Q1 2016: Done!

Let me start by welcoming the month of May. The first quarter of the year has just ended and we are entering another quarter. When I look back at this past month, I can say a lot has happened. For starters this was my first month in LishaBora and in some sense let me say am celebrating my first work anniversary. Cheers to me. After a month in this company, I can honestly say am happy with my job and excited about our mission in Githunguri.

April was a lot of work for me. I have adjusted to the working environment and learned to find solutions at the same time. I have also developed customer retention, sales and marketing strategy outlines for the year. This month we had contracts ending before the month ended while at the same time trying to push sales. I have had to motivate myself especially because it is challenging trying to help people fully understand what is hydroponics, how it works, why we deliver daily other than in sacks and the nutritional value of the barley grass. In sales, you follow the leads and base your decisions on your experience. At times you carry a sample show them what it is attempt to find a payment solution only for them to say they don’t want. It is during such times that you need and call for divine wisdom...and patience. Let us say I became a leader this month.


With all this learning, I tried to find a solution: a greenhouse Open Day. The event was held on  April 23rd and from it, we got eight more cows for the month of May, or about 50% of the customers that came, bought. What I loved to see most about the event is that people realized the problems they had with the current animal feeds and their measuring strategies. I also learned that we, as salespeople, have to be transparent about our product. The Open Day was a way to gain the trust of the people as well as educate them on current technologies, why we use hydroponics and best practices in cow management. All I can say the open day was a success. I also attended a Sales and Marketing Training at Strathmore Business School. What I loved most about the training is the solutions it brought which I can apply to LishaBora. So far, we already have this year Sales and Marketing strategies ready and I am excited about it. Stick around our Facebook page (LishaBora hydroponics) for updates or our website (www.lishabora.com) for more details.

We also would like to take this time to introduce to everyone Emily. She is coming from another small social enterprise where she worked to sorted out their accounts. After joining us in the first week of April, Emily has done tremendous work in sorting our accounts out. She has gone through all the receipts, is compiling reports and will be able to generate historic P&Ls and Balance sheets soon. Adding a level of financial finesse is something that LishaBora has needed for some time, Thank you Emily! 

The Mercy of Selling

Life's a journey. A strange journey with no road signs to direct you but rather people who help move you along. My journey began on February 1991 a second born girl of a wonderful couple. I was born in Nairobi, I grew up, I attended school and lived in Nairobi my whole life in Nairobi. I attended Campus at the Daystar University, Athi River Campus where I graduated with a Bachelors of Arts in Community Development with a minor in Psychology. I have always wanted to assist people, projects and initiatives. The road to achieve that dream was not easy but eventually I found myself here at LishaBora Hydroponics in Githunguri Kiambu County.

 

 

My name is Mercy Mukami and I am the Sales and Marketing Manager. I have always loved sales, mostly because it means I get the chance to interact with people. I also love sales because I hate office work. I believe God gave me a heart for people and not for a desk. I have been doing sales since 2009 when I completed high school and continued with it until I reached university. Afterwards, I did an internship with an NGO and got my second job as a Sales Executive in a car tracking company. What I like most about working with LishaBora is that I have a chance to make a difference in the lives of farmers. They struggle from the high-cost and low quality of feeds and the lack of knowledge on how to care for cows or their nutritional requirements. The other reason why I love my current job is that I get to be away from city life. Do not get me wrong, city life is great. Its an endless supply of all types of things food, clothes and entertainment. It’s like Nakumatt slogan: You need it, we got it. However, it can get exhausting when you have to push, pull and fight just to move from one place to another or get something. Thus, when I got the call to move from Nairobi to Githunguri I did not hesitate.


One of the job requirements at LishaBora is to help the company with its expansion plans and to develop both the sales and the customer management systems. In April we will be expanding our current capacity from 5-10 customers (13-30 cows). We are planning to expand again in May to meet the needs of ~20 customers and feed almost 80 cows. This is all very exciting as it has never been done before. I guess I will super busy but please stick around to whiteness all these.

 

A Pivot by Any Other Name

Wow! A lot as happened in the last few weeks. After getting back from our Christmas holiday we have constructed a new greenhouse on a piece of land which we've recently leased in an area with hundreds of farmers. Most of them are members of the Palmhouse Dairy Ltd. who we have signed an MOU with in order to sell our products to their customers and gain access to their data in return for helping their farmers increase milk production.

