As calls stream into both the Mumbai and Bengaluru offices, young people have already taken the first step toward entering the pipeline for a Be! Fund investment. When a young person calls us up, their ideas range from “I want to start a business and make a difference! What should I do?” all the way to a well-formulated business plan for taking farmers to market. For all of these cases, our Be! Fund team gives them our business-building guide and speaks with them to make sure they fulfill our three basic criteria:
1. Young (Between 18-29)
2. From a low-income background
3. Sufficient market research to prove their for-profit business idea can create a positive social impact and solve a problem in their community.
For young people who fit these criteria but don’t yet know what they want to do, our team asks them to give it some more thought and asks them to call back when they know what they’d like to do. For those young people who do have a developed business idea, team members ask them to come to our office and tell us about their idea. And for us, the candidate’s willingness to travel to our office matters—that’s how someone proves their passion for their business. Over the last year and a half, we’ve learned that people, who aren’t serious about their business idea, just won’t come, so calling people to our office is an important part of the selection process.
After this in-person interview, we continue to gather information from the entrepreneur over the coming weeks or months, supporting him or her along the way about how to do market research and determine whether farmers really will pay 100 rupees for that bag of compost or actually just 75 rupees.
Once all this market research has been collected and a draft business plan created, Be! Fund team members go on a site visit to the candidate’s proposed site to verify the potential profitability and social impact the businesses. This is the stage where we interview family members, community members and potential customers to make sure they are all on board in support of the entrepreneur so that when times get rough, the entrepreneur will be surrounded by a network of support. All of this information is used to finalize a business plan and is presented to the Be! Fund investors. From the initial phone call to Be! investment takes an average of 3-4 months. This gives us time to build an honest, trusting working relationship with the candidate and to make sure the candidate is deeply committed to moving from idea to implementation.
At the end of this process, we are always pleased to announce the new round of hero entrepreneurs that we will invest in and help grow into sustainable for-profit businesses, which will have big positive social impact for their communities.