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Agri-tech startup that won Safaricom’s heart

iProcure becomes the second agri-tech firm to receive an investment from the Safaricom Spark Fund

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An iProcure employee explains how the “last mile input distribution platform” works.

Safaricom’s Spark Venture Fund has announced its sixth and final Ksh100,000,000  investment in agri-tech startup iProcure.

iProcure is the largest agricultural inputs supply chain platform in Kenya, linking farmers and farmer cooperatives to manufacturers of agricultural inputs. Through accrued efficiency, iProcure offers farmers discounts of between 10% and 20% every time they purchase farming products.

“We started the Spark Fund with the aim of supporting emerging startups that use technology to transform lives. As it joins the outstanding crop of Spark Fund investees, iProcure will be instrumental in harnessing the power of technology to improve Kenya’s agri-business processes,” said Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore.

To access iProcure, farmers dial *283# and then select which input they would like to purchase. The farmer then receives a voucher which allows them to claim the inputs from an iProcure farm depot or collection point. The company currently covers several counties across Kenya mainly in Central and Rift Valley but has plans to scale to Western and Eastern Kenya this year.

The startup seeks to increase agricultural output in Kenya, which has remained comparatively low to other countries due to challenges including access to and use of quality inputs.

“At iProcure, we are all about optimising rural supply chains. We build both the supply chain technology in addition to ‘on-the-ground’ infrastructure to ensure small holder farming communities get the inputs they require on terms that are convenient and affordable. We share an underlying belief, with Safaricom, that small holder farmers are essential to our nation’s food security, and look forward to playing our part in improving the welfare of farmers across Kenya,” said Nicole Galletta, Chief Operations Officer, iProcure.

ALSO SEE: Firm makes a killing from internet-enabled kiosks

iProcure becomes the second agri-tech firm to receive an investment from the Safaricom Spark Fund. In February, the fund announced an investment in FarmDrive which has developed an alternative credit-scoring model based on mobile phones and machine learning, in turn enabling many farmers to have formal access to loans and financing.

Started in 2014, the Ksh100 million Safaricom Spark Venture Fund seeks to make late-seed to early-growth stage investments in startups using mobile technology as an enabler.

The Fund received more than 600 applications to date, out of which it has invested in six startups. In August 2015, Sendy – a marketplace for businesses and individuals to connect with drivers to make deliveries simple and transparent – became the first investee of the fund.

READ: Bamboo is the new road to riches in Kenya

mSurvey, a mobile-first research platform that leverages SMS and mobile messaging technology to simplify access to credible, on-demand data became the second investee of the fund.

Other startups backed by the fund include Eneza, a mobile based learning platform that targets students and adults in Kenya and other countries, and Lynk which connects customers with professionals and artisans from fields such as tailoring, carpentry, house helps, waiters, chefs and many others. iProcure becomes the fund’s last investee.

Editor and writer at BUSINESS TODAY, Muli has a passion for human interest stories that have a big impact on economic development. He holds a BSc in Communication and Journalism from Moi University and has worked for various organisations including Kenya Television Service. Email: [email protected] or [email protected]

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Entrepreneurs

Sinapis: Where start-ups blossom in the name of God

It provides innovative, scalable business ideas through providing rigorous Christ-centred business education, word class consulting, mentoring services and access to seed capital

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A graduating class of upcoming entrepreneurs. After the training, they are asked to pitch their business ideas through business plans and the winning idea gets funded with Ksh 1 million, for actualisation. Credit: Courtesy

When a Kenyan student, Karibu Nyaggah, and two Americans, Courtney Rountree Mills and Matt Stolhandsk, met at Havard University in 2010, little did know that the friendship will birth a non-profit organisation that is now the the source of livelihood for more than 750 Kenyan entrepreneurs.

What started as a simple idea has seen four start-ups access financial support of up to Ksh 1 million each for showing extra commitment and zeal in their respective areas.

The three pals discovered that a lot of business entities which could bring solution to the dragon of unemployment facing developing countries are either failing, being failed and even some do not see the light of the day due to lack of technical skills, financial ability and corruption. Others are suffocated by stiff completion hence stagnating or failing completely, without realising the intended goal/impact.

Eager to be part of the solution to such problems, the three post-graduate students formed what is today known as Sinapis. They decided to make the Sinapis programme one that is centered on Christian-grounded business principles that help entrepreneurs integrate their faith with their businesses. They named the organisation Sinapis, a Latin word that has its origin in the mustard seed parable of the New Testament, to reflect this vision.