Our swanky new greenhouse, though we are making a lot of modifications, this will work till we get up to scale. 

Our swanky new greenhouse, though we are making a lot of modifications, this will work till we get up to scale. 

But, above all that on Tuesday the 9th of February, we launched a new product on the market. Taking from a lot of learnings that we gathered from our previous customers over the last nine months of selling hydroponic barley fodder to smallholder dairy farmers, we have decided to formulate a complete feed solution and sell it on a subscription basis in order to help farmers overcome many of the challenges they are facing.

All the different pieces to the concentrates we add to the fodder for the complete solution. The bucket on the scale is 920g of mixture, enough for one cow for one day. The coke bottle has molasses, not coke in it. 

All the different pieces to the concentrates we add to the fodder for the complete solution. The bucket on the scale is 920g of mixture, enough for one cow for one day. The coke bottle has molasses, not coke in it. 

The challenges faced by smallholder dairy farmers today are oriented around education and understanding as well as access. By building a product that is a complete feed solution and selling it to the farmers in a controlled and measured way we are overcoming the challenges of understand what types of feeds to use for what type of cow and when or how. Let alone determining which brand to use or which types of feeds go best with what other feeds. It's enough to make one's head spin.

Charles, an enthusiastic farmer and friend, is helping me introduce the product to some of the other farmers. 

Charles, an enthusiastic farmer and friend, is helping me introduce the product to some of the other farmers. 

I spent five days walking around and introducing myself and our new products to customers around the Nyamuthanga area (Just north of Githunguri town). Of the 20+ customers that I visited, without ever having seen or used the product, five of them decided to put money on the table, and buy it. That number would be higher but five customers with 13 cows is the most we can currently feed with the capacity of our greenhouse. This represents almost 650 USD of revenue for the company or 70% of the revenue that we've generated during the previous nine months we sold our old product.

The company is growing in other new and exciting ways as well. We are hiring an accountant in order to tighten up our books and prepare for on-boarding investment. We are also hiring a sales manager in order to manage new and existing customers and to manage follow-up service. They will also be responsible for doing the marketing and educational components for our services.

While we are currently conducting our baseline survey, it was with one of the candidates for the sales and marketing manager that I spoke with our very first client Bebe ya (wife to) Francis, who has told us that her milk has been increasing since she started using our product on Tuesday the ninth, just 11 days ago. After a few leading questions she told us that her cow had been producing 6 L of milk prior to us feeding it and is now producing over 7 1/2 L of milk per day, almost a 25% increase. While this data is not substantiated, I do know that she is very very happy with the product and is excited to continue using it for a long time to come.

Graham, feeding some of the newly formulated complete solution to Bebe Ya Francis' cows

Graham, feeding some of the newly formulated complete solution to Bebe Ya Francis' cows

In other news we are coming closer and closer to closing around of investment in order to fund the company through mid 2017 and build out an additional 3 to 4 greenhouse systems. We hope to, by the end of March, have our first system fully operational generating between 3,000 and 4,000 USD each month.We intend to operate the system for an additional 1 to 2 months in order to appropriately assess the business case as well the impact that our systems are having prior to on boarding this funding.

Joris from HRSV measuring out 920 grams of mixture that we added to 6kg of fodder and then took down the road to feed to some hungry cows

Joris from HRSV measuring out 920 grams of mixture that we added to 6kg of fodder and then took down the road to feed to some hungry cows

Overall we feel that at this point in time with our new product on the market, our new hydroponic technology working very well, reaching yields appropriate to allow a business to take first steps toward scaling and providing us with ample revenue to meet the demands of our business, that LishaBora is at a pivotal moment in its young but aspiring life to launch from here to a much larger, more impactful and industry-disrupting business. We are excited that you are continuing to follow us and are happy to share this wonderful news with you. Thank you!

 

 

Real Micro-economics of small-holder dairy farmers in Githunguri (Part 1)

Real Micro-economics of small-holder dairy farmers in Githunguri (Part 1)

An attempt to describe the economic challenges faced by the small-holder dairy farmers in the Githunguri region of Kenya.  Included in this blog post are real dairy production numbers of six farmers studied and emphasis given to two farmers in particular who will be studied further in Part 2.

