ARTICLE – Balloon Kenya: Out in Africa, Advising Its Entrepreneurs – Leicester Mercury Article

In January this year, mid way through a Finance Placement with German giants Bosch, I began to look at ways I could spend my summer. Many of my friends were heading to the Balearic’s for an alcohol fuelled summer, but I wanted to do something different that would help with my final year of University and also with the ever increasing competition in the graduate market. Whilst applying for internships with major banks I stumbled upon Balloon Kenya, a project based in Nakuru, Kenya that works with entrepreneurs in Africa’s fastest growing city. After an initial application form asking what I could bring to the programme and why I wanted to travel to Kenya I received a telephone interview. The interview was competency and situation based, asking how I would deal with certain problems in Kenya. Whilst on a treadmill I received an e-mail to say that I’d been selected to travel to Kenya to participate in the August programme.

Balloon Kenya was founded by recent graduates Josh Bicknell and Doug Cochrane in 2011. Josh travelled to Kenya in 2008 and based his Masters Degree dissertation on the political violence that the country had faced and witnessed a strong entrepreneurial spirit despite the struggles. Having struggled to find graduate employment themselves they headed to Kenya with six students (Fellows) from across the world in 2011. They had put together a syllabus for Fellows to teach to groups of Kenyans based around Osterwalder Business Model Canvas and also used small, but effective business principles such as Gross Profit Margins and Cash Flow Statements. The program has grown substantially and in 2013 sent 54 students to Kenya over two separate programmes and received over 400 applications, working with over 200 Kenyan entrepreneurs.

I’d saved over £1,000 from my placement year, I needed to raise a further £2,500 to be able to attend, however this target did not frighten me as I was determined that I’d be on a flight to Kenya. I was fortunate to be awarded the Innovation Award from Sheffield Hallam Student Union and also grants from Leicestershire the Andrew Martin Trust for Young People, the Soar Valley Leicester Centre and the Clarke and Somerville Foundaion. I also had full support from Loughborough MP, Nicky Morgan, who worked with me to reach my target.

I woke on the Wednesday, two days prior to leaving for Kenya, to see that Jomo Kenyatta Airport was ablaze. I kept cool and managed to re-arrange my flight to Entebbe, Uganda. Upon arrival in Uganda we were informed that we needed to take a seven hour bus journey to Nakuru, sixteen hours later we arrived at our destination. Although the bus journey took a while it allowed me to watch East Africa pass by the window, giving me my first encounter of poverty from the safety of the bus.

Although the first week of the programme was classroom based we spent very little time sitting down. We spent time sticking Post-It’s to walls and going out talking to Kenyans on the street. This is how they wanted us to deliver the program to Kenyan entrepreneurs, seeing us facilitate rather than lead. We didn’t want to force ideas into their heads, but encourage them to think outside the box. Steering them away from the ‘copy cat culture’ which see streets full of people offering the same products or services.

Weeks two and three saw me and a partner begin classroom sessions, working with two groups, consisting of eleven Kenyans in total. They had varying businesses from fruit stalls, shoe shops, Boda-Boda (Motorbike) transport service and another wanted to start an affordable recording studio. They all want to grow their businesses and improve their standard of living, as some earn as little as two pounds per day. Each of the two groups received ten hours of tuition over the first two weeks.

Testing and continued market research followed in week four and the beginning of week five. Armed with questionnaires the entrepreneurs took to the streets of Nakuru to gain opinions on their current service and their proposed change to see what their consumer would like. We also arranged meetings with people who had experience in the field they were venturing into.

Two days before my departure the individuals pitched for a micro-finance fund at Balloon Kenya’s partner Hope and Vision, who provide support for Nakuru based entrepreneurs. Each of them came out with huge smiles and said that even if they did not receive the investment, they felt that the education delivered would help them improve in business.

Balloon Kenya delivers welcoming news from Kenya, as the country has recently been at the centre of media attention. I am pleased that I have been able to attend a programme which has allowed me to work with people who may not be as fortunate as we are, but still have enormous smiles on their faces.

I now return to Sheffield Business School as the Finance Director of the Enterprise Society. Hoping to bring the Kenyan entrepreneurial spirit to the students of Sheffield. Away from my studies I shall be trying my hardest to attain a graduate position in either Consultancy or Finance, relating the skills I gained in Kenya to positions.

