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1,000,000 Liters

Last week Life Force Kiosks reached an amazing milestone.  On Tuesday, 10/8/13, we purified our one-millionth liter of water.  The past 3+ years have been incredible, and I’m so excited about this accomplishment.  I couldn’t be prouder of my team.  There have been countless challenges to overcome since this idea was first conceived back in 2010 and it took real commitment and hard work from my team to turn that idea into a reality capable of helping so many people.

Life Force Kiosks water vendor

Life Force Kiosks water vendor

I’m also excited to see that our other products and services are being well received in Kibera.  We’ve cleaned over 5,000 water storage containers, which is another critical way to reduce drinking water contamination.  We’ve also sold over 600 diapers and 70 bars of antibacterial soap since introducing them back in August.

I’d again like to thank Steve, Freddy, our water vendors, and all the people who supported our mission both in the United States and Kenya.  This wouldn’t have been possible without them.

 

Nairobi Terror Attack

Our thoughts are with all those affected by the horrible attack at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi this weekend.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/22/world/africa/nairobi-mall-shooting.html?smid=pl-share

 

New Life Force Kiosks products in Kibera

New products for sale

Life Force Kiosks is excited to announce that we’ve launched four new products in Kibera.

1. Baby diapers
2. Sanitary pads
3. Antibacterial soap
4. Toothpaste

Launching these new products has two main benefits. First, we’re making it easier for families in Kibera to access these products.  They can certainly go out to markets and buy them, but now they’re closer and easier to purchase.  Much like our model with water purification, we’ve also taken some products that families would normally have to buy in bulk like diapers and are selling them individually.  While it might sound strange to Americans to buy just a few diapers at a time, this is a nice service for people who sometimes can only afford that day’s expenses.  This is our most popular new item so far (133 sold in the first week), largely because people can buy just as many as they need for that day and can come back tomorrow when they’ve earned more money.

The second benefit is to help Life Force Kiosks become more financially sustainable.  Selling water purification services in this community may never be a profitable endeavor.  There’s just not enough volume or a high enough margin.  Just like you wouldn’t walk into a grocery store and see them selling just one product, expanding our inventory should help us more financially stable.  Of course we still make just a couple of cents per sale, so this definitely won’t offset the need for outside funding in the immediate future.

On the water purification side, we continue to march towards a key milestone of 1 million liters purified.  Hopefully I’ll be able to share that exciting news with you in the next few months.

LFK Products2

It’s amazing that two years ago today, Life Force Kiosks launched in Kibera.  I’m so proud of my team for their continued dedication toward improving the lives in their community.  We’re closing in on an exciting milestone – 1 million liters of water purified . I can’t wait to announce that, and it shouldn’t be too much longer.

This past year has been very interesting.  For several months, our focus was split as we engaged in a partnership with an organization called Impact Carbon.  Impact Carbon’s work improves health, reduces poverty, and improves local environments while slowing climate change.  They build and support projects that help people access new technologies such as clean cookstoves and water treatment systems. They leverage carbon finance and social finance to bring these projects to scale.

Life Force Kiosks and Impact Carbon joined forces to help get chlorine-based community water treatment qualified for carbon offset financing.  For those of you not familiar with carbon offset financing, I’ll give a brief description.  Basically companies and individuals make financial contributions to help “reduce their carbon footprint”.  If you’ve bought a ticket on Expedia recently, they probably asked if you wanted to donate a few bucks towards this.  Of course your $7 can’t reduce the fuel used for your flight, so instead that money is pooled to fund projects that reduce the use of natural resources like trees and coal around the world.  In many developing nations, wood and coal is used to boil water to purify water.  Life Force Kiosks purifies water with chlorine, reducing the need to boil water.  During the past year we acted as a proof-of-concept to show that our model (and related non-boiling technologies like ceramic water filters), could effectively reduce the burning of wood and charcoal.  I’m pleased to say that after a lot hard work from Steve and the Impact Carbon team, we were successful in demonstrating this and non-boiling water treatment received approval for carbon funding.

With that success came some tradeoffs.  As Steve spent a significant amount of time working with Impact Carbon, Life Force Kiosks was not able to have quite the same impact in Kibera this past year compared to our first.  However, we did purify over 330,000 liters of water this past year, bringing our total to over 875,000 liters of water since we went live.

We’re continuing to transfer more ownership of LFK’s operations to the Kenyan management team.  I remain committed to the cause and to LFK, but I also believe that our long-term success is dependent on the ownership  of our Kenyan team.  They’re the ones living in Kibera, seeing first-hand the problems that exist there, and are in the best position to execute solutions to those problems.

