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.
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.