Thursday, January 16, 2014

A New Method To Customer Segmentaton

With our third grater sold and placed in PKK, the team has realized one thing - all of our customers are very beautiful women...we will be sure to add that to the customer profile.

Auntie Ama

Auntie Howe

Auntie Akosia

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Impressions II

 Crossman ready to welcome the fabricators. 

The fabricators at registration in the morning.

Participants reading their welcome package, which included a booklet describing the design of the grater and a manual on the spot welder.

 George, senior researcher and director of ITTU, made his opening remarks. Afterwards, Ben explained the  background of the grater.

The business team took some time to explain the financial model behind the venture and explained to the fabricators “whats in it for you?”.

Irene explaining the grater design.

Fabricators had lots of questions and positive feedback about the product.

Rebecca giving a tutorial on the spot welder.

 Rosy, Debbie, and KS making pineapple juice using the grater.

 Hard at work. The fabricators finishing their part of the grater that they all jointly built.

Weekend Adventures

“I am not interested in making money, I just want to help you people.” That is the kind of kindness that we have come across on Saturday morning. This is Heyford, the head of a gari processing venture. He walked us through the various steps involved in gari processing – from peeling and grinding the cassava to pressing and frying it. He makes his money by renting out the pressing and frying equipment to women. These women let us try and walk a mile in their shoes and we attempted to copy their frying technique. Only when you try it yourself do you realize how much physical burden these women endure – for example, the women and their children are sitting right in the fumes of the fire. One girl was only 15 and was helping out her aunt during the weekend, another, an orphan, works full time. Heyford was very happy with the new iteration of the grater and is enthusiastic about advertising for us. He has suggested that we leave one grater with him so that he can show potential customers the product. However, he is not interested in becoming a distributor. For distribution he has recommended that we go to the commercial area alaba, where there are many agricultural shops. After Heyford, the group headed towards the center of Kumasi and went to the Central Market and XXX Market. XXX market is the biggest market in West Africa. We dove right into the tumult, careful to avoid the meat section. Rows and rows of tin-roofed stores where you can find anything from machetes, to Milo, to baptism dresses. We headed straight for the cloth section and the girls took their time in picking Ghanaian fabric. In the evening, we moved to the SMS Guest House on the KNUST campus (wifi! Hot water! Breakfast included!). We made groundnut soup for dinner and headed to bed.

On Sunday morning we packed up the Tro Tro, as we were heading to Konongo and the surrounding villages. Before, we met with Gabriel, the chef at the Engineering Guesthouse restaurant. We discussed possible uses for the grater in his restaurant, but he argued that his customers value handmade fufu over fufu made with a machine. He recommended that we visit local Chop Shops (small walk-in restaurants) , as they make more fufu and will have more use for the grater. Next, we headed to Konongo. In the center of town we met with Jerry (our liaison who lives in the town). We bought mangoes, breakfast food, presents for our guests, and ingredients to make boiled yam and palava sauce for dinner. Then, we made our way to the village of PKK. Suddenly, the scenery was a world away from the exhaust and dust of Suame Magazine. Green for miles. The first stop at PKK was a chiefs meeting. In the rural areas of Ghana you cant do anything in a village without the chief knowing who you are and what your mission is. Our chief's meeting was well visited, as we attracted many children from the surrounding houses. The only person missing was the actual chief. However, the welcoming ceremony went on without him, complete with Dutch liquor and a formal statement of our mission. Next, we walked to visit Auntie Ama and her family. We sat down with her, her son, and her husband and questioned them for almost two hours. The conversation proved vital to our venture, as we learned many things.

We now know that using the grater has reduced Auntie Ama's physical burden and increased her revenue, because other women pay to use the grater. However, it was difficult to find out for sure how much more cassava the family has been able to produce with the grater. Our hosts invited us to stay in the village guesthouse, which was a lot more luxurious than we had expected (electricity! A sink! A bed!). A village cook had prepared a dinner of palava sauce and boiled plantains, which we all agreed was the best dinner we have had in Ghana. Finally, we took the time to set up our anti-malaria nets and ended the day with a round of cards.