“It is called Sinapis – an organisation that empowers aspiring entrepreneurs in the developing world with innovative, scalable business ideas by providing rigorous Christ-centred business education, word class consulting and mentoring services and access to seed capital. Through these means, Sinapis strives to create Christ-seeking business leaders, sustainable employment and improved quality of life for many,” says Silvya Kanana, the Country Manager for Sinapis in Kenya.

The first step in the training entails a complete four-month mini-MBA training designed specifically for the early stage entrepreneurs looking to grow their businesses. Taking a similar programme from Acton School of Business – where the content of the training is adapted from – would on average cost Ksh 250,000. However, through donors, churches and individuals Sinapis has been able to cut the cost of training to just Ksh 35,000. The programme is entirely practical and focused with everything the entrepreneur needs to know and nothing they don’t.

After the training, the entrepreneurs are asked to pitch their business ideas through business plans and the winning idea gets funded with Ksh 1 million, for actualisation.

Having discovered solutions to lack of skills, knowledge and finances the pioneers were left with the issue of corruption. To them, a clear stated and principled stand in religion was the only solution, the reason behind making the programme Christian centred.

However, as Ms Kanana puts it, they do not in any way restrict the training to Christians with the current class having a Hindu. The initiative invites trainees even from other religions.

To actualise the religious bit in the training, the entrepreneurs are required to come up with a spiritual integration plan besides their business plan in order to help them put their faith into practice.

Ms Kanana states that they do follow up their entrepreneurs to gauge their progress, with the recent survey showing that more than 78% of start-ups by the entrepreneurs survive past three years as compared to other start-ups where barely 40% survive past the first year according to research. Each entity on average creates 3-5 jobs per year, translating to 9-15 jobs in three years.

READ: Treasury takes control of Kenya Airways in debt swap

Faith-wise, more than 24% of the entrepreneurs bring someone new to the faith, while more that 80% report that their faith was significantly increased during and after the training.

Being a faith-based organisation, business ideas that contradict the Christian faith such as opening a pub, betting/gambling and even pornography do not make it past the admission stage.

Currently, the programme operates in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu. However, plans are underway to expand its wings to other parts of the country as well the other regions of the world. Sinapis already exists in Brazil and by next year they will be expanding to South Africa, Ghana, Uganda and Rwanda.

In Kenya, the organisation will be making another milestone as they launch an all-women class on December 2, which will be accompanied by a free seminar for women.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Entrepreneurs

Cynthia Mumbo: Basketball player who’s marketing sports

She is the founder of Sports Connect Africa, a company that focuses on delivering value to sports stakeholders through marketing, events management, and player development

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Ms Cynthia Mumbo, founder Sports Connect Africa, which delivers value to sports stakeholders through marketing, events management, and player development

Despite the sexism that’s so prevalent in sports today, a lot of women have still found a way to do what they do best: excel. While some are doing this on the pitch, others are using entrepreneurship to achieve the same objective.

One of such entrepreneurs is Kenya’s Cynthia Mumbo, who founded Sports Connect Africa, a company that focuses on delivering value to sports stakeholders through marketing, events management, and player development.

Mumbo has been involved in sports from a young age. Growing up, she was inspired by Kenyan rugby star, Benjamin Ayimba. The promotion of sports in her school compelled her to go into basketball which she came to love so much that she started dreaming of playing in the women’s NBA.

 Getting kicked out of the first university she got into and working a job for the first time didn’t stop her. While playing for a local basketball team, she still went back to get a diploma in Business Management. To make ends meet, she sold snacks, and her success in the small venture gave her the confidence that she could really do business.

While working for organisations like the Kenya Basketball Federation, FIBA, and NBA Africa, she combined her flair for business and sports to set up Sports Connect Africa in 2012. But she didn’t give it her all until 2016. Since then, the company has been thriving.

With her experience and drive, she has led Sports Connect Africa to host the Junior NBA in Kenya. In addition to their youth mentorship programs, the company is working on hosting other events that will empower people in sports.

