092, Hillary Miller-Wise, Esoko | #TechForGood for Smallholder Farmers

Smallholder farmers, those with just a few acres of land, produce 80% of the food consumed in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. There are 500 million smallholder farmers worldwide.

Esoko is a for-profit social enterprise and technology company that enables smallholder farmers to connect to markets. Farmers can get information on how to best grow their crops, how to deal with pests or to find the best price for their commodities in the local market. As a result of having this information, smallholder farmers can increase their productivity and their income.

Farmers can interact with Esoko through SMS, voice messaging, call centers, a web presence and an Android app. Esoko is continuing to innovate. They are starting to enter the mobile commerce space. They are developing a solution that would enable smallholder farmers to access financial services and agricultural inputs.

Hillary Miller-Wise, the CEO at Esoko came to social entrepreneurship through journalism. As a correspondent during the war in Bosnia, Hillary gained a deep understanding of humanitarian aid and the plight of refugees. Throughout her career, she has brought business solutions to the bottom of the financial pyramid while leveraging mobile technology. Before joining Esoko, Hillary spent time at FINCA International, DAI and TechnoServe. Prior to joining Esoko Hillary was the CEO of the Africa region for the Grameen Foundation.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Hillary Miller-Wise

“I have been in the social enterprise space for most of my career. The way that I got into it was actually somewhat unique.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘We work across multiple channels and we have two-way flows of information.’ Hillary Miller-Wise,  @Esoko”]

“We’re not just pushing information out. We are collecting a lot of information about what’s happening in rural areas and on the farms.”

“People living in rural areas in these countries are cutoff from a range of different markets.”

“If I start with the smallholder farmer, the ability to get information and to make better decisions about their business which is farming enables them to increase productivity and increase income.”

“Farmers are able to actually increase their income just by knowing what the retail or wholesale price is for their crop.”

“One farmer who receives or has access to this information then spreads that information to many other farmers. Those farmers are also able to increase their income as a result. There’s a multiplier effect of these services that to be honest, we hadn’t really even anticipated.”

“In the markets where we work, in particularly being an African company, the financial markets for businesses are very shallow. Meaning we don’t have opportunities that businesses in the US or Europe for example would have in order to do things like working capital, get loans at rates that are affordable. It makes it very challenging for companies like ours to grow.”

“Given that we’re in the technology space which is a very fast moving space, we have to be innovating constantly. Innovate or die, as they say. That is as true in Africa as it is in Silicon Valley.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘The opportunity that we have is tremendously inspiring.’ Hillary Miller-Wise,  @Esoko“]

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘We’ve had about 30% compound annual growth year over year since 2009.’ Hillary Miller-Wise,  @Esoko“]

“What I get really excited about is the innovation that we’re doing now.”

“I think it’s important for people who are interested in social entrepreneurship, first to make sure that they really understand what social enterprise is.”

“Those of us who have been in the private sector and gone into social entrepreneurship or thinking about that change, they need to be very, very clear about where their passion is because that’s what will sustain them and keep them engaged and focused and be able to be successful in the space.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘Trust your instincts and at least try something.’ Hillary Miller-Wise,  @Esoko“]

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

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About the Author
Tony Loyd is a TEDx speaker, podcast host and the author of Crazy Good Advice: 10 Lessons Learned from 150 Leading Social Entrepreneurs. He is a former Fortune 500 executive with extensive experience in strategic planning, talent management, and leadership development. Tony is the host of the podcast Social Entrepreneur where you can hear the stories of changemakers who are making an impact on the world.

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