BLOG – Balloon Kenya: The Penultimate Week – ‘1, 2, 3 Testing, Testing’

So we’re just finishing the penultimate week, how time flies! We are currently in the final stages of our testing, finding out whether there is a demand for the area that our students want to delve into if they are given a loan. I’ve been struggling to find time to hit the keyboard and write a blog.

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Each of my eleven Entrepreneurs has received four class room lessons which have been supported by individual meetings with myself and either Luke or Hannah, depending on which group I’m working with. Many hours have been spent drinking coffee deliberating over business plans or out on the street talking to people to see what people want and what competition exists.

The two groups I am working with are called CityNaks, who are based in the Freehold area of Nakuru and Hope and Vision Youth, who are in the heart of the city. I have been impressed by all of the members and have put some of them forward to become ‘Master Trainers’ which will see them teach the Balloon syllabus to fellow Kenyans in January – similar to what I have been working on with them.

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So from fruit barrows to recording studios, motorbikes to shoe sellers my time in Kenya is nearly up. There’s a lot of work to cram into the next nine days before my flight back to the UK, with my groups concluding their testing and research before their pitches next Friday and Saturday.

Hopefully some of them will be invested in! However many have said that even if they do not receive their investment they feel they will be able to improve their business due to the training they have received from myself, Hannah and Luke, which is really nice to hear. I have already been asked four times today about the next time I shall be visiting Kenya.

BLOG – Balloon Kenya: From Google to Pitch Side

During my placement with Bosch my manager commended me for having a great skill at building relationships with people, this is a story of a relationship that will surpass my time in Kenya.

My journey with Nakuru Allstars started with a Google search a ‘Nakuru Football Club’ which resulted in Nakuru Allstars’ appearing at the top of the search. Upon clicking the link I found that their shirt was luminous orange and decided that I had to try and get my hands on one whilst in Nakuru. I tweeted the team and got a reply from their Owner and CEO Robert Muthomi saying that he’d be able to sort me one.

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Finding a football pitch in Nakuru is difficult, as they are not readily available unlike in the UK. Ten football hungry Balloon Kenya males were desperate for a kick around and when we were invited to play the Allstars C team we jumped at the chance. We fielded seven Fellows on Wednesday evening, stealing three Allstars Defenders and a Goalkeeper. The sixty minute game ended 2-2 with Nick from Balloon Kenya grabbing our first goal and a young Kenyan securing the second. See Luke Mallards blog for a full account http://startup-kenya.blogspot.com/2013/08/balloon-kenya-allstars.html.

A tweet from Robert following the game on Wednesday asked what I was doing on Saturday. As the conversation continued he asked if a friend and I would like to travel to Kericho, sixty miles west of Nakuru to see the Allstars take on Zoo FC. An intense game of rock, paper, scissors saw Chris beat Luke for the second place on the team bus.

Chris and I managed to rearrange our Saturday meetings and the seven o’clock start was a struggle but Chris and I managed to grab a light breakfast before being warmly welcomed by the team at their ground. Eight o’clock Kenyan time (08:30 in reality) saw the bus pull off from Nakuru, beginning our journey to tea grow capital Kericho. A brief motivational talk instilled the importance of the day, as leaders West Sugar had faced a two points reduction as they bought and fielded a player before the transfer window had opened. The two point reduction meant that a draw would see Nakuru Allstars top the Kenyan Second Division.

After a two and a half hour bus journey through the luscious green tea growing countryside we arrived in Kericho. The player dispersed, heading in different directions for their pre-match meal and Chris and I joined the Allstars CEO for Chapattis and Chicken Stew in a restaurant.

We arrived at Kericho Green Stadium at one o’clock, an hour prior to the kick-off. Kericho suffers heavy rainfall and as a result large patches of mud have formed and theses patches have been covered in gravel to prevent a mid match mud bath. Chris and I joined the teams Bus Driver for a brief kick around with local children whilst the players warmed up.

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The Fourth Official forced Chris and I to leave the bench, however I remained wearing a red bib to avoid being mistaken for a player of the away team. Zoo FC took an early lead, but Nakuru didn’t let their heads drop and managed to grab an equaliser a minute before half time. Nakuru started strong in the second half and were pushing for a second goal. The weather took a turn for the worst as heavy rain spoiled the second half, which meant the football struggled on the heavy pitch.

A live chicken being dangled by its legs and waved at my window on the bus concluded another great day out in Kenya. Now back to Nakuru for a week of testing ideas with my entrepreneurs.

