Lucy Chuwa is a young social entrepreneur who sells sanitary delivery kits for pregnant women. Her company, Mamakit, aims at improving the health and safety conditions during births, especially in low resources settings.
When did you have the idea of this business?
Some years ago I was living in the north-eastern part of Tanzania, where the greatest number of maasai live and I was shocked by the high rate of maternal deaths and complications after children delivery: many women were giving birth at home, without any safety and sanitary precaution. Also in many public hospitals and health centers, there was huge scarcity of basic sanitary materials that the women were obliged to buy and bring to the hospital by themselves. Finding these items was not always easy and often required them to go to different shops and pharmacies. When I delivered my own child, some years later in a big hospital in Dar es Salaam, I found out that all the necessary items for a safe delivery were provided by the hospital. In that moment I saw an opportunity for a business, but also an occasion to have a positive impact on women’s health.
What do you sell exactly?
I sell maternity kits, containing all the safety and sanitary items required by the hospitals and health centers for safe delivery.
What is your business model and how you are going to create impact on the poorest population groups?
Mamakit is a social enterprise. On one side, I manage this activity as a pure business, by selling my kits at hospitals, health centers, pharmacies and private users. On the other side, however, I’d like to operate in collaboration with existing NGOs, who can support the free distribution of the kits to the poorest population groups.
Don’t you think that this reduces the responsibilities on the shoulder of the public welfare system?
In a certain way maybe, but when lives of people are at risk, we need to do something. In the long term, advocacy is the best way to arrive to a better functioning of our health system.
Have you received any external fund for starting your activity?
No, I have started everything by myself, with my own savings and some support received by my family.
What are the other future plans for Mamakit?
On the business side, I would like to broaden my customers’ base, both in Dar es Salaam and by supplying also in other regions.
To do this, I need to start to access to tenders, but also to design and implement a smart marketing and communication strategy, leveraging the potentiality of social media. On the social impact side, instead, my aim is to partner with local or international NGOs and donors to arrive to the most remote villages.
Also, I would like to enrich my offer with other services, like a platform for content creation regarding health issues in pregnancy.
What is the biggest challenge that you have encountered so far in your business?
The low level of information and knowledge of importance of safety and cleanness during delivery, especially among the poorest and less educated group of population. Secondly, the difficulty to comply at all the Tanzanian bureaucratic requirements to start a company.
Another challenge has been the difficult balance between job, family and social requirements.
What would you suggest to another woman who wants to start her own business?
My suggestion is not to be scared by challenges and not to be discouraged by others: not everyone among family, friends and community will understand your choices, but you need to go on and move forward.