May 17, 2016

where are you?

so what exactly am i doing in Tanzania?  why would i move across the world to join this company?  sure i'd been sent the full investor presentation on the company.  i remember sitting on the beach in Naples with my sister [the accountant] reviewing the projections for growth and being more than skeptical that such exponential growth would be possible.  i'd been talking to organizations in central america so that's where i thought i would end up but then this company came up on my radar because of my past association with the Unreasonable Institute in Boulder, Colorado.  

Natural Extracts Industries works with over 1200 smallholder farmers [usually less than 3 acres] in Tanzania to subsidize the planting, train on cultivation and harvesting of vanilla.  For five years they have patiently waited as the vines matured and the vanilla was ready for harvesting.  

now the factory has been opened to produce vanilla extract as well as extracts from other raw materials found in Tanzania.  the brand is called The Epicurious Hedgehog and currently we are producing vanilla, orange, cinnamon, cacao and coffee extracts.  

there's a ton of work to be done to increase our sales and bring more farmers on board to meet the global demand.  it is in some ways nice to once again have a company with a well received brand and demand higher than what you can produce but with that comes some additional problems.

my offices are not fancy.  there are four desks available and there are between 6 - 8 employees, volunteers and consultants that cycle through each day.  the internet works about 50% of the time.  we have solar backup if the electricity goes out but that only powers 25% of the office so there is a system of daisy chained extension cords that reach the rest of the factory.  i had to request a filtered water station so that i didn't have to carry drinking water to/from the office every day.  as to the toilets, let's just say i've developed amazing bladder control.  seriously, i can go a full work day without a visit to the 'facilities'.

the staff here is mostly very good.  there are few bad hires but usually they go away quickly.  unlike Myanmar, i find there are well educated, hard working, very capable people here so i feel confident of building a good preforming team in my time here.

still, if you don't know me well, you may be asking why i'm here.  after my time in Asia i had to make a decision.  return to the US and take a job working for a corporation that valued profit over people and make a bunch of money or i could find companies looking to provide sustainable business solutions in developing countries where i could transfer skills needed to build solid sales, marketing and distribution networks.  that is the decision i made at the beginning of this year and 30 days later i had accepted the position in Tanzania.

none of this has been easy but i do believe it is important.

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