BLOG – Hello Sheffield!

First of all apologies for the silence! I made it home from Kenya safely, but I’ve had a whirlwind two weeks.

It was surreal during my last weekend in Kenya having visited West Gate Mall just two weeks before the attack. The siege was plastered all over the Kenyan media, just as it was when I returned to the UK. I passed through Nairobi, within half a mile of the shopping centre on the second day of the siege on my way to the airport. We just sailed through as if nothing had happened, as it was dark and the dark smoke filled clouds could not be seen.

Six weeks prior to my departure from Nairobi the airport had suffered a fire – two days before my arrival. You may remember my blog about a long coach journey through Uganda and eventually onto Kenya. The structure of the terminal is still intact, however you can see the charred flame licked edges still. After passing through strict security checks we were allowed through to the ‘Departure Tents’, which were huge marquees with a flat screen television and Wi-Fi. Our flight for Zurich left on time and after being frisked at 06:30 I made my connection to London.

London was cold and overcast on arrival. I was concious of my body odour on the bus journey to Leicester and can only apologise to the lady who I shared a good chat with on the coach.

I spent two full days in Leicester seeing family and catching up with friends before returning north to Sheffield on Thursday. I managed to produce an article for the Leicester Mercury and I shall be working with the newspapers Business Editor to smooth it off this week. I was whisked straight into a presentation on the Thursday afternoon, presenting to over 50 Enterprise students about the Enterprise Society which I shall be looking after the finances for. A presentation to second year Business Studies followed, presenting to 100 students about my placement journey, with the focus of the talk being around resilience and not giving up. Both of the presentations were well received and I felt confident presenting, despite the big audience. I feel my placement where I regularly presented KPI’s to Directors and teaching in Kenya will of helped with this.

On Friday I sat in two Welcome Back presentations with the aim of gearing us up for our final year at the University, before returning back to Leicester for the weekend to collect the remainder of my things.

Monday started early with one of my electives – Contemporary Issues in International Business which looks at business in emerging markets. I rushed home to have a skype chat with my Career Advisor Aimee (check out http://www.careercake.com) which was good and we spoke about going for graduate opportunities. I then went for tea with Hallam Union’s Student Development Manager, Vanessa and we discussed about my trip and how I can help other students gain a similar experience. I was fortunate to be sponsored by the Union and due to my success they want to sponsor two students to go on the 2014 Balloon Kenya trip.

Tuesday saw me meet with one of the Universities Press Team to discuss a piece for the University and local press in regards to Kenya, which will go live tomorrow (Monday 7th), so look out for that! The afternoon was spent rummaging through BAE’s Annual Report before the first meeting of the Enterprise Society Committee – which is looking really exciting!

I worked for The Economist on Wednesday morning at Sheffield University, we managed to sign up over 120 people to the magazine between a team of 5, which wasn’t bad going!

Meeting about the launch of the Enterprise Society Launch at lunch on Thursday went well. We shall be launching the society next Wednesday with food and a number of local entrepreneurs, who will be giving presentations.

Friday was another busy one. Two hours of lectures followed by a short meeting with the Head of the Placement Team, who has asked me to be a volunteer at the Universities Placement Employers Fair, which I have agreed to do. It will involve helping to introduce second years to potential employers. I then proceeded to a meeting with the Head of Business and Enterprise Management to discuss the Enterprise Society. An hour lecture about the Agency Problem in finance followed before I gave a presentation to 150 students about my placement (the presentations being re-cycled well!). I then met with my Placement Tutor to discuss my essay and opportunities in my final year.

So BUSY, BUSY, BUSY. I have managed to fit in a little bit of partying also, after all it has been Freshers!

I’ve been invited to speak at the opening of the Employability Hub and shall be speaking in their Global Graduates afternoon on Tuesday between 13:00-15:00. I shall also be dressing up as one of the 118 men, joining the Athletics team on their social, as my house mate is the Chairman.

I’m still providing advice to my Kenyans via WhatsApp, which I am happy to do. It’s also nice to wake up to them messaging me saying morning 🙂

Oh I also made contact with a former ‘Dragon’ who said they’d be interested in speaking at our Enterprise Week!

