Discover how a new idea led to anti-malaria soap

Two students studying at the International Institute for Water and Environmental Engineering in Burkina Faso have come up with the idea for an anti-malaria soap.

Noctar Dembele and Gerard Niyondiko entered the Global Social Venture Competition (GSVC) launched by Berkeley MBA students. They beat 650 competitors from about 40 countries. It’s the first time an entry from Africa has won the competition.

They have taken their idea and transformed it into a product to have a positive social impact. Tests and trials are still to follow as well as commercialisation.

The “Fasoap” is made from local herbs and natural ingredients such as shea butter and essential lemongrass oil. The soap leaves a scent on the skin that repels mosquitoes and claims to prevent the development of mosquito larvae.

I find this new idea transformed into a product is a good example of how start-up owners and entrepreneurs go about taking their idea and turning it into a product or service.

The idea for the soap has become a reality with the development of the first soap bars. But further work is required. The soap is now undergoing clinical trials to optimise the product. CNN reported that the aim is to enter the market by 2015.

With an over-the-counter self-medication product like this the entrepreneurs will need to focus on verification and assurance of their claims made about the product. Malaria is a serious disease that leads to death. Customers such as non-governmental organisations may feel more comfortable with published scientific evidence that the soap produces malaria transmission.

When product performance has been established, the actual business plan will need to be developed. An important part of this plan will be market testing to determine consumer acceptance. NGOs and companies have expressed interest in distribution so these could be valuable partnerships.

For start-up and kitchen table entrepreneurs you may want to consider low-cost ways to test your product such as approaching a small group of potential prospects in your target market.

Entrepreneurs can also create a “minimum viable product” and get pre-orders for it. If you don’t get orders, you can stop further development, determine what went wrong and make necessary changes or adjustments. Real sales to customers ultimately will determine if a product is successful or not.

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