’t have gotten most of this done. Now that more and more people are familiar with social entrepreneurship, we’re able to deepen our work with enterprises.

NESsT Global Impact to Date

However, our biggest accomplishment is what none of these numbers can truly reflect. It’s the impact that NESsT has on the lives of people most in need. This is the true reason why NESsT exist. We did what we set out to do from the start.

For Tomasz, a young man who until recently spent his entire day in a mental health institution is today fully employed as a care provider by the Polish social enterprise Siedlisko, who runs a center for the elderly and chronically ill. To see Tomasz’ face light up as he works with the residents of the Center is to see dignity at work.

What’s Next?

To reach 50,000 more people in the next five years, NESsT will invest in 40 enterprises that are beyond start-up but not yet scaling. This is the missing middle, where innovation aimed at making significant and long-lasting change really happens and where we can make the greatest contribution. We will launch our $15 million dollar loan fund to provide patient capital to companies generating dignified jobs for people most in need.

Become Part of This New Paradigm

Get involved to support companies that bring dignity to the forgotten and create a healthier and more sustainable planet. We really can’t do it without you.


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