CEO Deepti Mathew Reflects On Her First Months At SBS
Dear Friends and Partners,
In my first days with Street Business School, I’ve enjoyed meeting with and getting to know the team, donors, partners, and SBS graduates. I am heading into my third month with SBS with as much enthusiasm as when I began the role. I would like to share with you why I find SBS so inspiring, and why I’m so excited to lead the organization into the next phase of growth and impact.
EQUITY & OPPORTUNITY
One of the things that initially excited me about the job opportunity with Street Business School was the connection I felt with the organization. The role not only connected with my skills or experience, but it also resonated with my heart and soul.
Growing up as a girl and as a young woman in India, Tanzania, and Cameroon made me conscious that women simply don’t get the same opportunities as men do. To be part of an organization that actually creates those avenues, those doors that women themselves can walk through, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I feel privileged to lead this organization.
Despite the gender inequities that I experienced, as I grew into adulthood, I knew that I had access to opportunities that many around me did not. When I was graduating from business school, my classmates and I felt incredibly successful and proud of ourselves. One day, one of our professors asked us, “Do you know any of the five villages that are just outside of this business school?” We shrugged and said that we didn’t. We didn’t often go beyond the campus, much less to any of those villages. He replied, “In each of these villages there are at least 50 boys and girls who are smarter than you, who are more capable than you, that have more grit and more resilience than you. The only difference is that they are in those villages and not just a few kilometers away in this business school.”
This was my first wake up call. It laid the foundation for me wanting to spend my career making sure that everybody had similar opportunities.
THE PATH OUT OF POVERTY
When I was going through the recruitment process for this role, I was amazed as I started my research on SBS. I learned that the organization has clear independently verified data to evidence the positive impact of its program. And this is something I haven’t seen in most NGOs, especially at SBS’s stage of growth.
A Randomized Control Trial (RCT) is the gold standard in terms of proving impact. The results that SBS achieved – even though part of the data was collected during the pandemic – evidences that the women who joined an SBS training program were able to more than double their incomes.
During recent calls with donors – whether individual donors or big institutional funders – I learned that these results are not overlooked, on the contrary, our donors were impressed by the impactful results of SBS.
Another aspect of SBS that truly impresses me is the scale model. We are developing the muscle and capability to partner with other NGOs and transfer our curriculum and methodologies to them, so their programs can be effective.
Nevertheless, as I went through the selection process, and I talked to friends and networks about SBS, I realized that not many people knew about this organization’s work. It was interesting to learn that here is an organization that can truly demonstrate that women’s entrepreneurship is a viable and scalable path out of poverty, but still, not nearly enough people have heard of it.
I believe that SBS is the world’s best-kept secret. We should be telling the stories of the thousands of women whom we have helped move out of poverty. We should be shouting from the rooftops, telling the world about these stories. This is something we will change as we move to the next stage of growth.
LEADING WITH LOVE
Over the last few months, I had the opportunity to meet a lot of the SBS team members in the US and in Uganda, and some of our partners.
It was during this short time learning more about SBS and its members, that I encounter what truly stands out from other organizations that I’ve worked in – their incredible set of values.
Leading with love, and focusing on human dignity… these values weren’t something that I had encountered in my career.
After having engaged with and talked to some of the members of SBS, I realized that these values run deep in SBS’s DNA. You can see it not just in how they treat each other but in how the program for the women we serve is designed.
These core values are really powerful. They are the amazing legacy that Devin has left to SBS. A legacy that we intend to consciously carry forward into the future.
I’m excited not only for the path we are on and the prospect of reaching 1 million women, but about where we are today. This is an organization with deep capabilities, the curriculum is rock solid, and the processes and systems are very well thought out and quite efficient for an organization of this size.
It is an amazing joy and privilege to get to lead such a powerful and capable team.
THE PATH AHEAD
We have a clear goal over the next three years – to reach 150,000 women and in that way impact a quarter of a million people and help them move out of poverty.
One of the biggest priorities we see moving forward is to scale our impact by growing our network of partners to whom we will constantly add value. These could be small frontline NGOs that are working at the grassroots across all the SDGs, or they could be bigger international NGOs.
We will continue to bring SBS to new geographies. We will expand into South America, and we will continue to grow within West Africa, South and Southeast Asia, and even central Europe.
And as we are expanding our partner network throughout the globe, we are also becoming much more of a global team. And as we continue to grow, I look forward to continuing to share our exciting progress and our updates with you.
Chief Executive Officer
Street Business School