Angela first joined our Mentoring Women in Business programme as a mentee back in 2011, matched with mentor Carmen. Two years later, Angela reflects on her journey.
Kenya and the USA
Mentoring continues to help me because at any time I know I can get in touch with my mentor and the wider community to bounce ideas off someone or seek help in any area.
My business, Mavuno Seed, is a seed company based in Nairobi, Kenya with the mission of providing quality seeds for crops at affordable prices to enhance sustainability of farmers, contribute to food security and improve the health of families. Mavuno Seed is the first woman-owned seed company in Kenya. I was inspired to start my own business because I wanted to be free to make decisions in areas that would help small-holder farmers, many of whom in Kenya are women.
I was first sent the application form for the Mentoring Women in Business programme by a good friend of mine at the UNDP in 2011. During this period of time, I had been wishing to leave my employment to start by own business. My background was in agriculture and I had built up expertise while working in the seed industry for 15 years. I felt a desire to venture out, contribute to the seed industry and improve on the services offered to the small-holder farmers because I felt their needs were being ignored.
Even though I had built a reputation for myself in the industry and was often asked to consult on seed issues, I had no clue about the business world and didn’t know how to start setting up my own enterprise. The top question on my list was how to formulate a business plan without having to go back to school first to learn. I needed help fast from someone who had walked the path I was to embark on. Herein lay my answer: the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women’s Mentoring Women in Business programme.
So began my walk with my mentor Carmen. I was green to the core where business was concerned. Carmen really helped to get me up to par and we started thinking through aspects that I may require in setting up the business. I came up with an amazing list of things to work on, which I must share as it may be an eye opener for other women entrepreneurs:
- Accounts (both management and financial – I now realize they are different)
- Managing people
- Motivating a team
- Planning and organisation
- Day-to-day execution
- Negotiation skills
- Managing change
- Execution skills
- Problem solving
- Strategic thinking
- Risk management
We went through countless other items as well, including setting up a website, using social media, finding clients, preparing pitches and going through prospective business partners. My original business and financial plan was a skeleton, but I discovered that there were so many items I had missed and did more research on them.
Carmen and I worked through power blackouts, cable disruptions, slow internet service, a sick child and more. She was a support when I left my job to start up the business and focus on it full time. She celebrated my achievements as I got accepted as a supplier to the FAO and went to the US Embassy to source contacts.
Carmen helped me learn how to network. She encouraged me not to be shy of celebrating my achievements (something I am still working on). During our year together, she would send me information on anything to do with my line of business such as websites to look into and competitions to apply for. We also focused on the idea that if business benefits others in the community, then success is most likely to follow.
After I finished my first year with Carmen, I decided to stay on for a second year and work with another mentor, Leanne, on finishing my business plan and growing my enterprise. Leanne is very open, extremely helpful and very understanding.
I’m pleased to say that my business plan has now been finished, which has really boosted my confidence. I used to shy away from business deals or even putting in a business proposal, but with the help of my mentors, I have gained more confidence to go after them.
The journey has now begun!
I recently began seeking start-up funding in order to buy assets and onset inventory, and to meet cash-flow needs of the first year. This is a challenging process for any woman entrepreneur. I have knocked at the door of several finance institutions, but most of the investment funds available are for existing businesses or micro businesses. I connected with the Cherie Blair Foundation’s finance group mentor and a webinar speaker for advice. Their input opened my eyes and helped me to evaluate my proposals. Mentoring continues to help me because at any time I know I can get in touch with my mentor and the wider community to bounce ideas off someone or seek help in any area.
Let me encourage the rest of the mentees that they should not give up whatever their goal. I know I am not there yet, however I have climbed one mountain and I am good to go to climb the next. Anything is possible once we put our minds to it!
Asante Sana (thank you in Kiswahili)
Find out more about our global Mentoring programme
Mentoring Women in Business is one of the Foundation's three flagship programmes. We pair businesspeople everywhere as mentors with women entrepreneurs in low and middle income countries as mentees for an incredibly rich, personalised, cross-border, online experience. This is transformative for mentees and mentors alike—and their companies.
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