Where Africa and Technology Collide!

Akalas (aka: Tire Sandals) & Business Lessons

tire sandals: akalasI’m a big guy who grew up running around the bush barefoot in Sudan and Kenya, so it was always hard to find akalas (sandals made from tires) that fit my big wide feet. Maybe that’s why I find this article on Make’s blog so interesting. It details how to make sandals from old tires. The original story came from this website though.

One of my roommates from RVA had an idea to bring Akalas to the US. Have nice designs created, then have them made in Kenya and shipped to the US for sales. They would be a eco-friendly alternative to normal sandals, therefore providing a “story” for marketing and sales. People would buy them to: 1) save the environment, 2) have good looking sandals, and 3) support African manufacturing. Really, a very good idea.

ecosandals logoSo good of an idea in fact, that less than a year later a non-profit called Ecosandals launches. It wasn’t his company, but it was the same idea. They do all that is mentioned above, and do it well.

Business lessons learned:

  • Make sure you have a story to tell with your product/service. People buy stories.
  • If you have a good business idea that you want to (and can) execute, make sure you’re ready to act on it before you tell people what it is

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  1. I too have had many brillant ideas that other companies beat me to. Well, maybe not many. But definitely a couple. I’ve got a brillant idea in my head right now for adaptive equipment for people with swallowing disorders. Every hospital and nursing home would have to have it. I’ll probably see it on the market next month.

    I guess the other lesson I’ve learned is this: whatever brilliant idea you have, someone else is having it too (or has had it). So, that means there will always be competition, which means that exectution on the idea is 80% of the battle.

  2. Ok, another give-away: a bicycle company in TZ that produces a local & qualified alternative to those chinese imports. Cheap labour, inexpensive knowledge (hire 4-6 retired “experts” from Europe), customers through micro-financing/loans deals and a huge market.

    Except for that upcoming boda-boda alternative…(grrrummmblllleee 😉

  3. The sandals on the site were women’s sandals (unless I’m a complete moron, which is likely, and I missed the men’s styles, which is VERY likey). I’m a guy with size 15s attached to my ankles. Where an I get some big men’s akalas?

    You’re right, I didn’t see any mens sandals either. I’m guessing that over the last 10 years of operations that they found out that more women bought their shoes, therefore no need to support the men’s side.

    Anyway, you’re in the same spot as me (though I will note that those 15s outsize me!). You’ll be heading to Kawangware or Kamukunji for some “customs”.

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