BLOG – Balloon Kenya: Road to Kenya

With my trip to Kenya being under three weeks away I thought it best that I share a blog on my journey so far, which started in late February 2013.

Having earned an industrial placement with Bosch in June 2012, I was looking to continue to gain business exposure through the summer break before returning to Sheffield Business School in September 2013. Ideally I was looking to jump onto a large company’s summer insight scheme in London. However when looking through the various job sights I came across the Balloon Kenya Project.

Balloon Kenya select 48 students each summer (24 in June and 24 in August) to travel to Nakuru, Kenya to work with entrepreneurs to empower them to start their own business and lift their communities out of poverty. After a week in their intense Entrepreneurs School the volunteers then spend five weeks working with young Kenyans who dream of starting their own businesses. The last weekend sees the entrepreneurs pitch for micro-finance.

Balloon Kenya: http://www.BalloonKenya.com

Balloon Kenya Video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=czQm3KJkC7s

Kenyan Flag

I could see a direct correlation between both what I had been doing on placement and my course at University (BA (Hons) Business Studies) and therefore was attracted to apply in late February. The application form had a focus around the qualities that you could bring to the project, your compatibility to working in a team and with others, what you considered to be your greatest achievement and a short CV. I looked at my seven year journey with the Air Training Corps, the experiences I had gained from working for Bosch and my degree, my Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award and my time as the Lord Lieutenants Cadet for Leicestershire. A competency and situation based interview followed before I received an e-mail whilst on an exercise bike to say I’d been successful.

Having saved £1,000 I calculated that it would cost me a further £2,000 to make it from Leicestershire to the Rift Valley. My drive and opportunities of the project compelled me to raise the £2,000 required.

The first place I headed for was the doctors and found out that I would need nine vaccinations before heading out to Africa – which isn’t ideal when you’re not a fan of needles. I am now vaccinated against Rabies, Yellow Fever and both Hepatitis’ and didn’t faint in the process!

In early April I met with Loughborough MP, Nicky Morgan to discuss the project and get some ideas on how to approach my fund raising. Nicky and her assistant, Jane Hunt had prepared a number of different pieces on ways of funding and where to gain further information on business in Kenya. Nicky spent half an hour in her surgery talking to me and pointed me in the right direction which was a good help. The Leicester Mercury and the Loughborough Echo took an interest and both published articles in their newspapers.

Leicester Mercury article: http://tinyurl.com/l53vk8o

Following the talks with Nicky I was lucky to gain sponsorship from Leicestershire based charities the Sir Andrew Martin Trust for Young People, The Clarke and Summerville Foundation and the Soar Valley Rotary Club. I shall be exchanging the Rotary Clubs pendant with their fellow Rotarians in Africa and it was great to be able to meet with them, as they offered advice on working abroad and in Kenya. They all helped me towards my goal and I really appreciated it!

Nicky Morgan, MP for Loughborough has been highly supportive with my Balloon Kenya Project. Nicky Morgan, MP for Loughborough has been highly supportive with my Balloon Kenya Project.

Before heading to New York for my 21st birthday I heard that my Cousin, Michael Londra would be running in Concerns Spring Run to raise money for their work in poverty stricken countries. I jumped at the chance to join him on the 6km run in Central Park and I now look forward to seeing how their money is spent in Kenya when I visit one of their programmes. Michael’s small team ranked highest in the sponsorship table, which was a great achievement due to the 1,500 competitors!

Michael and I in Central Park Michael and I in Central Park

I opened talks with the University whilst I was in New York. I initially contacted the Head of Business Studies and also my placement tutor to see if the University would be able to help me in anyway. The University said that nothing was currently in place for this type of activity and I thought that it was dead in the water until I got an email from Hallam’s Student Union. The email came from the Student Development Unit who said that I may be entitled to apply for their Innovation Award that has been set up to help students working on social enterprise projects. After a number of telephone conversations with Vanessa Marshall at the Union and their application form I was granted the Innovation Award which really helped me close in on my target amount. I got the chance to go up to Sheffield a few weeks ago to discuss the project with the Union and it was great to meet up with them and talk about how I can help them in my final year.