Thanks to the Allstars team for looking after us, especially Robert, Sky and Charlie who looked after the only Mzungu’s in the crowd well!

BLOG – Balloon Kenya: Hope and Vision

In a packed alley that running parallel with Nakuru’s High Street you will find an army of young entrepreneurs. You can find shoes, photocopiers, second hand clothes, tailors and fruit salad sellers in this tightly packed row. Small talk of the English Premier League can be heard, with the different sellers challenging one and other about their favourite team. All of the members in Kenyatta Line are members  of the Best Run Youth Society in Kenya, Hope and Vision Youth Sacco, Balloon Kenya’s partner.

The six founding members were all refused loans and in 2003 decided to start a co-operative, with each of the founders contributing 1,000 KSH (£7.50) a month to their fund. As the number of members increased, as did the funding pot, with loans given on trust and character.

Now in 2013 the group has over 140 members from across Nakuru from varying diciplines. With a repayment rate of 97% the Sacco has proved to be a great success.

Mostly aged between 20 and 30 the members pay a 2,600 KSH (£19.50) joining fee and follow this up with a 1,500 KSH contribution per month to the Hope and Vision Pot. They offer 10 different loan products and are currently looking into home and health insurance packages for their members. Members are charged much lower interest rates than those offered by banks and micro-financing companies.

Balloon Kenya joined forces with Hope and Vision in 2011. Hope and Vision vet the groups before the fellows arrive and provide ongoing support after the Balloon Kenya team has departed.

The community spirit from the group is evident, with members watching each others stalls whilst they attend our training sessions and long may this continue.

BLOG – Balloon Kenya: Marshmallow Challenge – Video

18 minutes. 18 strands of spaghetti. 1 marshmallow and 1 meter of sticky tape provide the resources for one of the most well known team building exercises, The Marshmallow Challenge.

The first task for me during the introduction to the task was to describe what a marshmallow was, as they are relatively unknown here in Kenya.

The challenge is heavily used within team building and I was first introduced to it during my time in the Air Training Corps, to improve communication skills within a team.

There are several instructions that each team must follow:

  • Build the tallest freestanding structure
  • The entire marshmallow must be on top – the marshmallow cannot be sliced and used to hold the spaghetti together
  • The team can use as much or as little as possible of the given resources
  • Break the spaghetti and tape – the teams are allowed to break both of these resources
  • The team has eighteen minutes to build their structure

Over the past week I have given the task to two separate groups, delivering it to ten people in total. The two sessions we have delivered this week have been based around the Business Model Canvas, the ‘River of Business’ showing the route we shall be taking over the next five weeks and then the Marshmallow Challenge and problems that they could face.

One problem the majority of the groups faced was that their structures flopped after the eighteen minutes and we used this to tie in with the ‘River’ that we had been teaching. It has been proven that children have the greatest amount of success in that they have standing structures after the time. The main reason is because they test their structure using the marshmallow at a number of heights, whereas older groups over think the structure and don’t touch the marshmallow until the end.

We used the example of the children using the marshmallow throughout and related it to how we wanted the groups to work over our five weeks. We used the marshmallow in two senses, one pretending that it was the entrepreneurs’ consumer and they should look after them from day one and then used it to describe the risk of their projects.

In regards to risk I described that it would be better for them to test their ideas at regular intervals at differing heights. Using the marshmallow on a structure with a low height, using low resources would allow them to see if the idea would be worth taking to the next level. In their businesses it is important to use their resources as effectively as possible to see whether or not their idea which they are going to pitch for is viable, as in Kenya resources are limited in comparison to the UK.

I am going to try and test the entrepreneurs again in the coming weeks with the same challenge to see if they have learnt from their mistakes and use this to relate the overcoming problems.

Balloon Kenya: Introducing the August 2013 Fellows!

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Despite the Jomo Kenyatta fire, which meant delayed flights, an exhausting 15 hour bus journey from Uganda and a fair amount of confusion, our second lot of 2013 Fellows finally made it to Nakuru! An enthusiastic bunch with a real zeal to kick start the programme here they are introducing each other!

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Nils on Anna……….
Anna just came from Tanzania. A trustee of a charity taking care of orphans and vulnerable children. She joined Balloon Kenya to gain the entrepreneurial mind and skill set to expand their income-generating projects for women. But really, Anna is here because continuing ‘life as usual’ in the UK is no option any more ever since she saw the poverty in Africa for the first time. Anna is a 21-year-old, has a BSc in Biology from Durham and would love to go to Columbia for her master’s. She’s got a unique sense of humour and…

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BLOG – Balloon Kenya: The Wait is Over – Group Reveal

The wait is over. 10 days into our Africa adventure our partners and the groups that we shall be working with have been revealed. It’s a bit like the X Factor contestants waiting to find out who their mentor is.  Each fellow shall work with two other fellows and two groups of Kenyan entrepreneurs, starting lessons tomorrow (Wednesday).

