Ifrah Arab is only 20 years old, but she is on a mission to alleviate poverty and inspire more women much older than herself into enterprise. Through this effort Ifrah was a 2016 Anzisha Prize finalist and a 2016 Echoing Green semifinalist quite a mean feat.
Ifrah grew up in Garissa town, a conservative community where women were never encouraged to have economic independence. In 2015, when her mother passed away, Ifrah felt the need to uplift mothers in her community. She founded SuperMom, a door to door distribution network that gives Kenyan women in disadvantaged areas access to quality and essential consumer products.
Within two years of operation, she now has 50 women now selling products door to door earning an income and making household items accessible to thousands. Ifrah hopes to draw in 2,000 women in the next two years and double their incomes.
How many commodities is SuperMom now selling door to door in Garissa County?
We sell a whole range of products. Our main ones are consumer goods which include sugar, salt, flour etc. mainly basic everyday use consumer products, clean green energy, sanitary products and health products.
Garissa has a relatively large Muslim population some of whom are conservative when it comes to women working. Has SuperMom encountered any challenges around this with the community?
Yes, we faced a lot of challenges mostly because of, as you said it, being a conservative community they weren’t ready to accept the change. Most of them saw it as a breach of culture and all that and we faced a lot of opposition.Ifrah Arab personally interacts with the women in her SuperMom network. Click To Tweet
How are you overcoming this challenge?
We overcome this challenge by using a new tactic. We decided to first approach the community elders, religious leaders, local women groups and made them understand our mission.
This made it easier for us to then penetrate the larger community because now we had people they trust endorsing us.
You were a 2016 Anzisha Prize finalist, how has this experience improved your outlook and operations at SuperMom?
I learnt a lot from the Anzisha Prize. I met different young people from Africa who shared the same vision of making Africa great.
They were all young problem solvers aged between 15 and 22. It was wonderful being able to meet and build networks with people of the same mindset and share ideas.
You were also a semifinalist in the Echoing Green Fellowship of 2016? What are some of the lessons you learnt from that process?
I wasn’t able to make it to the finals for Echoing Green but the feedback they gave me after the selection process has helped SuperMom grow.
We were able to take in all the advice we got from them and that was really great.
What are some of the most successful pitching techniques you use when seeking funding for SuperMom?
When I am pitching SuperMom I always make sure I am clear and the audience clearly understands what SuperMom is all about. I also make sure to always show traction.
What we have done so far to earn that trust. I always give my story too. It makes people understand the reason why am doing this. That it’s just not a joke for me.When I am pitching SuperMom I always make sure the audience clearly understands Click To Tweet
What keeps you going?
I personally interact with the women in our network. Every time I hear any of the women talking about how SuperMom has improved her life it motivates me to do more.
What big plans do you have in store for SuperMom?
The problem we are trying to solve is not unique to my community. Several other marginalised communities in Kenya face the same problem.
My vision is to expand and reach these other communities. We are also not covering all the products needed so also to form more partnerships so as to increase the number of products in our catalogue.
What’s the one thing you would not leave the house without?
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