The entrepreneurial process is incredibly exciting, arguably rooted in its inherent uncertainty and necessity to “roll with the punches.” It can be impactful and progressive. The main lessons and principles learned in the GSSE MBA course work have taught us that social betterment and capitalism do not have to remain mutually exclusive concepts. This realization has solidified as we have immersed ourselves in summer practicum work. Ethiopia, one of our pilot sites, is a country saturated with governmental organizations, NGOs and other non-profits whose approaches to development are limited by bureaucracy and entirely dependent on external funding. Despite massive efforts by these organizations, we have witnessed firsthand the rampant poverty, homelessness, sanitation, and public health issues that are being mitigated altogether too slowly. Unsatisfied with the speed of development, Kapok Connect will leverage the ever growing and diversifying international tourism industry, and bring supplementary income to millions of impoverished people around the world. We are a social enterprise that connects travelers with a sense of adventure and social consciousness to authentic, local experiences offered by local suppliers and aspiring “micro-entrepreneurs”. Our business is Internet based and operates in the “sharing economy,” alongside massively successful players such as Airbnb and Über, but has a key differentiator.
Our business model is unique because we integrate a dimension of social welfare: generating income for people who wouldn’t otherwise benefit from tourism. We offer our customers, the travelers, access to unique experiences through our web platform and mobile application. The site and app are populated with experiences such as tours, activities, meals, and homestays offered directly from individually vetted service providers. Customers can choose and reserve a place and pay in advance for the experience. Kapok charges a service and processing fee, which covers our administrative operations expenses, but the majority of the money (80-85%) goes directly to the locals providing the service.
Follow along as we continue to share our experiences in the sharing economy in Ethiopia and Mexico, on our Facebook page, and on this blog.