As a nurse, Melissa Bime saw a huge challenge in her country’s hospitals - getting essential blood supplies to those in need in order to save lives. So she became an impact entrepreneur, choosing to change the situation rather than being part of it, launching her online blood bank Infiuss as a solution.
LoA found out more about this young woman entrepreneur who is making a real difference in her country.
What does your company do?
Infiuss is a revolutionary online health service that connects health facilities to a vast data base of blood banks in other health institutions. This online blood bank and emergency supply platform and was created due to lack and unavailability of blood. In sub-Saharan Africa, 500,000 deaths occur due to lack of blood and in Cameroon, 89% of blood needs in hospitals are not met while 40% of pregnant women and children below 5 years do not also have blood needs met. As an innovation, individuals or hospitals request for blood through SMS or phone call, we source for match in blood group and type in our database which has information on blood availability in hospitals with bloodbanks, then we deliver on bikes, in the right conditions. As such lives are saved and mortality prevented. This business has potential as there is recurrent need of blood for pregnant women, haemophiliacs, sickle cell patients, major surgeries, etc. With its amazing and qualified team, Infiuss can have branches in many countries in Africa due to the need.
"Our vision is to make blood available to those in extreme need and fight against deaths related to blood shortages."
What inspired the start of the company
At the tender age of 21, Melissa Bime is already making a mark on the world. Following her nursing degree in Cameroon, Melissa was expected to go back home to help her mother with the housework - but Melissa had other ideas. Whilst working in the hospital, she was taken aback by the tragedies witnessed as a result of avoidable conditions, often due to the simple lack of available compatible blood. A five-year-old girl called Rita pulled on Melissa’s heartstrings when she passed away from anaemia caused by malaria when no blood was available. Only a few days after her death, the hospital found out that the compatible blood was, in fact, available from a nearby medical facility. “Seeing a little girl dying because the hospital could not source blood from a nearby facility angered me. I could not keep working as a nurse - I did not want to be part of a system where I had to simply watch these cases,” says Melissa. Putting her medical knowledge to one side, Melissa took it upon herself to find a solution to the inaccessibility of local blood supplies experienced by hospitals and doctors in Yaoundé. In 2015, aged just 18, Melissa founded Infiuss, a digital supply-chain platform that gives hospitals access to ready-to-use blood.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
According to the World Health Organization, blood shortages and blood-related complications in the Sub-Saharan region claim 570,000 lives every year. With hospitals relying solely on their own blood reserves or blood donations from relatives of patients (using only the most basic of screening tests), the high number of deaths in the region is understandable yet preventable. Infiuss operates as a “blood bank” collecting and categorising blood supplies, but also as a database of all the blood types available at various hospitals. In an emergency, a hospital will call or send a text message to Infiuss, which will efficiently check where the required blood is available via the digitalized platform, and then organize the collection of blood supplies and coordinate delivery by motorcycle.
"Seeing a 5-year-old girl die because the hospital could not source blood from a nearby facility angered me. I did not want to be part of a system where I had to simply watch people die."
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey.
Running a medical business in Cameroon, Melissa has faced all sorts of challenges. Besides her family’s lack of initial support and the levels of bureaucracy involved, Infiuss had to navigate cultural stereotypes too. “In Cameroon, blood is often seen as a taboo. We’ve had to spend a lot of time convincing potential donors that the blood they donate won’t be used to do ‘magic’ as some believe but to save lives”. There have also been unexpected challenges, such as the shutting down of internet services by the government to stifle online activists during periods of protesting, which means that users cannot access the Infiuss database. “If the suspension of internet services hasn’t killed my business nothing can stop me,” comments Melissa, who has throughout her journey remained defiant, not allowing her lack of business experience or young age to slow her down.
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
Thus far, Infiuss has transported over 230 litres of blood via 6 hospitals. This number is expected to rise substantially as the partnership expands to 908 hospitals across Cameroon in the near future.
What gives you most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
What’s my motivation? Put simply, it’s hunger. I am hungry to create change and make a difference. I have overcome so much but know that it is all worthwhile.
Contact or follow Infiuss
Why LoA loves it….
At LoA we love those inspirational women entrepreneurs who have a vision to solve some of the major challenges facing the African continent today. Melissa Bime is one of those life affirming individuals who passionately believes she can make a difference to people’s lives, getting essential blood supplies to those who need it most, quickly and efficiently and saving lives in the process. Now that’s impact! --- Melanie Hawken, founder and ceo of Lionesses of Africa