Yielding High Yields

Original Posting July 1, 2015 - Content moved August 13, 2015

We have been busy doing business with the Devil. While it may seem extreme, for March and April, mold, specifically white Aspergillus, has been making our beautiful lush fodder into stinky cesspool-like goo that we are using to get on the better side of some of the neighborhood pigs. While we are making good friends with pigs, it is costing us a lot. 20-30% of all the seeds we plant were being lost to molds. In order to combat this mold we have done a lot of research and have decided that the best way to fight it is to make an environment that it does not thrive in.

Most people are in agreement when they say that mold does not prosper or grow when the humidity is bellow 70%. The best way to get rid of humidity is ventilation and remove the water source. Relative humidity is determined by how much water the air can hold and how much water is in the air. In order to reduce the humidity of the greenhouse, we have cemented the floor, built a gutter system to collect water, put a new (not leaky) roof on, altered the design of the greenhouse in order to maximize evaporation and venting including raising the roof by three meters. All this on top of a complete overhaul of our routines has greatly reduced the humidity and is winning the fight with mold. This has not been the only story we have been able to tell over the course of the past few weeks and months. This month we were able to achieve, through careful irrigation techniques a record of 6.4kg of fodder from one kg of barley grain. When we are talking to other players in the Kenyan market they all claim 5-7kgs but I have yet to see anyone do more than 5. The industry standard, based on readings from the US and India primarily is 7kg of fodder from 1kg of grain. For LishaBora to be really successful, we need to achieve 6 on average. Right now we have a lot of up-hill battles to fight but we are getting there. Now that we have solved the mold problem we will be able to really get ourselves up to around 6 and that’s with little or no automation.

A mold spot on the underside of a mat. They start in the middle and grow down and then up, so they are often there before you can see them when looking from above. Sneaky.

A mold spot on the underside of a mat. They start in the middle and grow down and then up, so they are often there before you can see them when looking from above. Sneaky.

To be able to do this, we have hired Lucy. A 37-year old, hard-working and ambitious mother of four children between ages of four and 18. She walks 4km to work each day. Lucy works for us seven days a week (though we offered six, she really wanted to get the extra day, which we are fine with). She was brought on in order to help with getting into a better routine for the greenhouse. Since Ester is doing more marketing, operations and customer service, we really need more hands on deck. She has been a God send. This has led us to get more customers trying our fodder and paying for it as well. We have not done very much marketing and probably wont until we have really stable production, but we are starting to get people’s attention. We have done a lot of new things in the past few months including completely changing our irrigation system and tray design, conducting both base-line and follow-up surveys in order to measure more accurately the impact we are having and have started reaching out to farmers in new regions in order to see how customers mindsets and interests change when you start talking to more business-orients dairy farmers. 

Cutting a fodder mat into small pieces to take as samples to potential customers.

Cutting a fodder mat into small pieces to take as samples to potential customers.


The Problems We Solve

Originally Posted May 7, 2015 - Content moved August 13, 2015

At its core, a company or business is a group of people collectively trying to solve a problem in society in return for money. The definition of “problem” is quite broad in this context. There is nothing that people have not built a business around in one way or another, but there are problems that have yet to be solved.

If this is true, then in order to start a business, you need to first find the problem you are going to solve. For LishaBora, it was a sudden realization that everyone I talked to about feed for dairy cows complained about it or was rich enough not to care. Beyond that, they spent a disproportionate amount of money (sometimes more than what they earned) to feed the cow each day. Upon having conversations with people, I found there to be three main problems that manifested into one:

1. Dairy meal is absurdly expensive in comparison to the benefit that it brings. Another point to all this is that, yes, if you solve a problem people will pay for it. However, if you do it in such a way that people only marginally benefit, you are really just trading one problem for another. A farmer uses around three to four kilos of Dairy Meal each day to feed one cow, depending on the type of container he uses to scoop it with. (That is how they do the nutrient measurements for cows in rural areas.). One kilo of the cheapest meal I have seen from a producer on the market is KES 28. That means the farmer spends KES 84-112 per day. Mind you that this is often 1 of 3 things the farmer feeds the cow, others often costing either time, money, or both. On average, smallholder farmers (70% of the dairy production in Kenya or 5% of the GDP) produce 4-6 liters of milk per day per cow, some less than two. This milk can be sold on the formal market for KES 35 or the informal market for KES 50. That means, if they get 6 liters of milk, using just 3 kilos of dairy meal and sell it on the informal market, they get KES 216 (2.30 USD) per day per cow. If they use expensive dairy meal, sell on the formal market and still make the same yields they get just KES 70 if they are lucky.

