Women Who Rock: Kim & Kristen of Kidogo Kidogo

Image from Kidogo Kidogo Site

Image from Kidogo Kidogo Site

Happy Monday loves! Today is a very exciting day as we'd like to introduce a new feature to the blog: Women Who Rock. When we started this blog we had the idea to promote women who are not only role models for their business achievements, but also for promoting positivity, charity or strongly supporting a good cause.  When Kim and Kristen of Kidogo Kidogo reached out to us a while back introducing us to their unique cause, we knew they would be perfect for our first feature.  

Cell phones are a luxury that we in the western world take for granted.  Every day we have access to information, communication, convenience in our transactions, and the list goes on- all through our cellphones.  Kidogo Kidogo (which means little by little) is aiming to bridge the gap of inequality in accessibility to cellphones for women in Tanazania by selling iPhone cases that are not only stylish, but support an amazing cause.  

I had the pleasure of communicating with co-founder Kim Waeber on the story behind Kidogo Kidogo, what her hopes for the future of Kidogo Kidogo are, and how great an impact these cell phones truly make for the women of tanzania.  

Q: The concept behind Kidogo Kidogo is a unique charitable idea, what was your inspiration to start this venture?

A: The idea for kidogo kidogo came from my sister and CEO, Kristen. Having worked in the telecommunications sector in the developing world, she knew the value that a mobile phone played in people’s lives.  She attended mobile health conferences and heard how mobile phones are used to send free mosquito net vouchers to people to prevent malaria. She heard from farmers who told her that by accessing market-pricing information on their mobile phones they were able to make more money selling their crops, and heard directly from women about how a phone gives them the power of information to help them run their businesses more effectively. After reading a report by the GSMA called Women & Mobile a Global Opportunity, she learned that women in Africa were 23% less likely than men to own a mobile phone and that the main barrier to ownership was cost. With this knowledge, she knew she had to do something.

Q: How did you and your sister come about working on Kidogo Kidogo together?

A: We are very close and have always wanted to start something together. When she told me about what women without phones in Tanzania are facing and with the idea to have people contribute to women in Africa by purchasing iPhone cases, I loved it and kidogo kidogo was born.

 Q: What have been the biggest challenges in setting up Kidogo Kidogo, and how did you overcome them?

A: Our biggest obstacle has been explaining to people why a mobile phone is so life-changing. When starting a mission based business you need people to immediately empathize with your cause. In our case, unless you are tuned into the developing world, aid, and telecommunications you probably are not aware of the importance of a mobile phone to these women. So we ask sceptics to take a one day challenge, turn off your cell phone.  You won’t have an alarm clock, access to your bank account, a way to call for help if something happens, access to market information, email, radio, a way to reach your friends and family, access to directions, a flash light, the list goes on and on.  It doesn't matter who you are or where you live, a mobile phone improves your life. It’s also tough for Kristen and I to talk due to the time difference, but luckily with Facetime and Skype we can connect frequently.

Q: What was it about the work of Sarah Markes that drew you to select her as the designer for your inaugural case collection? Do you have plans to expand and work with other Tanzanian designers for future collections?

A: It’s quite a unique story on how we found Sarah Markes. Kristen was walking though stores in Tanzania and saw this amazing postcard. She flipped it over, saw Sarah Markes’ name and found out she lived very close by. Kristen reached out to her to set up a meeting and Sarah was gracious enough to work with us. We think her work just screams Tanzania and we were both drawn to her prints. We've been discussing using additional artists and we hope to find other women living in Tanzania who can provide their work for future lines. We are open to all design possibilities, but like the idea of working with an artist in Africa.

Q: What have been the highlights for you since launching Kidogo Kidogo?

A: The most rewarding part has undoubtedly been delivering these phones. Hearing the women’s stories and goals are wonderful, and knowing that we are helping them gain something that was so aspirational is great.

During phone deliveries, Kristen Waeber, is able to meet with the women and hear their stories, learning how these phones are going to impact their lives. One woman Tabia, a widow, previously owned a phone, but three months prior had attended a funeral for her mother in another region of Tanzania. There she found much of her family were in worse financial shape than she was. Tabia left her phone for her family, knowing it was so valuable that by leaving it behind she would be helping her family.  Another woman Asha, has three children and started a small business selling items like salt, sugar and vegetables. She is using her new phone to repay the small business loan she received to get her business running through mobile banking. The ability to make payments at the push of a button versus having to travel to meet loan officers is allowing her to spend more time growing her business.

A phone is so much more than a device for communication. For these women a phone is a bank since they can use mobile financial services to keep their money, it is a radio when they could not afford one, it is a flash light when there is no electricity, it is an information source, a calculator, and more. We see every day how valuable phones are in our lives. For these women it is really no different.

Image from Kidogo Kidogo

Image from Kidogo Kidogo

 Q: What are your hopes for Kidogo Kidogo in the future? Where do you see the company in 5 years?

A: We would love to see kidogo kidogo growing, both in the countries we reach and in the number of iPhone case styles and designs we offer. We are discussing expanding into an additional African country. We also want to create more product offerings. We’ve heard great feedback where people with mobile phones other than iPhones want cases as well. We are also working on new case types, so look for that in the next few months. We also want to be carried in retail stores, and will really be focusing on getting our products on more store shelves.

From a research side, one thing kidogo kidogo is doing that most other one-for-one companies do not do, is we are conducting research which measures phone recipients quality of life before the donation, and then several months after. We want to make sure that the donations of phones are improving health, financial stability, education, political involvement, safety, communication with family members, etc. We are partnering with field researchers and professors at William & Mary University in Virginia who are going to measure several lifestyle factors before and after the donations so we can be sure we are maximizing our impact.

Q: What would be your best piece of advice to young women interested in starting a business or a charitable organization such as Kidogo Kidogo?

A: Kim: Make sure you have a good support system. Having friends and family who believe in your cause and who will support you will really help during the long days. We’ve been very lucky to have received help from so many people.

Kristen: Be passionate about what you are doing. It’s not easy to start a business. It takes a lot of time and hard work, but if you believe in what you are doing, it really makes it worth it.

We absolutely adore Kidogo Kidogo and were so happy to be able to partner with them to promote their cause.  We love our cases so much that we want one of you to be able to order your very own Kidogo Kidogo case with the knowledge that your case will have given a woman the freedom of a mobile phone she otherwise could not have afforded.  Check out our giveaway below- winner will be announced on Saturday and you will receive a gift card to choose your own case! Good luck

*Open to Canada & US Residents Only*