It only took seven words for Leila Janah to make an impression.
“I build businesses that measurably fight poverty.”
As a personal mission statement, its directness is refreshing, and Janah’s unshakeable belief in her work is being rewarded. As the founder and CEO of companies which aim to end global poverty, Janah’s vision has seen 35,000 people moved out of poverty, with an average income of two dollars a day quadrupling to eight. While it might not seem like much to the Western world, these are life changing numbers for those in need.
Her business model is focused on work training over charity – think “teach a man to fish” and you’ll get the idea.
“I think we try to focus on solving unaddressed poverty through charity, which hasn't really resulted in the long‑term change we want to see. We need to do it, instead, by building businesses that properly value talent from different parts of the world.”
Janah moved towards this line of thinking after working as a volunteer in Ghana as a teenager and seeing people in a losing situation simply because of where they were born. “I was in Africa as a 17‑year‑old, and feeling like, "Wow, if these people had been born where I had been born, they wouldn't be poor."
The experience motivated her to create programs like Samasource, a non-profit organization that provides project management services through “impact sourcing,” the practice of hiring people in poverty to do digital work.
Another is LXMI, a business that follows the same model as Samasource, only in the category of luxury skincare. These are just two in a family of businesses Janah hopes to build that focus on creating sustainable jobs for the impoverished.
For Janah, it's not about maximizing profit, it's about having enough revenue to cover operating costs. “It's possible to build businesses that employ low‑income people at the base of the supply chain, and do it in a profitable business model. Even if it entails some compromises, it's possible.”
Every day she’s working to impact the lives for thousands of people. Talk about being a force for positive change.
Meet Leila Janah.
“Part of the problem with the whole international aid community and the non‑profit community is it's all about how we feel as the donors, and not about how the people feel who we're trying to help.”
“What we do requires training low‑income people. It requires recruiting people from slums. It requires a lot of stuff that most companies wouldn't be willing to do because it costs more.”
“If you look at any of the data, it shows the only way that people move out of poverty in the long run is through job creation.”
“I think if we don't address global poverty in the short term, we won’t be able to forgive ourselves.”
Follow along with Janah @leilajanah.