(unfortunately, the name leaves off the final "s" in "solutions", but it still gets our name out there)
So we didn't quite get it together by 8am, but that was OK because the day started very slowly. Alphonse has spent about 3 days waiting in various lines to get us door passes, which are about as secure as a typical passport, complete with requiring passport size photos on which you may not smile, and the lines are par for the course in Tanzania.
Our tent was up, and by 9 the sides and the decorations had been attached as well, and we laid out a partial tarp floor that we purchased separately. The banner was hand painted the night before with only minor errors, as printing would have been prohibitively expensive. Tying it on proved more difficult than I expected, though I think some of our team was on to this which would explain their insistence on waiting to tie it until later when more people are there. Instead however it fit nicely over the two tables which arrived already. We didn't get the offset printed brochures in time, but sensing the delay we got a few dozen laser printed ones to get us started, and had picked up the stickers from the printers the day before. By around 10 we realized that the 3rd bike with a grinder wouldn't be ready, so Filemon brought down the two bikes with shellers. One unfortunately had a giant stand welded on rendering it very un-bike-like, and the other was painted 2 different colors, but we quickly bought a saw and some paint, and addressed both issues very effectively. By midday we had a very nicely arranged tent displaying two bikes, were staffed by myself, Filemon, Alphonse, Oscar, and an assistant of Chris's standing by in case something broke, equipped with brochures, business cards, and clipboards with info sign up sheets. All that were missing were the visitors who were probably held back by the draconian gate pass procedures. Alphonse and Oscar wanted to wait until tomorrow to being trying to find people, but Filemon snatched up a passing businessman out of thin air, and with great excitement led him into the tent. The guy became quickly engaged and was very interested, and suddenly several others appeared out of nowhere, forming a small crowd which didn't dissipate until I left half an hour later for a meeting with our lawyer. From what I could tell, almost everyone who saw it loved it, got it, and wanted to buy one at the first opportunity, with the only problem being the high price. It was very early, and there were very few people at the show on the first day, but I saw more than enough to know that the demand is deep and broad, and that we'll have our hands full trying to meet it. Furthermore Filemon proved himself amazing, one of the best people I've ever seen at jumping into a startup full force in 15 years of starting companies. He not only executed all day long on all cylinders, but also showed an innate superstar sales ability. I can easily see him growing into the role of our VP of sales and marketing for the country.
Tomorrow the paint will dry and hopefully the stands on the bikes will be repaired, so that we can begin demonstrating the shellers, or possibly even a grinder. We have a bag of corn waiting in the back of the tent. Also the independent video journalist from New York should arrive by the afternoon, so we may be giving some interviews and generally shooting video of all the action around our tent.
Meanwhile the lawyers started the process of formally registering our US LLC to do business in Tanzania, which is not usually done at such an early stage here, but I decided it's best to spend a little upfront but go by the books on this one. To save money, we're going to be sending Alphonse to Dar es Salaam instead of the lawyers, as apparently the task there consists entirely of 3 days of waiting in lines in order to get the paperwork filed with the appropriate offices.
The undersea cable bringing fast Internet to the region has thus far failed to materialize, and I'm not holding my breath. The cellular device for laptops won't work with my mac, and I have been unable to get the wireless password out of anyone at the Spiritan house despite several attempts, but I did find a hotel not far away with free wireless at half way decent speeds.
My general impression of Arusha is that it's poor, highly polluted, dusty, and truly dangerous after dark. But the people are friendly and humble. The only problem has been the fly catchers who approach every white man in the center with endless demands for fake friendly interaction with many handshakes leading to the obligatory hard sell, and don't take no for an answer. However I seemed to have stumbled on the winning formula to contain this menace: without even replying to the "Hujambo rafiki", I launch straight into a hard sell of my own: I'm here to sell you this amazing corn grinder with a bike, you can use it to grind corn and then another one to shell it, and make money in the country. Some of them have in fact shown interest when I explained that they could get a bank loan, but more importantly they all recognized me as a fellow salesman instead of a mark, and the reputation is clearly spreading, to where in a few more days I think I'll be left alone and be able to walk around town in peace.
Time to head back home for dinner. Missing veggies and meat a lot, but still haven't gotten sick aside from an annoying neck cramp, which is something to be thankful for. Yesterday the power went out from about 7 to 10, but to my great luck my laptop was charged, so I was able to use it as a lantern and get some reading done.