Flame Tree Initiative

Social Entrepreneurship for African Development

The Flame Tree Initiative partners with African universities to foster scalable, socially minded businesses that accelerate regional change. We believe that training, mentoring and launching development enterprises - businesses that confront global development challenges – is a potent way to contribute to the new, innovative era in Africa.

 

+ What do you do?

Flame Tree Initiative provides training, partnerships, and resources to promising Malawian entrepreneurs seeking to create enterprises that address local development challenges. In collaboration with Mzuzu University, we facilitate two-week, intensive Development Entrepreneur Labs (DELabs) where participants learn the basics of the DE concept. Our most dedicated participants are invited to join our incubator, the DEStudio, where they can grow their concepts into viable social enterprises.

+ Why partner with universities?

All over Africa, there is an increasing understanding of the important roles universities play in society. They are centers of technology, research, and innovation. For this reason, universities are strategically placed to engage in the development process in a way that combines local context with cutting edge design.

A dedicated university can be a highly effective center for development entrepreneurship for this same reason. Mzuzu University is staffed with experienced, innovation-minded individuals with an eye on entrepreneurship. FTI seeks to harness this capacity to create ecologically sustainable and economically viable small businesses that can address the critical development challenges currently facing Malawi.

+ What role can the private sector play in local development?

Expansion of the private sector creates a ripple effect that touches on many other development priorities. It is a profoundly different way of confronting issues like gender equality, household income, health, food security, and education through innovation and job provision.

The private sector can address all of this without creating a dependence on foreign aid. Small businesses can create positive, sustainable change by Africans and for Africans.

+ Why are partnerships important?

Throughout our time in Malawi, we have seen the benefits of partnership and collaboration. NGOs, local businesses, international investors, and government agencies are all critical to the success and durability of development initiatives. We see our role as one of empowerment and knowledge-sharing where local actors can begin to take on new leadership roles in their own regional development.

We are one of a few groups offering entrepreneurship support in Malawi, and each group offers a unique perspective and specialty. While we focus on social impact, universities, and global resources, our partners help us leverage local structures, community support, and context-specific resources. Together, we are stronger.

+ What is a Development Entrepreneurship, or DE?

A Development Entrepreneurship is a business or self-financing nonprofit whose product or service addresses a local development challenge. These enterprises can play a powerful role in accelerating regional change through the production and distribution of innovative technologies that address basic demands like access to clean water, improved agricultural expertise, and the expansion of global health initiatives. Flame Tree Initiative wants to make sure these kinds of small businesses have the resources, connections, and capabilities to succeed in Malawi.

+ What is the DELab?

A DELab is a Development Entreprenuership training program. It consists of a rigorous six-day course on the process for creating a DE and examples of businesses around the world that are flourishing by providing development solutions to the world’s poor. Experts from the local community will provide instruction and feedback as DELab participants begin to draft their own compelling business plans for Development Entrepreneurship. Promising participants will then have the opportunity to launch these business plans in our incubator, the DEStudio.

+ What is the DEStudio?

The DEStudio is FTI's ongoing mentorship process for DELab graduates. The end goal of the DEStudio's incubation process is to equip Development Entrepreneurs with the knowledge, abilities, and resources to create successful, self-sustaining businesses that also address critical development challenges. Through a combination of online and in-person mentoring, promising development entrepreneurs have the opportunity to grow and launch their DE concepts.

Our original model, The Canopy, saw some success in only taking on three entrepreneurs. However, we recognized our ability to do more and the DEStudio offers the format and the capacity to take on more entrepreneurs for a longer period of time. We are excited to see where these new ambitions take us!

+ How can I get involved?

The best ways to get involved are to join us as a mentor by contacting Lauren Simonis at: lauren@flametreeinitiative.org, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, contact us with any questions, and contribute to the Flame Tree Initiative or to one of our Development Entrepreneurs. Thank you for your interest!