This is part of a series of blogs from the four entrepreneurs participating in the Women’s Venture Xchange-Africa initiative. The Xchange is a mentorship and exchange program for high-growth women entrepreneurs based in Africa. The initiative is being run by the Case Foundation, the Mara Foundation, the Global Entrepreneurship Network and the U.S. Department of State.
I was lucky to be selected as one of four female entrepreneurs across East Africa for the Women’s Venture Xchange-Africa initiative; this selection is equal to 5 percent of the total number of applications submitted. I really wanted to secure the opportunity, so once I got it, I vowed to make this opportunity a memorable part of my entrepreneurial journey.
The moment I arrived to Nairobi, I was so pleased with the accommodation that was provided to us and I realized how much harder I was supposed to work to make the opportunity worth it. I entered into my room and reviewed all the goals and plans that I planned to achieve through the opportunity.
My first week was Global Entrepreneurship Week; there were a lot of activities going on that truly advanced my personal skills as a leader and as an entrepreneur. It was actually a good start for me. I attended all the workshops during GEW and my spirit was so energized after securing a second place finish in a pitch competition.
We also had an exhibition to mark the end of GEW where I showcased my products and managed to sell out all of the sanitary napkins that I had. I made new contacts and received an invitation to be a guest speaker on the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities. I really appreciated all these opportunities that came across during my stay in Kenya and continued to push myself harder for more opportunities.
Being in a foreign country where you wake up in the morning and all you need to do is to ensure you make your day productive by planning your activities reasonably, is not a simple thing at all. But once you achieved it, you are no longer the same again. I admit it was quite challenging but I made it. I arranged more than nine meetings which were very impactful for my business, and all these were done in my third week. I still have one more week to go.
Nothing of greatness is ever achieved without a team, and how can I forget to mention Joan Osogo, my new friend whom I met in Kenya. Joan is the reason why I pushed myself so hard. Her burning desire to bring change and her power for insisting on what she needs, was really amazing. Despite the barriers of the security watchmen and school secretary, Joan and I managed to meet the principal of Pangani Girls’ High School (one of the biggest girls’ schools in Nairobi) and pitch our idea. The Principal actually bought our idea and asked for further meetings. As entrepreneurs we sometimes fail to insist and ending up complaining for not getting what we wanted. Joan has taught me the better way of insisting for a need; don’t try to be rude and insensitive when you are insisting for a need, because you will never get it.
Christine Khasinah-Odero from Supermamas was another lady who really challenged me. I regard her as a successful social entrepreneur who really loves what she does. Christine and I had a talk on how I can make my business proposal appealing and hence convert that paper into cash. I realized I need to rework my business proposal and make it more attractive to a larger audience.
Entrepreneurs can unlock much potential by telling their stories; storytelling provokes deep insightful questions and answers that actually build up both the storyteller and the listener. I was honored to share my story with 31 young entrepreneurs from 17 different countries across Africa at the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) East Africa Regional Leadership Center at Kenyatta University. Thank you Dartmouth College for this wonderful invitation.
If I were to summarize my experience with the Women’s Venture Xchange-Africa Initiative, I can say it is the best program to learn how to be independent practically. We as entrepreneurs need to learn to be comfortable when we are uncomfortable. The entrepreneurial journey is never simple and bringing change is also not simple. Keep upgrading your personal skills and leadership skills so you can align yourself with the dynamics of the entrepreneurial world. It’s good to allow yourself to learn new things, listen and suspend judgment.
Visit the Xchange website for updates on the initiative.