As entrepreneurship catches on in a job market that’s not friendly to the youth, a growing number of 25-year-olds have ‘CEO’ on their business cards.
Alyana Popat, who runs Uva Wines, happens to be one of them. She got the idea to start a wine sales business a little over a year ago and set up shop in June this year.
But what is she banking on in an industry already flooded with diverse brands of wine? “Originality,” she says simply.
Market research showed her that there was a shortage of Portuguese wines in the Kenyan market.
“I discovered that Portuguese wines weren’t in the market – at least not in the levels other brands, such as those from South African, had penetrated the market,” says Alyana, whose father is Indian-Kenyan and mother Portuguese.
“The word ‘Uva’ is Portuguese for grapes. Importing Portuguese wine into the country is, therefore, sharing part of my culture and heritage with other Kenyans.” Despite Uva Wines being months old, Alyana expects the profits to be flowing in by December.
She spoke to The Standard’s Hustle on the steps she took to actualise her dream.
Q: How did Uva grow from an idea to a business?
A: The idea to start Uva, as an affiliate within Simba Corporation – a business with investments in motoring, hospitality and financial services – was solely mine. There are strict processes within the parent company that are followed for an idea to be funded, so I drafted a proposal and presented my ideas to the board. They adopted it. When Uva starts generating money, the plan is to repay the capital received to start the business.
Q: What did you need to do to set up?
A: In March this year, I was in Portugal to see about seven or eight wine suppliers. I spoke to them and also got in touch with the Portuguese trade department, which helps with business advice in Portugal. My questions were basic: What do you suggest? Which companies do you think I should visit? The companies I toured ranged from small to big producers. Eventually, I narrowed down to three suppliers based on their presence and success in Africa.
Q: How did you identify a market?
A: The first thing I did was to know who my competition was. I spoke to some of them, asking about challenges and opportunities in the market. From them, I learnt some valuable lessons. For instance, I discovered that for one to be successful in this business, you have to be in hotels, restaurants and supermarkets. You won’t make much with individual customers.
Q:Aside from the Portuguese link, what else is unique about Uva?
A: Every brand of wine we offer is unique. For instance, Casal Mendes Blue is the only original blue wine available in East Africa, and in Kenya you will only find it at Uva outlets. It’s important to be original.
Q: Does it feel strange to be a CEO at your age?
A: There are a couple of millennials developing very big businesses. For me, I think it is a combination of luck, passion and drive. I work for a family business so the wines fit in very well. We have three hotels already that we can supply, and we have Simba Corp Aspire Centre in Westlands. The directors understand my passion and have given me the opportunity to start a business and see where I can take it.
Software that turned Sh15k into Sh120 million business
From a small loan from a friend, Raymond Cheruiyot makes more than Sh10 million per month (SCROLL DOWN TO READ HIS STORY)
Raymond Cheruiyot considers himself a successful entrepreneur nine years after resigning from his job to run own business. But the proprietor of Accounts and Financial East Africa Limited says he had a baptism of fire along the way.
He was passionate about setting up and tried partnerships that did not work. Mr Cheruiyot opted for debt to register a company, egged on by the picture of success, therefore ignoring possible risks, storms, and stories of gloom and doom.
But the storm came sooner rather than later. The result of which was frustration and a debt that was building fast; he almost ended up in jail. “I was 28 when I resigned as a software technologist having studied for Bachelor of Science degree from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) where I graduated in 2003,’’ Mr Cheruiyot says.
He used his savings to buy a laptop “and was sure one computer, one man attitude and one million dollar ideas could unlock my success”. “I have always wanted to venture into self-employment through technology business but I was not aware that there is a big difference between reality and wishful thinking,’’ he said.
In a small office at Railway Station in Nairobi, he established and paid a rent of Ksh22,000, which was the balance of his savings. “The office was meant to give me a corporate touch as I did freelance consultancy jobs waiting to register my business. The opportunities were not forthcoming and I had to seek Ksh15,000 from a friend as a soft loan to register the company.’’
This did not work, as the banks asked for a guarantor for a loan, he had none and was forced to ask for a private consultancy position from former employer. “A friend who lent me Ksh15,000 to register my firm saw me as a joker who had quit a job where I was earning Ksh55,000. I convinced myself that I had to breathe again,’’ explained Mr Cheruiyoit, hardly audible.