I look forward to hopefully announcing that we’ve purified over a million liters of water in the next few months.  Again, I’d like to thank everyone who’s supported Life Force Kiosk and enabled us to achieve these fantastic results.  And of course Life Force Kiosks would be nothing without Steve, Freddy, and our vendors, so thank you so much for the work you do every day.  Happy anniversary, Life Force Kiosks.

A few months ago I was contacted by the Stanford Graduate School of Business regarding my work in Kenya.  They initially wanted to interview me to learn more about my work with PATH.   However, after hearing about Life Force Kiosks, they asked if they could publish two case studies to be used in their curriculum.

Life Force Kiosks-Reporting and Accountability

Life Force Kiosks-Engaging Local Talent

PATH also included a short case study on Life Force Kiosks in their Commercialization Toolkit.  This was a resource developed for non-profits and small commercial entities operating around the world to leverage best practices from Academia and existing, successful organizations.  In full disclosure, I did write several sections of the Commercialization Toolkit.  However, I don’t think that’s the reason they opted to include the Life Force Kiosks case study.

http://sites.path.org/commercializationtoolkit/landscape/case-study-water-kiosks-in-kenya/

I’m very honored and proud that esteemed organizations such as Stanford and PATH have recognized the success of Life Force Kiosks and have chosen to share some of our best practices with their students and partners.  This is truly a credit for everyone in the Life Force Kiosks organization and our supporters.

It’s with great pride that I announce Life Force Kiosks recently celebrated its 1 year anniversary!  During our first year, we’ve purified over 580,000 liters of water and cleaned nearly 4,500 storage containers.   We’ve also been publicly recognized by Stanford University and PATH (links to these case studies to follow shortly).  I’m extremely grateful for our tremendous Kenyan management team, our kiosk vendors, my advisers, and all the donors who made this possible.

Now that we’ve proven the efficacy and consumer acceptance of the model, the coming year will focus on expansion.  We’re currently trying to raise funding that would allow us to grow from 10 vendors to 50.  If successful, we’d aim to purify about 8,000 liters of water per day, or almost 3 Million liters per year.

I look forward to sharing more stories from the field and hopefully some new pictures over the coming weeks and months.  I encourage you to subscribe to this blog if you haven’t already to get e-mail updates.  As always, you can make a donation to support this amazing organization at http://www.LifeForceKiosks.org.  100% of donations go directly to operating costs, and all donations are tax deductible.   Thank you so much for your support, and congratulations to everyone involved with Life Force Kiosks on its first birthday.

2012 has arrived, but I wanted to take a moment and reflect on all that was accomplished in 2011.  I remember this time last year we were facing challenges with Kenyan government support and registration.  Steve was our only salaried employee and we were working out of my Nairobi apartment due to extremely limited funding.  Our model was still conceptually fluid.  At this time last year we were still nearly six months away from launching operations in Kibera.

However, despite these challenges, we launched on May 25, 2011 and saw tremendous success right out of the gate.  We focused heavily on generating awareness of Life Force Kiosks in the market and worked hard at communicating the benefits we brought to the people of Kibera.  We saw a need for a water purification solution that was truly affordable, convenient, effective, and didn’t ruin the taste of the water.  We thought that Life Force Kiosks would meet that need, and the community agreed.  During our first full month of operations we purified roughly 20,000 liters of water.  In November that number was closer to 70,000!  I’m excited to say that in 2011, Life Force Kiosks purified over 312,000 liters of drinking water!  Of course putting clean water in a dirty storage container doesn’t do much good, which is why we’ve also cleaned about 3,000 storage containers.  What might be even more incredible is that we did all that with a budget of around $15,000.

I’d once again like to thank all our generous donors who made all of this possible.  And of course, the real heroes of Life Force Kiosks are Steve Mumbwani, Fred Omondi, and our ten kiosk vendors.  Our board consisting of Scott Espiritu, Richard Wardell, Andrew Otieno, and Rikka Trangsrud also provided extremely valuable support and I greatly appreciate all their efforts.

2012 brings some exciting new opportunities.  The growth from 20,000 to 70,000 liters of water purified per month without hiring additional vendors or increasing our marketing budget shows the clear demand for the services Life Force Kiosks is providing.  The next step is to expand our vendor network, as that’s the best way to increase our positive impact in Kibera.  We’re talking with two organizations that are potentially interested in providing funding, and of course we hope our donors will continue to see the value in supporting Life Force Kiosks.  I look forward to sharing updates on our progress throughout 2012 and beyond.  I wish you all a very happy new year.