Ester, our first employee, proudly posing with her fodder roll.

Ester, our first employee, proudly posing with her fodder roll.

2. Current feeds are of inherently poor quality. It is an interesting thing, growth. When a company grows, its management gets higher and higher off the ground. For example, how many times do you think the CEO of McDonalds stands in line with the regular people and orders a burger? I don’t know him. He very well may do it every day, but it’s unlikely. The higher off the ground they get the more their decisions are governed by the business rather than the impact or what their customers feel and think about the product. Pembe is probably the largest dairy meal company in Kenya no matter how you measure it. I highly doubt they are going to get down to the smallholder farmer level to get feedback, let alone implement the feedback they receive to try and change what they do to cater to those wants and needs.

3. There is a lot of mistrust in the market. Ask any farmer who is not making their own feeds and they will tell you that what is for sale in the market is very poor quality. Ask any vet or nutritionist and they will tell you the same. Ask the manufacturer and they will tell you it’s the best. They can’t tell you why, or what’s in it that makes it the best or anything at all about the product, not even the nutritional information, but they know it’s the best. This leaves everyone who uses it in the dark, turning the choice of dairy meal from logic into trial and error. To exacerbate the problem, companies change their products, shifting the goal posts for farmers. Farmers often buy a new product on the market for a while, and then stop. They explain that businesses produce high quality products to get early customers then reduce the nutrients over time to grow margins. I talked with Martin Kinoy who runs Nutramix, a company that does nutritional analysis and builds recipes for companies to follow when making dairy meal. It was an interesting conversation because he knows that people don’t follow the recipes he provides because they order things in the wrong ratios, and he knows, because he works for KEBS (Kenya Bureau of Standards) that there is zero regulation or accountability in the market.

A woman cutting grass off the side of the road for her cow to eat.

A woman cutting grass off the side of the road for her cow to eat.

So the problem is three fold: Cost prohibitive, Poor quality, and Mistrust. So the question then becomes, can we bring a product to the market that is cost effective, high quality and something people can learn to trust? Well, yes, and we are. While the first seems to be a question of product-market fit, the trust issue is a more interesting thing that we are going to have to overcome. While we have ideas about how to make it work, starting with (this may hurt) a foreigner bringing the product, providing people with a test to see if it helps them before they buy, encouraging people to talk about it to their (trusting) friends and possibly, telling people what’s actually IN the stuff! We are very excited about this product and so are the customers. We have gotten good reviews and everything seems to be on track. It’s all just keeping your head down and remembering the problem that you are here to solve.

And Into the Future We Go!

Originally posted March 7, 2015 - content moved August 13, 2015

February has been a busy month. January has been as well for that matter. In January we had an empty piece of land and an idea. Little more than that to prove we were entrepreneurs. Today we are producing 30 kgs of fodder each day and have one customer. While some companies are in idea phase for years before they are able to produce their first product, we are not one of those companies.

This was the initial style of system that we built, though this is the third iteration.

This was the initial style of system that we built, though this is the third iteration.

In the two months since our last update, we have built five different types of hydroponic systems, tried an equal number of irrigation methods, and produced over 50 iterations of our product based on variables we changed, such as volume of water, flow rate, sunlight and angle, and width and length of trays. We have changed everything from the source and cleanliness of the water and our sanitizing mediums, to the gauge of aluminum sheeting that we are using to manufacture trays for testing alternative irrigation methods.

If there is one thing that we have proven beyond any shadow of a doubt – this technology is deceivingly complex, and managing it is far more complicated than many local players have imagined. This greatly reinforces our belief that the technology is too complicated for farmers to self manage.

Today we have a greenhouse on the land we are renting and three types of hydroponic systems that are each able to produce around 30 kg of fodder per day. The systems are metal, since as a building material it is so much more precise and stronger than anything else, and the price is not much more. To manage them, we have hired a woman named Esther (see Photo 1, below).

Ester is wonderful and very helpful. We greatly appreciate her work. She is responsible for irrigation, cleaning, soaking, germinating and planting the seeds. When she harvests the fodder each day, she finds a new potential customer each time to give a free sample to and tell them about the product. She sometimes brings samples back to repeat customers to see how the cow’s interest in the fodder changes. It turns out the cows, like humans, are shy of new foods, but once they know they like it, they happily eat it.