He got another chance to work for former employer for six months, during which time he marketed himself as a professional software expert. The biggest challenge was getting business as a start-up, he said, adding that former employer had informed his clients he had left, “making it a bit hard getting business on my own.’’
Then, one day, one of the clients called and offered an opportunity to compile reports. He would earn Ksh20,000 while freelance jobs raised his income to Ksh80,000 monthly. This enabled him to set up a website.
A deal that looked very good almost killed the business. A multinational company was looking for a supplier to install a software but his company did not make the short-list due to limited experience. “But the ambition was bigger,’’ he said, adding that he sought to work in partnership with a big firm in the deal for a commission. He never got paid Sh1.5 million for the work in a web of debt. “I became the sacrificial lamb and all my earnings were used to settle the arrears,’’ he said.
But he used the difficult times to scale the heights of entrepreneurship. His “turning point” came when Sage International appointed him as their authorised partner in Kenya in 2009.
Today, he makes more than Sh10 million per month, or Sh120 million per year. Some of his clients have included EABL, AAR, Catholic University, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (Kephis), Express Kenya, and Crowne Plaza. “We advise customers on business process management where we identify the needs and implement.’’ For a lesson, he says that “I have learnt to appreciate passion, the drive, and patience.’’
His firm has satellite presence in Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda and is now targeting South Sudan early next year. He employs over 20 people and runs a foundation that pays school fees for needy children in his rural home.
“My upbringing was humbling and I pay the school fees for the poor children from secondary to university. We have seven beneficiaries of the fees programme.’’ Mr Cheruiyot says he works smart and believes in quality and credibility. (Source: BiznaKenya)
SEE ALSO: 24 easy ways to become a millionaire
Perpetual Kendi: Emerging queen of international PR
Perpetual Kendi’s PR company handles public affairs for Kenyan international football stars, powerful politicians and top designers
For most millennials, college days are only meant for study work and fun. If they have to work, it’s only during field attachment where they play hide and seek with supervisors. They only play nice people towards assessment, just to some earn marks.
This is not the case with Perpetual Kendi, who is in her mid-20s and already a CEO and pioneer of an international public relations (PR) company, Addleston Marketing. She secured her first job in her second year in college, which only lasted three months before the company collapsed. She earned what most modern graduates are tarmacking to earn, Ksh25,000 per month.
This pushed her to look for new opportunities, and secured an interview with a Lavington-based organization, but the demands were too much for her. “They would only pay me Ksh25,000 a month if I earned them Ksh250,000 per month. It would not be possible then for a starter, however ambitious I was,” says Kendi.
She left the interview a frustrated lady. She boarded a bodaboda back home. Out of her sociable nature she struck a conversation with the bodaboda rider, and they started talking about the elegant houses in the leafy suburbs of Lavington, which cost around Ksh180 million.
Quick calculation showed that she would work for 600 years without spending to afford such a house. But her dream was to own such a house one day. This wiped away the idea of getting employed, and that’s how she stopped applying for jobs.
The Kenyatta University Bachelor of Commerce (marketing) graduate was catapulted into business by a belt she bought at Ksh50, which her friends admired. She took the opportunity and started supplying them with such belts at Ksh150, and before she realised her business was growing. She would even persuade unwilling students to buy the belts and realised her greatest strength: persuasion.
Determined to make it big in life, she registered her first company in her third year in campus, with which she did general business with the government and NGOs. This set the stepping stone for her, as she registered another company later, the Addleston Marketing, which shone her star more and brought her to the limelight.
“Moving beyond the realm of traditional public relations and marketing tactics, we dare to go where most PR agencies won’t: creative strategy, branding, video production, social media management, guerilla efforts, and even some advertising,” says Kendi.
The four-year-old company has been her main hustle, despite facing turbulence in the first three years. She earns a relative amount every month which is enough to run the company and commit on expansion. She calls it a journey of structuring and restructuring, but most important to her are the lessons learnt in the art of delivery.
At one point, her bid was rejected by a company after the managers said that her brand was not big enough to handle the company’s products. It was one of her lowest moments.
The company is now handling public affairs for Kenyan international football stars and powerful politicians. She is also working with the country’s top designers, some working with the President and prominent people. Recently, an international organisation that is planning to carry out an insurance penetration campaign approached her company for publicity and brand entry, not to mention for the global brands that she has laid her hands on.
In what she terms as her best assignment of the moment, she is involved in a mega infrastructural project, where she is the only lady and the only youth. The rest are men, in their latter days. This makes her feel like a lioness in a pack of lions. In total, her company is engaged in projects that she describes as revolutionary and game changing.
