The most profound takeaway from Kawasaki’s talk is the starting mentality he advocates for when setting out on an idea or venture. He said that success starts with the mindset of pushing to change the world, instead of the default entrepreneurial perspective of making money. Specifically, Kawasaki encouraged aspiring change agents to enhance quality of life and right a wrong, and the rest will follow. This point directly fits with the Ukweli team’s strategy for our venture. With the goal of selling test strips to women in need for two cents, the idea was never to make money, but simply to run a self-sustaining business that serves vulnerable women in Sierra Leone while operating to reduce maternal mortality in the country. We may not be profitable, but we sure will create impact.
Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 rule really resonated with me. The Ukweli venture is a complicated one with many different stages and various stakeholders with differing needs and abilities, each of which may require a slightly different pitch to adequately explain our venture. I found this point of Kawasaki to be a breath of fresh air and an excuse to stop and reflect. I often find myself asking clarifying questions in my team meetings to be sure I am following the various stages of our venture, including supply chain and systems management designs, phases and aspects of the venture. Kawasaki helped me remember to boil the venture down into the basic, most important and need-to-know parts of Ukweli. This helps me keep everything straight and will in turn help me explain the venture to a lay person, both in America and in Sierra Leone.
I also found Kawasaki’s idea of hiring “infected” people to be important to the Ukweli team. But this point will also be a challenge. We are not on the ground in Sierra Leone year round, and therefore it will be difficult to validate the performance of our employees and assess the level to which each is working hard to champion and sustain our venture. Perhaps I have more skepticism than some of my other team members, because I have never been in the country I am attempting to help. But simply put: if we don’t locate and hire these “infected” people, Ukweli will get stuck and experience major obstacles.
Kawasaki’s point of asking women for their opinions on the business model or venture as a whole was an intriguing one, but it is definitely a memorable takeaway from the talk. Though there is actually mixed evidence to suggest that women in a position of power would be less likely than male leaders to go to war or act aggressively toward adversarial nations, that is actually not the point: I believe the larger point is to ask for diverse opinions and to be inclusive when designing a complex venture and business like Ukweli. People with different backgrounds, life experiences, knowledge about special interests and yes, biological makeup, can offer input that is vital to include and account for in a large scale venture. These people think of points to consider and can foresee specific obstacles that another person would not think of. For example, for Ukweli, women might foresee specific issue with a group of four white American males offering medical technology to a potentially poor pregnant female.
The other two points of Kawasaki that I found to be significant were his ideas of thinking different and polarizing people. It’s so easy, especially for me, to want to unify people, satisfy everyone and be agreeable. I’ve been involved in these types of thorough discussions with my role on The Brown and White, particularly on the Editorial Board, where we have batted around how much we should weigh the prospect of angering people with our opinions and the alumni comments we often receive, which are typically negative. But the truth is, sometimes, you can’t please everybody, and you have to push through with what you believe is right, which is what I ultimately believe Kawasaki was getting at.
In terms of the business model, Ukweli’s OEM partner Wancheng will manufacture the test strips from their facility in China and ship the product to Sierra Leone upon order. The quality control part of the team will need to ensure that the product will function under the conditions presented in Sierra Leone. Ukweli’s job will be to train Peer Supervisors and sell to them, who will then sell to the various clinics with trained CHWs who will be able to best disseminate and sell the product to the women in need for an affordable price. Once clinics begin to run low on supply of the test strips, they will need to contact Hassan, one of Ukweli’s employees, to order more and sustain the system.