This week I signed up our first prospective paying customer. They will not pay yet, though. We will deliver the fodder to them each day, and they will give us feedback, Once we prove our product, they will pay. As we show them that our fodder is better then the feed they are using today, we will, as he said, “have trouble producing enough” since everyone here speaks one language – milk production. While I know that they speak several languages and one of them is cost, these are encouraging words (see Photo 2, below- Steven is a farmer trialing the fodder).

This marks the official launch of our market and product trials. We learn more every day than we knew the day before. That is, in the end, the goal of the trials. We will sign up one or two customers a week for the next few weeks, matching this with development of production. By the end of March we hope to build out the system and start being able to charge customers for the product.

In March, we want to answer one question: Will people see enough value in the product to pay for it?

While this may seem a simple question, its importance to the company’s success is paramount. Most customers are very excited about it and seem to see the benefits clearly. What they need to be shown is the additional milk production they will have and cost of the product. Suddenly, all future challenges will be welcomed with open arms, dwarfed by the confidence we will have. I personally am very much looking forward to that day. Once that question is clearly answered, huge potentials will open for partnerships, market access, and funding.

So far, we have done well at looking into the opportunities that await this business. Just today, I had a wonderful conversation with an organization that is looking at bringing remote cow health monitoring technology to Kenya. One thing they would do is monitor the health of the cow and then suggest feeding regimens for the animal, with almost immediate feedback given to farmers on what to change based on the health of the animal. To do this, they will analyze the feeds on the Kenyan market, then suggest alternative feeds that would better meet the cow’s needs. I see the link is clear.

We have gone around to introduce the product to over 50 potential customers now. We will choose ten to use as tests this month and monitor how they like the product (see Photo 3, below).

Juhudi Kilimo is a very large finance institution that lends to smallholder farmers for agricultural inputs (this is over simplified, and for that I am sorry; they do a huge amount of amazing things, too many for this simple blog I fear). With access to hundreds and thousands of farmers, they would be an excellent partner for deeper market testing and potential scale. While we are in too early a stage to fully partner with them now, they have reached out a helping hand to help get the product to market. This is tremendously helpful and encouraging.

This and so many other conversations with Land-O-Lakes, TechnoServe, and several potential funders have created a positive tone for the potential of the business and the breadth of the problem we aim to solve.

We have accomplished a lot on the business organization side as well. On January 30th, 2015 we were officially registered as LishaBora Hydroponics Ltd. We have been pledged over USD 26,000 in funding and will be receiving a long-term fellow from Engineers Without Borders Canada in May. This, coupled with the traction we have already seen on the production side of the company paints a picture of tremendous potential through diverse partnerships that will help us with technology, funding, access to market, and business development.

The First Steps are Often the Most Challenging

Originally posted on December 23, 2014 - content moved August 13, 2015

Getting ready to start a company is odd. It is essentially getting ready for the rest of your life. Dauntingly complicated and dizzyingly large, the tasks seem to be the offspring of Medusa, multiplying as they are completed. Not only that, but having to make vital decisions you have never made before, concerning things you know little about under pressure. Scary! This is a bit of what we have done so far.

We have developed a three-phase pilot program to test if this business is going to be viable:

  1. Technical Trial– test whether we can grow hydroponic fodder, how best to grow it, and different irrigation methods we can use
  2. Product Trial– test the quality and consistency of the product in order to assure that it is better than what is on the market, what affects the quality and that will we be able to consistently deliver a high level of quality
  3. Market Trial– we will start to sell it to customers and learn the best price point, market position and most effective marketing techniques. During this trial, we will see if farmers are willing to buy it, if they can see the benefits it brings, and if we can measure those benefits to show impact.

I have been working with Bas, my friend from the Netherlands, who is going to be with me for two months to help get LishaBora going and run the technical and product trials. We have been planning for January and February in order to figure out the best way to utilize the time including what tests we should run, what our success metrics are, and the procedures for running the pilot. This has helped a lot already in thinking about problems we might face and how to overcome them. Besides working with Bas, I have been doing some of the leg work to prepare for when we start in January.

