Motorcycle Diaries: choosing how to grow

January 08, 2019

One of the first Last Mile Learning posts, a series launched in 2018, examined the critical role motorbikes play in scaling up entrepreneur’s clean energy businesses. A year later, we explore how this mobility played out very differently with two entrepreneurs with motorbikes over the past year. Read on to find out what it means to grow a business in rural Nigeria. 

One year later

At the end of 2017, Solar Sister offered two top Nigeria entrepreneurs, Mercy Paul and Victoria Okoye, motorbikes in recognition of their performance and to help them grow their budding businesses. Solar Sister recruited Mercy through a partnership with Women for Women International, who is a representative for her Village Savings and Loan group in Plateau State, northern Nigeria. Victoria, who lives in Anambra State in southeastern Nigeria is the secretary of her local women’s group. Both entrepreneurs received the same motorbikes, but each one has used it to develop their businesses in unique ways.

Top Solar Sister entrepreneur Mercy tests out her new motorbike!
To diversify or to sell more?

Mercy chose to use her new motorbike to diversify the types of products she is selling. She increased her cookstoves inventory by 63% and solar home systems by 800%. By moving up the energy ladder, Mercy was able to charge higher mark-ups and also reach new types of customers with different products. She increased her annual sales revenues by 169% while her total products sold stayed about the same. Her average price per product increased exponentially – from almost $15 to over $41.

[The motorbike] has changed what customers I was targeting, because I can now reach out to different people like community and women leaders, at their communities, houses and even their doorsteps — Mercy

Victoria chose a different growth pathway. She still saw increases in her sales revenues: a 33% growth from 2017 to 2018. But rather than choosing to diversify her product portfolio, she largely achieved growth through selling a higher volume of product. In 2017, Victoria sold a total of 351 products and in 2018, she sold 580. Her average price per product actually decreased by 19%.

The motorbike has increased the growth of my business tremendously. The [logo] painting [on the bike] alone makes people to ask questions on their own about Solar Sister and I use that avenue to introduce my business and products to them. — Victoria

It is clear that a motorbike helped each of these entrepreneurs reach new customers, market their businesses, and reduce time spent on travel. The results show us too that entrepreneurs are creative, knowledgeable and smart about how to grow their businesses when they are given key tools, such as a reliable means of transport.

Table showing each entrepreneur's business growth over time

Victoria and Mercy chose different paths and strategies to grow their businesses.  This showcases an important part of Solar Sister’s approach: critical decisions are in the hands of the entrepreneur. From the types of products she sells, to the ways she markets them, to the margins she charges – these are all choices made by each entrepreneur according to her environment and needs. For Solar Sister it’s important to support entrepreneurs with essential tools and training and also leverage entrepreneurs’ critical local knowledge, intuition, and creativity. 


Last Mile Learning is a monthly blog series conceived and started by Grants and Impact Manager, Abby Mackey. This is Abby’s last post in the series as she has moved on to a graduate program – we wish her all the best!