18 startups converged at the 3rd Kenyan Edition of the Swiss-Re Entrepreneurship Academy on November 25-29 2019. The Academy saw the entrepreneurs get coached by International business managers and Kenyan Business managers. On the first day, the event kicked off with a keynote speech by Akinyi Adongo, Managing Director, MEFA creations and a visit by Officers from the Kenya Ministry of Trade. The event was privileged to have mentors from Swiss-Re work with the 18 startups. To recognize them all; Natasha Gill Pajarola, Richard Foda, Tina Luciana, Celeste Vogel & Klaudia Galka.
Among the 18 startups were presentations from already running startups like Crosstown Couriers, Craft Lab, Sephrinart,TecnNet Kenya & Taste Afrique. This session saw pitches from all the 18 startups. The final day of the event was marked by the Startup fair, with each startup/entrepreneur having a stand to showcase their products for those already in production while those starting this provided an opportunity to share and explain about their startups, build a network. In attendance, was Brighter Monday-an online platform that enables users to find and post job vacancies in East Africa and One Girl Can- a nonprofit that seeks to end the cycle of poverty through gender empowerment and education.
Here’s a short insightful conversation with one of the entrepreneurs, I sat down with Charlotte Jira as she shared her opinions concerning the Entrepreneurship Academy.
Charlotte Jira is a soft spoken lady entrepreneur, calm, with an infectious smile. Her startup is called the URB AFRICAN HUB.
Please introduce your startup.
Charlotte Jira: Urb African Hub is a new lifestyle brand and commerce destination for a carefully selected array of contemporary African products for all gender e.g Vikois, Dera etc. This startup is geared to empower the artisans in the industry while also sensitize on appreciating African products.
When you came how was your start-up looking compared to the end of the Academy?
Charlotte Jira: As much as I saw my business model being clear and defined when I came in for the academy, it wasn’t. The topics we were taught clearly changed everything…
Changed everything for the better or worse?
Charlotte Jira: For the better (laughter), the topics in the academy from Lean Canvas to operational excellence give me confidence to be a better entrepreneur.
Were your expectations met?
Charlotte Jira: That’s a good question, thank you for asking. Well definitely I came in with a couple expectations from getting imparted with entrepreneurial knowledge from the big businesses to building a network. I want to be steered to the right path as a founder/entrepreneur. At the end of the Academy some of my expectations got met while some are progressive.
Which sessions are worth reliving/had the most value to you and why?
Charlotte Jira: Claudia’s session on marketing strategies. She talked about the 6 degrees and that in every 6 people you’ll find out that you know 1 or they know someone you know.
How did you like the Academy and the Fair?
Charlotte Jira: Uhmmm… an 8/10. This to me was the best academy I’ve ever attended. The atmosphere here is so great from the first day, really calming. The people, my fellow entrepreneurs, the mentors and just everybody in general contributed to the good atmosphere filled with enthusiasm. To be in the same room with already running startups like crosstown courier to name but a few is something really uplifting-a time to learn from them…
What of today’s startup Fair?
Charlotte Jira: The fair is a moment to capture connections both in my field and outside my field, to communicate with people and offer one-on-one information about my venture. These conversations are also an opportunity to get people’s views and thoughts; this can end up providing you with an ’aha’ moment.
What aspects of both the Academy and Fair could have been done better?
Charlotte Jira: Like every other event there’s always gonna be amiss or something that didn’t go really well. For me it boils down to the Fair, in regards to time it could have started on time. However, this doesn’t take away the good planning that went down in making the other parts of the academy run smoothly, I have to say its Kudos to Sheila and George despite running two Academies simultaneously.
What advice do you take home from the mentors?
Charlotte Jira: In particular, I’ll take on Natasha’s words. ”choose a partner who’s different from you-who’s strengths don’t match yours.”
A general advice to alumni planning to be entrepreneurs/future founders?
Charlotte Jira: It’s not easy.
That’s tough an advice to pass down…
Charlotte Jira: well how can I put it (laughter), just start, put more time in it and have perseverance… And before I forget attend this Academy (laughter.)
written by Jimmie Chengo