Thank you,
Jeremy Farkas

Life Force Kiosks Team

Life Force Kiosks Team

Life Force Kiosks just completed its fifth month of live operations and we continue to see fantastic results.  I was pleased with our first month’s performance of purifying 20,000 liters of water.  However, that number pales in comparison to this month’s outstanding result of 55,000 liters of drinking water purified.  Since launching in late May, we’ve cleaned over 200,000 liters of drinking water!  We’ve also performed 2,230 water storage container cleanings.

While Steve, Freddy, and I are very pleased with the impact we’re making in Kibera, we’re hungry for more.  We’re currently looking for funding opportunities that will allow us to expand the number of vendors offering our services.  It will not be operationally difficult for us to double or even triple the number of vendors in our network.  I’m confident that doubling the number of vendors will more than double the amount of water we can purify, as our expansion will give our organization even more credibility and convince some skeptics to give us a try.  Plus, the more people in a given social circle adopt a product, the more social pressure holdouts start to feel to join in.

If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation and help give the people of Kibera access to clean drinking water, please visit www.LifeForceKiosks.org.  As always, we appreciate your support.  It really does make a difference.

My apologies in not posting more updates over the past couple of months, but I’m delighted to present our sales data from our first quarter of operations.  In just three months, Life Force Kiosks has purified 91,260 liters of drinking water in Kibera!  We have also cleaned 1,168 water storage containers.  What’s ever more exciting is our growth:

Month 1:  19,880 liters
Month 2:  29,080 liters
Month 3:   42,300 liters

It’s clear that this model of working with the vendors to purify water right at the point of sale is working.  The Life Force Kiosks model presents an extremely affordable, convenient, effective way to purify water that minimizes the negative impact on taste, and it has been strongly adopted by the community.

In addition to our strong product offering, our local management team has done an incredible job of strengthening our vendor network and generating demand through community marketing campaigns.  We meet regularly with our water vendors to recognize top performers, talk through challenges, and discuss sales goals.  This type of sales support has never been available to the water vendors and they’re growing professionally as well as earning more income for their families while performing an important community service.  Our marketing efforts like our weekly raffles and door-to-door presentations have also been successful at educating the public and creating demand.

Even with the great success we’ve seen over the past few months, everyone at Life Force Kiosks remains confident that our impact can be even greater.  We’re still working with some vendors who have opportunity to improve and are experimenting with new marketing approaches.  In addition, these sales numbers were accomplished despite consistent water outages across our vendor network.  Over time, equipping our vendors with water storage tanks will make their services even more valuable in the community.  In addition, we will be seeking some modest additional funding to hopefully expand our coverage area beyond our existing 10 vendors.

I want to once again thank our generous donors, board members, management team, and everyone else who has supported Life Force Kiosks to date.  We’re rapidly approaching the 100,000 liters mark and we couldn’t have done it without the help of many dedicated people.  This is truly a remarkable success story, and I can’t wait to see it continue to grow from here.

If you are interested in making a donation to Life Force Kiosks, you can easily do so at www.LifeForceKiosks.org.  We are a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in the United States and a registered NGO in Kenya.

Life Force Kiosks customer raffle

Life Force Kiosks customer raffle

Every Sunday, Life Force Kiosks is in the community conducting our raffles.  For anyone new to this blog, I’ll provide a quick overview.  Whenever a customer buys either a water treatment top-up or a jerry can washing from Life Force Kiosks, their sales receipt doubles as a raffle ticket.  This has two substantial benefits.

1.  Raffles are a great demand generation tool, especially here in Kenya.  People just love them here.  So while reducing the risk of waterborne disease might not compelling enough on its own, throwing in the chance to win some fun prizes helps push people over the edge.  Sales shot up dramatically once we implemented our raffles.  This promotion both rewards customers to increase loyalty and creates product awareness and demand among non-users.

2.  The raffles provide motivation for customers to demand a receipt.  This allows us to accurately track sales and collect the appropriate amount from our vendors.   

If you’d like to see Steve in action, below is a video clip capturing a couple of minutes from one of our raffles.  Additional pictures are also available at https://lifeforcekiosks.org/Photo_Album.php or by clicking on the Flickr section on the right side of the page at www.CleanWaterForAll.net

Enjoy!

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