As week one comes to an end our stories committee get the lowdown on how things are going so far here in Eldoret.
From left to right – Christophe, Lillian, Dennis and Cat spill the beans on their first week with Balloon
That’s our first week of the programme finished. How did you find learning about the Balloon Curriculum?
DENNIS: I absolutely loved the Curriculum Training. It wasn’t like being at school at all – I could tell that everything in there had been tried and tested and that it could be applied to real situations.
CAT: I have to be honest; it’s been an intense 5 days! Every part was so important and I had to focus so hard to take it all in. Don’t get me wrong, I never thought: Why are we doing this? I can really see how it’s going to be useful. It was a very well thought out and thorough process that has really made me think about what entrepreneurialism is and all its complexities.
LILIAN: I have found the curriculum interesting and also really fun! It was harder than I expected; I didn’t know anything about business or entrepreneurship before I joined Balloon so I already feel that my skills and knowledge are developing after 1 week!
The Balloon Curriculum – Our Bible for the next 10 weeks
What was your favourite part of the training?
CAT: The marshmallow design challenge was a lot of fun. I have to admit, I didn’t really trust what Dennis was doing at the start but we ended up winning so I can’t complain! It made me realise how important it is going to be to work well as a team during the programme.
LILIAN: The highlight for me was learning about the BMC (Business Model Canvas). I had no idea how to present and analyse a business before. I think this tool will be the most useful for when I’m working with the entrepreneurs. Ellie and Betty, our curriculum trainers, were so enthusiastic and kept us engaged by playing games and doing challenges. I really liked the energisers!
DENNIS: I loved arguing about what sustainability in the informal sector means; that was a great debate! I liked the atmosphere during the classes – Balloon have created an environment where we can question and criticise the programme to help make it the best it can be.
CHRISTOPHE: My favourite part was when we had to go into the town centre and put what we had learned into practice. Our task was to create a fictional business that would help other small businesses in the Eldoret area. Being out on the streets and speaking to the locals gave us a great insight into how business is done over here and also highlighted some of the difficulties people are facing.
12 hour challenge – Putting theory to the test
How are you settling in to the programme so far?
CAT: I felt comfortable very very quickly. I think getting paired up with a Kenyan ‘buddy’ early on played a big role. Ice breakers and energising activities like totti totti were really useful to learn everybody’s names! When we had to pick an adjective to describe ourselves I picked Crazy Catherine to let everybody know I’m loud and unpredictable. Putting it out there early meant I could be myself from the start!
CHRISTOPHE: Settling in hasn’t been an issue at all. I think that’s mainly thanks to my living counterpart and host family. Knowing that you are with people who know the culture and the area and will be there if you ever need help is a great relief.
LILIAN: It’s awesome! I love socialising and it has been so nice getting in touch with people with different ideas, beliefs and cultures.
Totti Totti – the team’s favourite energiser
How was it meeting the entrepreneurs you’ll be working with?
CAT: I was surprised by how young they all are. One of the entrepreneurs my group will be working with is only 19! After all the Curriculum Training we were all really eager to meet them and I was glad they were excited to meet us too. They really wanted to know about us as people and they were very open about their business ideas too which was a relief. I thought they might be a bit reserved on our first meeting! I could tell straight away they are here for the right reasons – they aren’t in it just for the loan.
DENNIS: Meeting our entrepreneurs was such an amazing experience. I’m particularly excited that we’ll be working with so many start-ups, completely new businesses! Being there from the very beginning and helping them earn their first Shilling will be great. One challenge I can see arising is that some of the entrepreneurs want to work in areas which are already quite crowded, like poultry farming, so being innovative with our ideas is going to be crucial.
CHRISTOPHE: We didn’t know what kind of businesses we’d be working with until we actually met the entrepreneurs so it was a really exciting experience. We got on with them really well straight from the off and I think we’re going to have a great working relationship. What I’m most happy about is that we’ll be dealing with a wide range of businesses – it’s going to be a great challenge!
Host home: Expectation vs. Reality
DENNIS: All I wanted was to be accepted by my host family. I really hoped it would be a warm and friendly and that’s exactly what we got. My counterpart and I are even in our own little out-house so we have plenty of privacy and we can give the family their space too.
CHRISTOPHE: I’ve been blown away by my host family’s generosity. I can see why staying with a local family is such an integral part of the programme now and I already know it’s going to make it a special experience. Every night we get to try delicious local food which is my favourite aspect so far. When we’re around the dinner table we get to discuss all kinds of interesting things. I’ve already discovered a lot about Kenyan culture and learnt a fair bit of Swahili!
LILIAN: The family are so nice; mama is so welcoming and charming. It’s a very big, social family – We have 8 brothers and sisters! Personally, I didn’t expect anything, but the place is so nice. The only difficulty is that we are very far from the main road, so we often get rained on. Luckily, our Dad comes to pick us up if it’s really bad. We are looking forward to the end of the rainy season!
Feeling welcome – plaiting Mama’s hair on the first night
How have you found Eldoret so far?
CAT: I didn’t do much research before coming here, I wanted it to be a surprise. I don’t know why but I expected it to be more rural… I really like what I’ve seen so far though! I’m looking forward to exploring more – we just need the rain to calm down a bit!
CHRISTOPHE: Walking through the streets it’s easy to see that there is an amazing entrepreneurial spirit here. I’d read about Kenya’s informal sector before I came but seeing it in action is something else! There are all kinds of businesses dotted around the place – it makes for a really nice atmosphere.
LILIAN: I live in Nairobi, which is really congested. Eldoret is still a big town but I like that it’s a bit quieter. It’s also Kenya’s fastest developing town so it’s definitely a cool place to be at the moment. The clothes markets are awesome!
Rush hour – Eldoret is Kenya’s fastest growing town
As you can see it’s been a fun and productive first week here on the Eldoret programme. We’re really looking forward to keeping you up to date with our adventures over the next 10 weeks!