Growth is a process
Kendi, who still has interests in finance, says that she chose to venture into international PR and media relations solely because of their (international media) objectivity and reliability.
When asked how she will outshine the existing PR and marketing companies, she says: “I am not competing against them. Everybody has a share. Growth is a process, and not a competition.”
Addleston will be re-launching next year to celebrate a five-year milestone. They will also be opening offices in other African countries in regions such as West Africa and North Africa.
The second-born in a family of Architects draws her inspiration from Daniel Ndonye, who has been her mentor. Mr Daniel Ndonye is the Chairman at I&M Holdings Ltd, AccessKenya Group Ltd, AutoXpress Ltd and a board member in many thriving companies.
Despite being involved in business, Kendi is launching a campaign against cervical cancer, which she says is prevalent in her rural area.
Kendi is comfortable with her personal and social life, looking to push her business agenda forward, before settling for marriage. The ever bubbly and funny lass enjoys her free time in nature and plant exploration and sometimes physical exercise.
She advises graduates to get professional experience first through employments and internships before trying to go solo. “Many times I do not know what I am doing and the risks I’m getting into but I know the kind of woman I want to become, a mother,wife and friend,” she ends.
Actuarial science princess turns on her groove
Intelipro’s main focus areas are in the financial and retail sectors, with a particular emphasis on financial institutions that run micro-finance initiatives
A Kenyan startup is shaking up big data, fintech and agritech in the country and the broader sub-Saharan Africa region using cloud. Intelipro, which is barely two years old, is already touching millions of individuals with its automated risk profiling solutions for micro-finance, payment systems and agriculture.
Leonida Mutuku, the 28-year-old founder and CEO of the 10-man organisation, set up the company to use her degree in actuarial science and experience working at the Nairobi innovation hub to develop solutions for African companies.
“I have always been very interested in computational models and big data, but I didn’t want to use data science from a research perspective; I wanted to do something practical to support African companies, especially SMEs, and help them improve efficiency,” she told South African site, IT-Online’s Kathy Gibson at this year’s VMWorld in Barcelona, Spain.
Intelipro’s main focus areas are in the financial and retail sectors, with a particular emphasis on financial institutions that run micro-finance initiatives. “In the age of mobile money and digital wallets, you don’t have to be a financial institution to get access to a wealth of rich data,” Mutuku points out.
Intelipro uses this data to build automated risk profiles that credit providers can use to determine various micro-finance parameters.
“For instance, our micro-finance lending platform allows us to connect with different data points that customers expose to us,” she explains. “We are able to use that data, then apply machine learning and modelling to come up with credit scores, credit limits, and what interest rates should be applied.”
Micro-finance is a huge market in Africa, and financial institutions are keen to work in the space. “We are helping to them to actively analyse customer engagement to target customers, segment them and understand the cross-selling opportunities.”
Intelipro has developed its systems and algorithms from scratch using open source tools like Python. The core team of 10 people is mainly data scientists and engineers, and much of the development work is outsourced as needed.
The systems run on a managed cloud infrastructure from Node Africa, another Kenyan startup.
“Node Africa is an interesting partner because we are growing together,” Mutuku says. “It is a local company that offers us managed services, so we don’t have to worry about the daily operations. We can focus on putting our applications into production rather than looking after the infrastructure.
“In addition, they have been very reliable. We have not had any downtime, and there is limited latency on the network.”
Intelipro has made sure its systems are productised rather than bespoke for each customer, so they are relatively easy to implement and run. “We are trying to make these platforms almost like software as a service (SaaS),” Mutuku explains.
The company’s financial customers include banks and microfinance institutions as well as payment aggregators looking to add services. The reach of the Intelipro services is immense. Mutuku says the individuals who are touched number in the millions, from about 5, 000 people targeted by the smallest customers up to 4-million targeted by the largest, a bank in Ghana.
And the company already operates in Kenya, Swaziland, Ghana and Nigeria, with plans for further expansion.
“In Africa a lot of people are still not banked,” Mutuku says. In fact, Kenya — along with South Africa and Nigeria – is something of an anomaly on the continent in that it is quite well advanced in terms of financial inclusion.
“It is relatively easy to build other products in top of M-Pesa,” she explains. “And M-Pesa has also opened other opportunities, allowing us to extend services to all M-Pesa customers.”
