When you look at this picture, what do you see?
This is a picture of Phelistus and Beatrice, two women working at Pendo Naturals. Covid wiped out their soap making business in Kenya. That might seem a bit odd--a soap company struggling during an infectious disease pandemic--but that's exactly the scenario they've been facing. Pendo makes premium products; the kind that are purchased by tourists, expats, and Kenya's middle and upper class. The places where they previously sold their products including selective craft markets and boutique stores, all closed at the beginning of the pandemic. Some places have since reopened but the volume of customers is still a fraction of what it was previously.
This scenario, unfortunately, has been repeated countless times in Kenya and across the world. However, unlike the US and many other countries, Kenya does not have a social safety net to help people who have lots their jobs or businesses. There is no pandemic relief bill there for people who are scraping by on a few dollars a day.
Ecommerce in Kenya is still in it's infancy, not so much because of the technology but because delivery of physical products is much more complicated. Kenya's postal system is very limited. The vast majority of people get their mail at a post office box not their home. Therefore, physical products are generally delivered by private companies or motorcycle couriers known as boda bodas. Kenya's poor road infrastructure means that it is not at all uncommon for a trip across the city to take over two hours. Therefore, delivery services such a boda bodas only make sense if the distance is very short or the product being delivered is very expensive. Until a better system is developed, Pendo's ability to sell online in Kenya will remain a challenge.
Ecommerce in the US is robust and has only gotten stronger since the start of the pandemic. According to Paypal, online shopping has increased 53% in 2020. Much of that has gone to mega-corporations such as Amazon. Their market capitalization has grown $570 billion since the start of 2020; that's not the total, that's just how much it has increased. But that's not the only change in consumer behavior. Reports have shown other interesting trends: consumers want to support small, independent businesses, are more willing to try new products and, not surprisingly health and hygiene companies are growing.
Given all of this, it made sense to try a partnership with Pendo to sell their products here. We purchased 207 bars of soap at the beginning of October and shipped them to the US. In one week we have sold nearly half of it. We are now planning a second shipment. We are humbled by the positive response to the women and their amazing products. But this is not a short term endeavor. We want to keep the momentum going for both new and return customers. And for that we need your help. Please leave a review; they make a huge difference. We have added a subscribe and save feature so that you can continue to order soap for your families and have it delivered on a regular basis. And we would be incredibly grateful if you share Pendo's story with your family, friends, churches and communities.
But back to the picture. This picture is of Beatrice and Phelistus receiving their salary for the first time since the pandemic started. This is a picture of them having the ability to help support their families. This is a picture of a better future.