Carlisle United Football Club added an article to their website entitled ‘Show Us Your Colours’ encouraging fans to send in pictures of fans in their shirts around the world for use in their programme. I’d spoken to somebody who said that he had seen lots of retro Manchester United shirts on a visit to Kenya. I had a brainwave and e-mailed the club to see if they would be able to send out a bag of shirts to Lalwat – a small village on the outskirts of Nakuru. Unfortunately they were unable to help as they had given many tops to ‘Kits4Causes’.

Away from the fund raising I wanted to gain a greater understanding of Kenya, its culture and its economy. I have also been reading up about the ‘Canvas Model’ for business planning, which is used in the programme. Fortunately my network allowed me to talk a number of different people. One of Volvo Cars Vice Presidents in Sweden and I had a good talk about working within different cultures and how to approach them. I had a long conversation with my Managing Director at Bosch about using the experience to develop me personally and how it would help in the future. Former Apprentice finalist Nick Holzherr also put me in contact with somebody that had worked on projects in Africa, who gave me some really good advice on what to expect about the business culture. The Business Show in June held in London also allowed me to speak face to face with people who had worked in Kenya. Using their hashtags on Twitter allowed me to capture the attention of people who were also attending the event.

Following the Business Show at Excel I managed to grab a telephone call with one of their headline speakers, Brad Burton. The highly motivational Brad managed to get a couple of hundred suit wearing people off their chairs and going mental when he took to the stage, even if it was for a copy of his book (Amazon search him – great read!). Brad and I spoke about motivating people in the classroom to ensure that their heart was set on the right project and to make sure they understood the problems that they could face.

I hope that my experience in Kenya will help me in my final year of studies and when I become the Finance Director for Sheffield Business School’s Enterprise Society, giving fellow students an insight into entrepreneurial spirit abroad. On my return I shall be working with the Student Development Unit to run workshops on social enterprise and international business and also with the Business School as a Mentor for those seeking a sandwich year, similar to what I did at Bosch.

Flights booked, Malarone prescribed and Visa accepted, now just the long 18 day wait until flight SN2104 to Brussels, before heading south to Nairobi.

Online Articles:

Sheffield Hallam University: http://tinyurl.com/pvfq6st

Leicester Mercury: http://tinyurl.com/l53vk8o

Bury Free Press: http://tinyurl.com/mm2p6x3

Syston Town News: http://tinyurl.com/kvt5vry

Special mention to my sponsors:

Sir Andrew Martin Trust for Young People

Clarke and Somerville Foundation

Soar Valley Rotary Club

Sheffield Hallam Students Union

Sovereign Wealth Advisory

Binotto UK

And thanks to all my individual sponsors too!

ARTICLE – Balloon Kenya: Local Student Wins Place on Enterprising Kenya Project – Leicester Mercury Article

A business student from Sileby has been chosen to take part in a global scheme in Kenya this summer.

Dan Garlick, 21, will join 24 other students from all over the world to help Kenyan entrepreneurs set up businesses as part of the Balloon Kenya programme.

“I will be there for six weeks and I will team up with students from Vietnam, China, America and Germany to name a few,” he said.

“The programme is based in Nakuru, Kenya and aims to empower local people to fight poverty through enterprise rather than aid.

“I’m working for Bosch on placement while doing my degree in Sheffield and I saw this and thought it was a great opportunity to do something different that still had real relevance to my course and at the same time would help me learn some life skills.

“We’ll be training at first and acclimatising and then we’ll work with local entrepreneurs and help them to develop their ideas before, at the end of the six weeks, helping them pitch for finance .

“Essentially, we’ll be helping them with their presentations to pitch for micro-finance that will enable them to start up their own businesses.”

Dan is a former pupil of Redlands Primary School in Sileby and former student at both Humphrey Perkins School in Barrow and Rawlins Community College in Quorn.

He was also a member of Air Cadets and achieved his Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award with them, as well as being made the Lord Lieutenant’s Cadet for the county.

To make the trip, he has already saved £1,000 but wants to raise another £2,000 before he heads to Africa in August.

“I’m thinking of setting up an email account for people who want to help support me to donate and of course people can call me too,” he added.

Among those supporting Dan is Loughborough MP Nicky Morgan, who commented: “I am thrilled that Dan has earned a place on this programme.

“He will be an inspiration to young Kenyans who want to become young entrepreneurs.

“I’m sure he will reach his target of raising £2,000, and I wish him all the luck in the world with his endeavours,” she added.