Last week I concentrated on procuring land on which to start. We need enough space to have a system that can produce 500kgs of fodder each day. Right now we are estimating that we can fit this in about 100 square meters, or 10m x 10m. I went to meet my friend Peter Kanyoni, in Ndumberi, just north of Kiambu Town.

Peter Kanyoni in front of the gate for the land that he is letting us use.

Peter Kanyoni in front of the gate for the land that he is letting us use.

The site is excellent. The land is positioned on a fairly major road where there is easy access by cars and lots of foot traffic. When I took Bernard, the horticultural student who is helping with local knowledge and to build the greenhouse, to see the area, the church across the road was just letting out and there were people everywhere. Public awareness is important for marketing, since even when we are getting started, people will be aware of the things we are doing, get interested and then when we are ready to sell, they will be ready to try out the product.

View from the road when standing at the gate

View from the road when standing at the gate

Bernard, carefully trying to make sure we have enough space for the greenhouse, and me standing with.

Bernard, carefully trying to make sure we have enough space for the greenhouse, and me standing with.

Bernard and his wife on the well that is in the corner of the property

Bernard and his wife on the well that is in the corner of the property

Besides reserving the land on which to start this journey, we have also done a lot on the business side of things. Bas and I have planned out the initial system and developed the tests that we are going to run for the first two months in order to complete the Technical and Product trials. We are also getting a lot of quotes.

Kevin is a young boy who is being sponsored by Niraj and his family. Since he is in between school terms, he has been available to help with some running around. I have had him go and get prices and find suppliers for all the pieces that we are going to need in order to run the pilot program in January. This has proven to be very helpful since it has highlighted that some things should not be bought in Kenya (moisture sensors are $800 here but I can buy them for $20 in the US) When we get back from Christmas break, we will send him around with a pick-up truck to buy the different pieces he is sourcing now.

It feels good to get all these parts in place, readying ourselves for when operations start. Though we have gotten a lot done, there is still so much to do. It seems the harder we work, the more work we have to do. I guess this is part of being an entrepreneur.

This past Saturday, Engineers Without Borders Canada (EWB) has confirmed that they are interested in funding LishaBora and placing a long-term fellow in the company for up to 20 months. This is great news, since it will help launch the company and get things moving quickly.

All this has intensified my excitement in getting LishaBora started. Seeing that other people are also excited about the idea helps me feel confident moving forward.

Getting an Idea

Originally posted November 24, 2014 - content moved August 13, 2015

Working and living in rural Kenya is so much richer an experience than living just next door. After spending almost two years in rural Central Kenya, I have the deep set belief that if you want to help a socio-economic bracket, you need to live with them and work with them hand in hand, be their friends and spend time with their children. Through doing this, you find out what makes them happy, what their interests are and what challenges they face.

A co-worker, Joseph Wambugu, initially gave me the idea of doing a hydroponic system when he took a course and said it was amazing. Talking about it with him, I realized that it could be a business. For any business it needs to have two pieces: it has to solve a problem and it has to make money.

Hydroponics could do both quite well. First off, it is very simple technology at first but can be very scientific and complicated when turning it into a business. The good part is, it is very low cost and does not require unique or hard to find materials. Second, it produces something that is in dire need across East Africa: high quality feed stock for dairy cows.

After thinking about this idea for a few days, I realised that it had potential. I set out over the course of the next month to answer three questions:

  1. What were the details of the problem that farmers are facing with their feeds
  2. Can hydroponics really solve these problems
  3. Can it become a real business. i.e. make money.

By spending time doing work with Takamoto, it was very easy to spend three minutes here and there each day talking to the clients I was interacting with and asking them about the problems that  they were facing. It became paralysingly clear to me that the problem was there and that it was a major reason why these farmers have been suppressed by the glass ceiling of poverty. I had determined that the problem was real.

During the same course of time, I was researching the solution on the internet and meeting with  people who currently worked with hydroponics in order to see if the problems I was finding in the field and the solutions I was finding were true. I met with two companies that were doing hydroponics in Kenya, joined LinkedIn groups and connected with people from around the world who ran hydroponic systems. I read as many articles as I could find that would support my case or try and prove it wrong.  I found that I was not and that hydroponics offered a solution.

Two weeks later, on a weekend excision with Naomi, my girlfriend, I registered the URL http://www.lishabora.com, and set out on the long path of founding a company.