The food in the village just kept getting better the next morning – mango, egg, and bread for breakfast was a hit with everyone (our group has complicated dietary restrictions for the Ghanaian cuisine – vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free). To our surprise, Aunti Ama came by in the morning accompanied by a new potential customer: Auntie Akosia.

Auntie Akosia is Auntie Ama's neighbor and also a gari processor. She told us that she has great interest in owning a grater and would be ready to pay a down-payment of 25 GHC. After a short off-side team meeting we decided that Auntie Akosia was just the type of customer we are looking for. A great benefit of our deal with Auntie Akosia (we will deliver a grater to her on Thursday), is that her husband is a government extension officer (these officers are responsible for spreading news about and recommending new agricultural practices). Having a grater in this household will be a great sign to the rest of the community – it can act as a kind of endorsement. Auntie Akosia showed us her large farm where she harvests cassava, cocoa, and plantain. After biding farewell to the villagers, we drove back to Konongo to meet with agricultural shops. We made a new business contact, Seth, who sells products like pesticides and seeds. We gave him the whole spiel and Seth is now very interested in becoming one of our distributors. We have agreed to bring him a sample, so that he can test if he can sell it. A great thing about Seth is that he allows his customers to buy products on credit. This will allow us to achieve our SROI, as the rural women will be able to buy the grater even if they can not afford it at this moment. We had a lunch of fried plantains and beans, with dessert provided by Joe's family, who owns a bakery (Joe is another liaison that lives in Konongo). (In hindsight, as this post is being written on Tuesday, this lunch might not have been our best idea – stomach problems have become a little bit of an issue.) Next, we all drove to the tiny village of Adumkrum (about 300 people) to check on Auntie Howe and her grater. It turns out that Auntie Howe's machine had stopped working, because the other members of the community had been overusing it. We decided to take her machine back to ITTU and fix it up for her. Once we got back to KNUST, Ben surprised us with a dinner of mango and pineapple! A great reward for a great two days!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Ghana's Next Top Grater

This is the blog post about Day 2
Delicious papaya and bananas – a great start to our second day in Kumasi. The Tro Tro bus that drove us to Suame Magazine was blasting Ghanaian reggae music, so all were in high spirits (some even daring to sing along). Suame Magazine, a short ride from KNUST , is an industrial complex where you can find anything from steering wheels, to bearings, to stickers of Jesus for your car. ITTU is located right in the middle and will be our headquarters for the upcoming days. With the workshop quickly approaching, the Tech team got to work preparing the two sample graters that will be on display on Thursday. Over the course of the day, ADE Ghana liaisons George, Asante, William, and Francis dropped in to help. When George announced that he now have around 30 attendees for the workshop, things kicked into high gear. The Tech team made great progress in preparing the two graters, despite some bumps in the way (including the realization that the Leeson motors we are using were not completely identical). The Business team was able to talk to motor importers (result: 40 USD for a 0.25 HP motor; implication: will ask XXX importer if he can import the Leeson motor from China), call UT Bank about the possibility of setting up a microfinance scheme for our customers (result: would need a group of 6 women), and plan the AG shop tests with Asante. Ben seemed to be everywhere at once and Asante was only registered as a flash of color running from one task to the next. For lunch we had pasta and eggs, but the real highlight was some fresh pineapple. Buying the pineapple proved to be very entertaining, as we met a little boy along the way that would be a force to be reckoned with on Ghana’s Next Top Model.