And all this is because Mumbo sees sports as more than a social engagement. Speaking on My Startup Journey, she said: “As Africans, we look at sports as social. Sports is social, but then there’s a huge element that is business-oriented. And we have to start looking at sports as a business, as money, as a product.” Story credit: konbini.com

READ:  Woman who started a business using a tip from customer

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Entrepreneurs

Michelle Ntalami partners with Chase Bank to offer financial advice

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Magdalene Mulandi (centre), Head of Brand and Communication, Chase Bank Kenya(IR) poses for a group photo with Michelle Ntalami (second right) founder and CEO, Marini Naturals during the launch of Michelle Ntalami’s Entrepreneurship Masterclass. They are joined by Gitonga Mmbijiwe (left) Campus Director, Edulink International College, Pranjal Sharma (second right) Marketing Manager, Chandaria Industries and Niyati Patel (right) Co-Founder and Chief Operations Officer, Marini Naturals. Credit: Courtesy.

Chase Bank (In Receivership) has partnered with Michelle Ntalami’s Entrepreneurship Masterclass as the financial partner, providing the class with sound advice on business finance as well as the know-how on navigating various financial hurdles.

The class aims to empower current and prospective entrepreneurs pursue their dreams while equipping them with the tools to do so.  This partnership is in line with Chase Bank (IR)’s mission of enabling people achieve the things that matter to them most.

“As the relationship bank, we believe in people, and their various dreams. Specifically, we believe in entrepreneurs and SMEs and we are always happy to help the next business idea evolve into a successful enterprise,” said Donald Kimathi, Head of Product Development, Chase Bank.

“Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) who form the bulk of our clientele, face unique issues, which affect their growth and profitability, and more often than not diminish their ability to contribute effectively to sustainable development. It is for this reason that we are here today, to share from our learning curve on what solutions work best for what businesses. Indeed, we remain committed to supporting upcoming businesses as part of our recovery efforts. As we wait to get out of receivership, we are robustly serving our customers,” added Mr.  Kimathi.

As part of these efforts, earlier today the bank conducted its third SME clinic which focused on Human Resources, delving into staffing procedures and organizational culture. The SME Clinics is an initiative by the bank that aims to support their highest transacting SME customers at branch level, with sound business knowledge and training to help them advance their businesses in their respective markets of operation. So far, Chase Bank (IR) has conducted two clinics in Nairobi and Nakuru on the topics of Marketing and Finance Management, respectively.

According to the 2017 Economic Survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, entrepreneurs in Kenya are creating more jobs than the private sector and the government collectively. Mentorship throughout their entrepreneurial life cycle is therefore paramount in various developmental phases; start up, growth and success stages owing to its vast value in the economy.

“In a world where there is so much information going around, one can get lost wondering what is truly essential for them to begin their business with. My Entrepreneurship Masterclass intends to teach only what is important to learn. I aim at helping current and prospective entrepreneurs realise their passions and turn them into profits,” said Ntalami, an entrepreneurship coach.

“It is important to share knowledge on self-employment and entrepreneurship as a whole. I am glad to have Chase Bank (IR)on board as the financial partner as one of the key areas that can make or break a young business is poor financial decisions. Chase brings onboard that much needed guidance thanks to their commitment to small businesses,” added Ms Ntalami.

ALSO SEE: 31-year-old who makes Sh20 million in a bad month

The three day classes start in October 2017 and will have a total of seven modules guiding course. The course is aimed at empowering and equipping upcoming entrepreneurs while encouraging self-dependence in a market where formal employment is increasingly hard to secure.

Ms Ntalami will run the monthly Business Masterclass with Michelle Ntalami, at Edulink International College Nairobi, where she will educate, inspire and equip upcoming, current and future entrepreneurs. They will gain knowledge on how to navigate the world of entrepreneurship including personal branding. In addition, she is a strategic brand and marketing expert and runs her own branding company – Brandvine Group and is also the founder and entrepreneur of Marini Naturals, Kenya’s First Quality Natural Haircare line.

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Disruptors

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

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Addleston Marketing founder and CEO Perpetual Kendi has defied odds to build a thriving public relations company.

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.

Selling belts

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.

ALSO SEE: Multimillion business started with a tip from customer

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.

Perpetual-Kendi-Addleston-Marketing2 Perpetual Kendi: Emerging queen of international PR

Perpetual Kendi at work: She is involved in a mega infrastructural project, where she is the only lady and the only youth. Photo / Addleston Marketing

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.

READ: Take these three steps to become a CEO in shortest time

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.

READ: 31-year-old who makes Sh20 million in a bad month

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.

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