Week 1: The Fellow’s Perspective
My journey began with a long haul flight from Newcastle to Dubai, followed by a connection flight to Nairobi, and then a coach journey to Nakuru, the final destination. Having arrived late at night, I got the opportunity to meet the rest of the fellows in the morning. Each of them had the ambition to experience life in Kenya and to learn about the power of entrepreneurship and business. Our first day began with a short introductory session and a tour of the area we would be living in. Even on a ‘quiet’ Sun
day afternoon, there were many Kenyans selling small goods in stalls, and industrious business owners selling products and services in cafes, restaurants, mobile stores, supermarkets and clothes shops. This was amid a flurry of tuk-tuks and matatus that flooded the city centre.
I had never studied business at University or the school level, and I further lacked any experience working in a managerial capacity. As such, the week-long training programme focused on entrepreneurship and business proved to be an eye-opening experience. I particularly enjoyed the Marshmallow Challenge, in which fellows had to work in groups to create the tallest free-standing structure that could support a marshmallow in 18 minutes, using only 20 pieces of spaghetti, one foot of tape and one foot of string. Each group used the majority of the allotted time to create the structure, then gingerly tried to perch the marshmallow on top of the flimsy spaghetti towers. Inevitably perhaps, most of the structures collapsed. As bizarre as it sounds, it turns out that creating a business start up is not so dissimilar to creating a spaghetti tower with a marshmallow on top. If one starts a business by creating without testing and refining, its design and character will result in (no pun intended) its downfall. Instead, we learnt that we should approach entrepreneurship with an effectual mindset, driven by a willingness to continuously test ideas before implementation. In a TED talk, we were even shown that toddlers and kids performed better than business graduates. Perhaps the most important lesson we learnt, however, was the importance of satisfying the wants of the potential customer. A business that has no customers, regardless of how ingenious the idea, will in the end fail. This was just a few aspects of our training, as we also focused on topics such as innovation and creativity, marketing and sales, recording finances and the business model canvas (BMC). I personally felt that in the first week of the programme, I learned more than I would in a term studying a module at university.
Whilst I learnt a great deal during the training, there was still plenty of time left in the evenings to socialise and get to know everyone. We were fortunate enough to be able to stay relatively close to the city centre for the duration of the training course. Living in a close environment with over 20 people from around the world provided a lively and dynamic atmosphere. Each of us had different views and perspectives to exchange, and this proved a nice contrast to living amongst a less diverse group back at home. We even celebrated a birthday in the first week at a local restaurant, accompanied by a few drinks after. To my surprise, Nakuru has a vibrant nightlife with many bars and clubs. My personal favorites so far are Taidys and Lounge 64, although the drinks are perhaps a little too expensive…
The first week has taught me how to facilitate the development of small businesses and generate creative ideas that will prove a success. I can’t wait to immerse myself into the programme and start working with a wide range of entrepreneurs!