The fellows shall be working with the groups for the next five weeks, creating ideas, testing them and then preparing them to pitch for micro-finance. Two 3 hour classroom sessions per group shall be supported by a similar amount of time out with the entrepreneurs developing their businesses.

I have been paired with Hannah and Luke, who are both great and I’m looking forward to working with them.

Luke is a bit of a joker and is currently studying Business at Plymouth University. A local haggler refers to him as ‘Rugby’ due to his regular trips to the gym. Hannah studies Social Care and Health Studies at Northampton, so it’ll be interesting to work with someone from a different educational background.

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Luke and I shall be working with a group called CityMax Entrepreneurs who are a group of 3 men and 2 women, based south of the city. We have been given a profile for them, however we haven’t for our second group – Hope and Vision Youth that I shall be working on with Hannah.

CityMax have varying business ideas, some with existing business and some ready to break into the entrepreneurial bubble. We require a Swahili facilitator which could make the lessons interesting, but both Luke and I step up to the challenge. Three of the group are currently clothing vendors in Nakuru, one has a fresh fruit stand, with another wanting to start his own recording studio.

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I am currently sat planning tomorrows session by the pool at the Marika Hotel with sun coming out – bliss. We plan to work through a timeline of the entrepreneurs life as a starter, looking at their education, work experiences and projects they have started and we shall then get them to talk through it. The introduction to the Business Model Canvas shall follow, going through the 9 seperate stages and getting the group to work on an example that they can relate to. The ‘River of Business’ which shall run through our 5 weeks with the groups to conclude.

The wait is over, this is what we are here for, can’t wait to get stuck in!

BLOG – Balloon Kenya: Vending Machine Apprentice Style Task – Video

On Thursday morning we took to the streets of Nakuru talking to both the public and local vendors to see whether or not a vending machine would be viable. We later presented our finidings to the group.

We found that Street Vendors would like a quick and easy place to buy snacks. Many of them have to walk to supermarkets which are a fair distance from their stalls and therefore have to leave them, resulting in a loss of sales.

Our machine would be placed in the main marketplace and allow the customer to select the coins that they receive as change. Change has been found to be a big problem as many shops replace small change with sweets.

BLOG – Balloon Kenya: Become a Servant to Local Passion

A great TED video from Ernesto Sirolli talking about working in Africa. Becoming a servant to local passion and shutting up and listening to them. Ernesto looks at how ineffective aid can be and this video is well worth a watch:

As a Balloon Kenya we are encouraged to allow the Kenyan entrepreneurs to lead and sit back and listen to what they want to do.

BLOG – Balloon Kenya: Hello Uganda!

As you will of probably been aware, yesterday morning Nairobi Airport suffered a major fire in its Arrivals Hall and flight are now bring sent all over East Africa.

Going into my business mode (thanks Bosch for honing this talent) I assessed all the possibilities and spoke to all the different stake holders to assess my options and kept cool.

Initially I spoke with my airline who would not allow me to check into my flight from Brussels to Nairobi as they were unsure of whether or not the flight would be going. A later call confirmed that the flight had been cancelled and that I would have to talk to my travel provider. After talking to numerous people I am now flying from London to Brussels at 06:50 tomorrow, Brussels to Entebbe in Uganda, landing at 11pm, spending a few hours in a hotel before a 5am bus to Nairobi that will take 10 hours.

I instantly googled Entebbe’s location (I didn’t have a clue where it was) and I have noticed the Nakuru (home of Balloon Kenya) is on route to Nairobi, so I hope they will be able to drop me off there! Otherwise the journey will have an extra 6/7 hours added to it as Nairobi is 3 hours past Nakuru.

I tried contacting the Ugandan High Commission when I got home just after 16:00 to find they close at 16:00 and at 16:03 nobody answered. Hopefully they’ll of taken the diversion into account in regards to the visa.

Entebbe’s Airport is on the tip of Lake Victoria so hopefully I’ll get some decent pictures!

Top marks to the Balloon Kenya team who had everything in place for our arrivals in Nairobi, but they have been great help with their contingency planning!

A family BBQ to enjoy and then an early start for Heathrow!