Despite the depth of financial service penetration, it’s not yet a mature market, however, so there are still opportunities for new financial products.
“But once you step out of the borders of Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria, there is an entire continent of opportunity in the financial and retail spaces. We are seeing opportunities and interest in Ghana, DRC, Uganda and more.”
On a slightly different note, Intelipro works with the East Africa Farmers’ Federation to support small farmers, helping them to be as productive as possible while aggregating their output to be more commercially viable.
The federation represents 20-million soy, maize and bean farmers in the region.
The solution from Intelipro is E-granary, a mobile platform that uses USSD so all users, including those with older feature phones, can access the app.
On first logging in, farmers record the size of their farm and the group of region they belong to. During the year, they keep a farmer’s diary, logging agricultural data as well as administrative data like workers’ salaries.
At harvest time, they record how much they harvested.
Throughout the year, the system uses a variety of data sources to record weather, soil conditions and more. Advanced analytics are employed to determine how much credit farmers require, and what inputs the need to maximise their yield.
For instance, the system will determine the amount of seed or fertilizer that is needed, and this will be made available to individual farmers in the form of credits.
Once they’ve harvested their fields, the system will calculate their net revenue and can advance them cash against their yield.
“The current version of the product supports farmers with financial services, but where we are going is to help them improve productivity through the data we aggregate. The next step is to give them real intelligence that will assist them in improving their farms.”
There are currently 25 000 farmers using the system, which has given out about $150 000 in credit so far.
“This use case is close to our hearts because of the impact it has,” Mutuku says. “We are not looking just at Kenya with this solution, but will soon move into neighbouring countries as well.” This article first appeared on it-online.co.za.
Jennifer Riria: Kenya’s foremost female banker
Under her stewardship of Jennifer, Kenya Women Finance Trust ((KWFT) has empowered many women in Kenya
Kenya can be lauded for making great advances in the banking sector. The most unique and innovative service in the banking sector, however, is women-oriented banking which has changed the lives of women around the country. Women are able to access loans and other financial incentives to build their businesses, take their children to school and empower themselves.
But you cannot talk about women and banking and not mention Dr Jennifer Riria the entrepreneur who has always been on a mission to transform the lives of women and their families in Kenya. Born to a very humble background where she literary walked from home to school on bare feet, she slept in the same room as chicken and goats. The young Jennifer did household chores that other young girls only heard of, she fetched water and firewood, looked after cows and looked after her younger siblings.
Her humble background did not deter her from shining in class; she finished her primary education and joined the prestigious Precious Blood High School in Nairobi. Eyes fixated on a bright future, Jennifer began to study and work her way to success.
At the end of her high school education, she joined Dar-es-salaam University where she graduated with her first degree in Education. Armed with her first degree Jennifer landed a tutor job at Kabete Technical Institute where she taught for six months before joining State House Girls where she taught for a year.
Jennifer then joined the prestigious Leeds University in the UK where she took a post graduate degree in Education Administration and later did her masters degree in Education in the same university. On finishing her studies in the UK, Jennifer returned to Kenya and enrolled at the University of Nairobi for a PhD in Women Education and Development while at the same time teaching on part time basis at Kenyatta University.
Jennifer’s first managerial job was with the Kenya Women Finance Trust. The financial institution was established in 1982. In 1991, Jennifer joined the institution and thus set on a journey that would see her transform the institution to great heights. Jennifer took the role of CEO, accountant, office cleaner and loan officer in the young institution.
Without proper management and with limited resources, Jennifer had to sit under trees to award loans to women, then she had to travel by public means to meet the institution’s clients. This never deterred Jennifer. Her fighting spirit kept her going and soon enough the institution was on its feet with members and branches all over the country. Under the stewardship of Jennifer, KWFT has empowered many women in Kenya. The organisation was split in 2010 into Kenya Women Microfinance Bank and Kenya Women Holding Limited for which Jennifer is the sitting CEO.
Jennifer is the brains behind the Educate the Net 235 Girls initiative. The programme supports needy girls in their education. Having risen from hardship and made it to who she is today, the programme is very close to Jennifer’s heart. While Jennifer continues to inspire and mentor both the people she works with and those she speaks with every day, she remains committed to her family and a doting grandmother to her grandkids.
For every woman born to a humble background and for every woman who thinks she is limited by her circumstances, Jennifer is proof that with determination, there is nothing too hard to achieve.
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