Thursday, August 9, 2012

What's keeping Darin busy?


About a month ago, Jonna promised that I would fill everyone in on a new opportunity that was presented to me.  Sorry for the delay, but here you go.

Early in June, I got an email from Lou, a colleague of mine from Michigan who used to be a missionary with the CRC in South Africa and other parts of Africa for many years.  He has been somewhat involved with our gas station venture as well; I had gone to him for advice on the investment because of his background here in SA.  For the last two years, Lou has been working as the international marketing director for Sawyer Products, a Florida based company.  Sawyer manufactures water filtration products that were designed for taking into underdeveloped areas where safe, clean water isn’t available.  Lou had been all over Africa and had contacts in many countries, so he was a great choice for this role since the product is also heavily tied to missions. 

Lou was looking for some help in SA to get the Sawyer filters in front of non-profit and mission organizations.  There was a gentleman named Carel(pronounced liked Carl) that had been working with Lou here in SA for about a year and had made some progress, but Lou wanted to increase the time and effort here.   Lou visited SA in the middle of June and I spent half of 3 straight days meeting with him and Carel to talk about what I could bring to the table.  After Lou left, Jonna and I talked about the opportunity for about a week before deciding it seemed like a great thing for me to get involved in.  With the future of our petrol station still up in the air, having some income from this would make it a little easier for us to wait for the resolution of the issues holding that up as well.   

So while we stayed in Pretoria at the house of our friends for a week at the end of June where there was unlimited internet, I gave myself a crash course on water filtration and products that were available here.  Since that time, I have been meeting with Carel once or twice a week as we plan our next 6 months strategy.  I have been making contacts with many organizations and visiting people in the townships around here to find out more about the local water situation. 

Carel and I have already taken on another gentleman named Blessing to work with us.  He just spent 3+ weeks up in Zimbabwe meeting with organizations there that can possibly use our products.  I’m also developing a marketing plan with a man who lives in a township north of Hammanskraal.  He saw the filter, committed to buying one before he even knew the price, and a week later told me he was quitting his job as an architect so he could devote more time to work as a distributor for us in the local villages!  It is exciting to already see the big potential for job creation after only a couple of months.    

While the filters were designed with missions in mind and that will be a big part of our focus, there are also recreational product applications that we hope to investigate as well.  In the US, Sawyer filters are sold in Walmart, REI stores, Cabella’s, etc for campers, hikers and fishermen who want to drink safe water when they are out of reach of a good water supply.  With South Africa being more developed than other African countries and with a big outdoor, tourist economy, we plan to target some of the wealthier population who could use the products in that way.

Investing in the gas station was never about a dream to run a business like that.  It was about providing us with income while we volunteered in South Africa and about having an opportunity to participate in a newer area of Christian witnessing known as Business As Mission.  I see this opportunity with Sawyer as being an even greater example of that model as not only will we be creating jobs and supporting the local economy through our business work, but our products literally save lives and in some cases help missionaries reach people by first providing for the physical need of clean water and then later opening the door to be able to share the Gospel with them.  To help Carel and I as we build the business, we have been accepted as an official Partners Worldwide project.  This is an organization started under the CRC that connects entrepreneurs in the US with business startups around the world to help create jobs for the poor.  We will have a couple mentors in the US that will help us with planning and strategy and a greater network of Christians to tap into for advice and contacts in our work.   

We are excited about this new direction in which God has pointed me.  After almost a year of not having any real work to do, it feels great to again be able to put into practice some of what I’ve learned in my 10+ years of business experience.  This has the potential down the road to fully support our family here in SA while we continue our other volunteer work in the Hammanskraal area.  But at least for the first six months as we get this going, we will still need to rely on the support of others who believe in what we are doing in South Africa.  More to come on that topic next week. 

Please pray with us that God will bless this work and that we can see many great things come out of it!  If you want to see more about the products and the impact they have had across the globe, please go to http://www.sawyersaves.com.       

1 comment:

ememby.com said...

That is super exciting to read about - what a great example of how God provides the things we need at the times when we need them! Can't wait to hear more about this!