By Diana Dorine
The journey to becoming an entrepreneur is ever daunting for most young people in Kenya and Africa at large. If you get a chance to interact with youngsters on this issue, the one thing that stands out is their desire to become self-employed and pursue what they’re passionate about. It doesn’t end there, despite their interest in running their own gigs, they consider a lack of access to capital as one major challenge. And the little financial resources they can get access to is usually Inadequate to maneuver through all the stages of government regulations that young people claim is not so friendly to successfully run a start-up.
There’s more to it than lack of access to credit.
According to Prof Michael Chege, a renowned policy consultant based in Kenya, only about half of youth and women startups make it through a year. This he says is not attributed to the lack of access to credit but rather little coordination, preparedness and registration issues. So is it that young people do not have a clear understanding of how to build on their ideas and remain formally organized for a start-up?
This week on My Lightbulb Moment, we feature the story of one resilient and strong Kenyan woman by the name Margaret Komen. The 10,000 Women in Business Goldman Sachs Award winner has a rich background in entrepreneurship from the United States International University where she partook her undergraduate.
As a founder and now the Managing Director of Mace Foods Limited, a food processing company based in Eldoret, started out as a chilli exporter and now has grown further to specialize in producing and marketing more spices and ethnic foods, Margaret credits her success on research, networking and mentorship, facets that most aspiring young people tend to disregard.
She works in collaboration with local farmers who supply the company with freshly harvested produce that entail a variety of African indigenous vegetables which are later taken for processing. Being involved in local production of vegetables and chilli has made her unearth some of the challenges local farmers face when it comes to producing quality yields. Despite the nutritious value that these indigenous vegetables have, a majority of local production systems are still rudimentary this resulting to a plethora of losses of upto 65% to farmers along the agriculture value chain. During a Foodfirst conference, she further emphasized on the need for the government of Kenya to chip in and assist farmers if they are looking to invest in large-scale production of indigenous vegetables. This she says will ensure local farmers adhere to production that is standardized that would meet food label satisfaction and in turn result to significant profits for local farmers.
Her story about how she landed on her first overseas client emphasizes the importance of utilizing networking skills when invited or attending important conferences, as a tool to market what you do. Her journey wasn’t a walk in the park but it is a stark indicator of one focused and determined lady who withstood all odds from the time she identified a viable niche to being investment-ready hence finding ways to raise capital, winning grants, forming valuable partnerships, and ultimately transforming an idea into reality.
Read More :
Her story has been featured in How We Made It In Africa blog
Why youth and women enterprises fail in Africa
At AFribright Network we believe in mentorship for young entrepreneurs. Recommend podcast:
ALU podcasts on Leadership and Entrepreneurship in Africa