Workin' It At The Worshop


Today was the all important day for our trip, the day of the fabrication workshop. Today also marked the first day of our tro tro picking us up on time! (Note: This was the third one we've tried.) At 8:00 AM fabricators started arriving for the workshop. As the classroom where we were holding the workshop got its finishing touches, the 14 participants gathered around. Everyone was clearly excited. At a little after 10:30, we kicked off. Ama, who is doing her national service at TCC, blessed the workshop through a morning prayer. In Ghana, it is typical to start a meeting with a prayer. Then George, director and senior researcher at the Technology Consultancy Center of KNUST, gave a welcoming address. He expressed his hope that the following two days would be a platform that fosters innovation and creativity in the work of the fabricators and Suame as a whole. After, Ben introduced the two goals for the workshop: introducing the grater and teaching the fabricators how to use a spot welder. For a short moment, a crisis seemed imminent – the power went off (spoiler alert: the electricity came back on in time for the grater demonstration). Ben did not let this stop him and went on to explain how the grater fits in the competitive landscape of other graters in Ghana and what its edge is. Then the business team talked numbers and informed the fabricators what kind of profit they could make when building the grater. Next, the real fun began. In teams of two, the fabricators were able to test the machine. Several eyes lit up when they realized how easily and quickly a large amount of cassava can be processed with the grater. Now, we really had their attention. Irene, Rebecca, and Ben went on to walk the fabricators piece-by-piece through the various parts of the grater. At 1:00 PM we stopped for lunch. The business team took the opportunity to talk to two of the fabricators and ask them about their business. It was then, that the fabricators confessed that they do little to no bookkeeping – we bet the IRS would not be a fan of that! The fabricators were very excited about the grater – one approached Ben asking to buy the demonstration grater, another wanted an order of 1000 motors so that he could start building graters. However, the highlight still seemed to be spot welding. Rebecca showed them how the spot welder works and then each participant was able to weld two pieces of mild steel together. The fabricators did this with such enthusiasm – it was like Christmas. The tech team went on to explain exactly how to build the grater. In the meantime, the business team went to Adum (central Kumasi) to talk to three banks, Women's World Banking Ghana, First National Bank, and HFC Bank. First National has a branch in Konongo (which is close to where the gari processing women live) and provides small loans to individuals. When getting back to the hostel, the business team checked another item off their Ghana Bucket List – driving in a real tro tro. After the hectic, crazy, loud, colorful atmosphere of central Kumasi, the business team decided to walk from Tech Junction (the tro tro stop) to Tek Credit Union (about 20 minutes) and relax amongst the trees. The day ended with Debbie (a Masters student at KNUST who is researching cassava grating) bringing us chocolate ice cream – a reward for a job well done!
Pictures will follow!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


Mya was hard at work today, making the teeth for the head. She got some hlep from Bunavenca, who is an apprentice at ITTU.

Rebecca and her Ghanaian partners in crime.


The business team went to two importers to show our Leeson motor and talk about importing costs.
Its ready! The grater and its proud parents. Tomorrow it will be presented to at least 20 fabricators. Here we go!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles... And stairs

The motors were safely stowed away, the yellow fever cards ready, and the Clif bars packed – nothing could get in our way. Nothing, except for winter storm Hercules. Hercules swept across the Northeast late Thursday and early Friday, threatening to destroy any and all travel plans. However, not even that could stop us, as we made our way on a 32-hour trek to Ghana. On the last leg, from London to Ghana, we made our first new contact for the trip – Isaac. I sat next to him and after an initial bond was built over some shared dessert, I found out that he works for the Council for Technical and Vocational Education and Training. The council gives grants to Ghanaians that want to buy new technology, which promises to increase productivity and employment. Isaac explained that if we get a big enough group of women together, the council would give them a grant to purchase the “MINI cassava grater” (that would not have to be repaid). While this was great news and Isaac a great new contact, we were still all very happy to get away from planes and airports and drive to Kumasi. As we arrived at around 3:30 AM, our fearless trip leader, Ben, let us sleep in. At a late lunch, we got our first taste of Ghanaian food (Red Red is a definite group favorite up until now!) and divided team roles for the remainder of the trip. Throughout the day, we met some of the main ADE liasons in Kumasi. Joe, a KNUST alumn, helped us make an initial agenda for our upcoming trip to the rural towns of PKK and Adumkrum. Asante, an ADE employee, helped us with a lot of logistics for the coming days. He has already been able to recruit four people for the fabrication workshop! We were also able to meet his wife and very cute son Michael. Finally, Mubarak, a KNUST alumn,was telling us about the life of a college student in Kumasi. All in all, a great first day and we are pumped up and ready to go for tomorrow.