Scaling fledgling startups for young entrepreneurs
Harriet James @harriet86jim
Loss of a business and capital as well as frustrations in setting up a new venture pushed INNOCENT MORANGA to establish an initiative to support entreprenuers to build and grow their businesses
“In 2014, I wanted to start a tech company, but I did not have the skills nor the resources that I needed to get someone to do it.
So that’s what led me to starting The Founder,” begins Innocent Moranga the creator of a platform that assists young people begin and grow their businesses.
This idea began way back in his university days, as he wanted to be self-employed and create his own empire.
Moranga bravely pitched his idea in a TV show and got a funder who assisted him begin an online magazine The Founder. He was just 23.
His passion for startups arose from frustrations in trying to build a business, but there was no one to support him or a platform that understood startups and provided solutions he required.
He used the pocket money he was given to start a business venture known as Galashia, a tech company that focused on content creation and distribution online. That was in 2013.
However, the marketing platform failed to pick up and he found himself at ground zero again.
“Partnering with the wrong people made me lose cash, and they sadly ran away with my idea,” he says.
A lesson from the experience he has carried until today is that awareness of the business environment he is dealing with is important.
“I needed to have some tech skills, and to know people to raise capital I need to scale that business.
I was disappointed as it was my first time to do something on a large scale and it didn’t work as expected,” he says.
He went ahead to reconfigure his business and that’s how The Founder came about.
“The frustrations are what made me start The Founder to create a place where anybody who wants to start anything can build and grow their business,” he explains.
The Founder has entrepreneurship forums that create a platform for young people to network and learn from each other and from seasoned business people.
They charge a membership fee to join the groups. They have also created an event where they can award, recognise and appreciate people making an impact with their businesses.
They also run a business magazine, which features business leaders who share their journey and advise on starting a business.
“We have over 10 business communities in Nairobi where founders meet on a weekly basis to learn and engage with each other, with a culture of supporting one another to entrepreneurship training programmes that we offer,” explains Moranga.
While it has never been a challenge to convince people to buy into the idea, Moranga’s major issue is finances.
Money affects the venue to set up their programmes, branding, logistics and quality of services that they would desire to offer.
Currently, The Founder has been able to reach 5,000 plus entrepreneurs all over Africa.
In 2016, it set up a platform known as Founder of the Year Awards (Foya) to recognise and award extraordinary founders developing the nation through entrepreneurship.
“I started Foya awards when I realised there was no such platform for young founders and a strong business award in Kenya.
What we have close to our business award is Top 40 under 40, which keeps having same winners on the list in a country with over one million small and medium enterprises.
We need an award that is diverse and inclusive without favouritism. And that’s what Foya has managed to achieve,” he explains.
In 2019, Foya had over 40 nominees across 12 categories. This was their fourth award ceremony and over 800 entrepreneurs attended, with over 200,000 people visiting the website to vote for the nominees. They plan to have the next Foya become an East African affair, with nominees from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania.
“We are also working on expanding our business communities across five major cities in Kenya to reach more young entrepreneurs and improving our entrepreneurship programmes.
“Ultimately we want to empower more young people to start, run and grow businesses since that’s the only way we can sustainably provide employment opportunities for our growing youth population,” he explains.
The Founder is anchored strongly on job creation, and Moranga believes that if 50 per cent of university students started a business just like he did in their first year, by the time they graduate, they could be able to employ at least two people. He believes this is the solution needed to rid the country of unemployment.
“I believe that if we provided sufficient support to young people to build businesses instead of graduating to look for jobs, we will reduce unemployment rates by over 80 per cent.
“This can be achieved first by changing the mindset of young people and then providing the necessary support to help accelerate the growth of businesses,” he concludes.