Will Prochaska is the Director of Alive & Kicking, which is an African social enterprise that creates jobs through manufacturing soccer balls for local children. Prochaska has been working with Alive & Kicking since 2007, after he received a Masters in International Development at SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies) in London. After profiling Alive & Kicking in 2010, Social Business recently interviewed Will Prochaska on how he came to work with Alive & Kicking and what keeps him focused and inspired.
Four Questions with Will Prochaska
1. How did the idea for the business model come about?
The original idea for Alive & Kicking was dreamt up by a school teacher called Jim Cogan (OBE). Jim saw that by using business Alive & Kicking’s impact could be far greater than if it was continually dependent on donations. That said, the business model was not fully robust at Alive & Kicking’s inception and has developed over the years. For example, Alive & Kicking didn’t initially focus on retailing balls, but instead put emphasis on finding donors to pay for the balls to be donated. Over the years the organisation has become more commercial in order to secure its future, and as a result retail has become the most important area for sales.
2. How did you decide to join this sector?
I came to Alive & Kicking through an internship offered to me in 2007. At the time I was finishing a Masters course in International Development at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, so there was a nice fit with my studies. I learnt very little about social enterprise during the course, so now having worked for one it’s something that I think should be centre stage in education about good development practice.
3. How do you get your inspiration?
I get motivated by visiting our stitching centres in Kenya and Zambia, and seeing some of our disabled stitchers producing top quality balls day in day out. The work ethic of some of the worst off people in the world is incredibly humbling and makes everyone else at Alive & Kicking strive to continue to grow the company in order to help more people.
4. How do you reset yourself to be creative? Do you have any rituals?
Finding the space to step back and be creative is one of the hardest things to do in a small social enterprise which demands all the staff be hands on all of the time. I’m lucky in that I can spend up to six weeks of the year at our African operations where I’m able to be away from my desk and speaking to the people who are really making our business happen. The work style in Kenya and Zambia is also different and refreshing from that of the UK. Business there is often done face-to-face and over the phone, and I find that personal interaction helps to bring new ideas out.
The most important thing for me to do is to mix with our young staff in Africa who always have some wild ideas about where Alive & Kicking could be going. Spending time with them and trying to help develop the ideas that they come up with is really exciting.