5 phenomenal people who've done the Sinapis Program

By Mercy Deche
Guest Post
  Published 22 Apr 2016
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Guest post by Silvya Kananu

Mark Kaigwa-Nendo

Picture credit: http://thisisafrica.me

Mark Kaigwa’s company, Nendo, is among Africa’s leading digital consultancies and specializes in digital strategy, insights, storytelling and data science focused on the African customer and context. The company has had projects in over 10 countries over the last 2 years. Nendo contracts up to 25 specialized consultants spanning across Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa during a typical engagement. Nendo now has global customers including Phillips, BBC, Mail & Guardian, Pernod Ricard & Deutsche Welle and a number of the “Top 100” Kenyan SMEs.

Mark has travelled to over 40 countries speaking and training on Africa’s rise across youth, technology, media and innovation. Mark was recognised in 2013 among Forbes Magazine's 30 under 30 Best Young Entrepreneurs in Africa and has been featured globally in CNBC Africa, CNN, BBC, NPR, Wired, Fast Company and Huffington Post. “Sinapis gave us a new outlook towards business. It gave us a philosophy that continues to inform how I solve problems and do business now. I’ve recommended Sinapis to hundreds of people over the past few years.”

Amanda Gicharu-Amanda’s Kitchen

Amanda Gicharu_Pic 2

Picture credit: http://www.amandas-kitchen.com

Amanda Gicharu came to Sinapis with just a vague idea. She wanted to do something focused on health and nutrition. She had obtained celebrity status by winning the hit reality TV cooking show, ‘Royco Fuata Flava’ and decided to leverage her status, brand and fan base to start her own business: Amanda’s Kitchen. Amanda’s Kitchen is an online-based restaurant that provides healthy meals easily and conveniently. Consumers order their meals through an e-commerce website and mobile platform for same-day delivery to their home or office.

“Sinapis has had a huge impact. I didn’t understand the important aspects of business and didn’t have the time or money for a top MBA, and online platforms seemed too theoretical. I would have taken 2 years to get an MBA and would have learned a lot of academic information that doesn’t help in the day-to-day. Sinapis gave me the tools to act. I can now hire an accountant and interpret the financial statements. I understand processes, productivity, managing teams and how to make a compelling pitch. I also now understand how I can incorporate my faith in business. In Kenya people think it’s unrealistic to be a Christian in your business...you must engage in unethical practices and corruption to be successful. We have a zero-tolerance for corruption policy.”

Amanda was selected into the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Program, where she won $10,000 and was recently selected as an emerging innovator by Ashoka. She has been featured in BBC, on the cover of Healthy Women, True Love and is a food writer for Yummy Magazine.

James Kabiru-Olive Tree Media

James Kabiru

James joined Sinapis with a business that distributed local music via SMS, but within the first 2 weeks of the Sinapis program he realized the business was unsustainable. “I did the ultimate fit checklist and all the fundamentals were wrong...We were going to work really hard and never achieve real growth. It was heart-breaking to realize that, but it explained why we were not really growing.”

But James still knew there was huge demand for subscription-based content delivered via SMS. “I believe it was an act of God. A radio presenter told me people were always asking him for stuff. I told him, ‘why don’t I give you a subscription service. I’ll give you a portal you can use to send out content to your fans.’ He invited the audience to subscribe and then used the platform to distribute content to them via SMS. “This new model solved all the problems I had with the former model.” James pivoted the business into a platform through which corporates and personalities could sell and distribute their content via SMS to subscribed members.

Since then James has doubled in revenue, with sales growing by 155% through customers such as Egerton University, Art Caffé, Co-op Bank, and Home Afrika. Sinapis has had a big impact on James as an entrepreneur. “Sinapis helped me realize that if I’m to scale up the business, I need to work with other people. I can’t be everything. My mind has really opened up in the last few months. Sinapis helped me identify the key things my business needs to be successful. I’ve become a more thorough manager of the entire business.”

Waweru Kuria-iNukaPap

Waweru Kuria


Waweru’s motivation behind founding iNukaPap lies in his background. “I grew up in the village. People’s children die because they don’t have the money to take them to the hospital in the middle of the night. People are unprepared for health emergencies. They don’t have access to money when they need it, and they don’t have health insurance.” So Waweru founded iNukaPap, a mobile platform that enables Kenyans in rural & sub-urban areas to get instant access to microcredit and microinsurance, which he distributes to customers through cooperatives and microfinance institutions.

In less than 1 month after piloting his prototype, he’d landed 1 major cooperative and earned revenue from the 50 customers piloting the product. He was also accepted into the very competitive Unreasonable Institute, where he landed a commitment for investment. Waweru says most of what he knows about business, he learned from Sinapis. He now understands strategy, operations and finance. He can project cash flow and knows what he must do to become investment ready.

“I feel like I’ve gone through an MBA, and I can have actual business conversations with these guys who’ve done a Yale MBA. Had I done Unreasonable before Sinapis, I would have been totally lost. When we were working on my financial model, I understood everything. Unreasonable investors were like, ‘you said you didn’t go to business school. How did you learn all of this?Sinapis. Now we have an operations plan. We have financial projections. The business has structure.”

Sharon Mitchener-House of Fotography

Sharon Mitchener

Sharon Mitchener started House of Fotography with her husband Teddy. Describing the early days of the business, Teddy says, “It was terrible and stressful. I felt overwhelmed. We didn’t have the right equipment. I was afraid of computers and didn’t know how to use Photoshop. The industry was run by a cartel, and we didn’t have the right networks. It was very hard to get work and to build a local portfolio. We were watching our savings drain away.”

Three years in, when Sharon enrolled in Sinapis, the business was still struggling; growth was slow, and they didn’t know how to plan or execute properly. Fast forward to today...House of Fotography won the $10,000 prize money from Sinapis and has since built and equipped its own professional studio, has an office, has hired 2 additional employees, and have done work for leading brands like GE, Safaricom, Guinness, Dettol and Brookside. After Sinapis and implementing everything they learnt especially within customer development, they have doubled their sales. “Going through Sinapis lit a fire in me. Sinapis took the head knowledge I had and made it more practical.”

Sharon and Teddy believe Sinapis was a God-sent opportunity. When they started, they saw the business as a vehicle for earning a living. After Sinapis, this changed. “We started to pray to God to open our minds and to help us truly incorporate the Kingdom Business mind-set to make an impactful change. Now we’re more intentional about our Kingdom focus in order to have lasting impact in people’s lives.”


Writer’s note:

You too can sign up for the Sinapis entrepreneurship program and become a phenomenal entrepreneur! For more information, email on [email protected] or call on 0715575144

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