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.

VIDEO – Balloon Kenya: Sheffield Hallam University ‘Global Graduates’ Presentation – Video

On Tuesday I had the pleasure to speak at the ‘Global Graduates’ event at Sheffield Hallam University.

The event saw students give presentations on extra-curricular activities that they had participated in all around the world.

I was invited to talk about my recent trip to Kenya. Apologies for the sounds quality:

 

ARTICLE – Balloon Kenya: Sheffield Student’s Advice Helps Businesses Blossom – Sheffield Star Article

Entrepreneurs in Kenya could see their businesses taking off – thanks to support from a Sheffield Hallam University student.

Dan Garlick, a final year business studies student, visited the Kenyan town of Nakuru as part of the global Balloon Kenya scheme.

The 21-year-old was one of 24 students from across the world picked to take part.

He spent six weeks working with a group of 11 local entrepreneurs whose businesses ranged from clothing stores and fruit stalls to shoe shops and motorbike transport services, while another wanted to start an affordable recording studio.

“They all wanted to grow their businesses and improve their standard of living, as some earned as little as £2 per day,” said Dan.

“We wanted to steer them away from the copy-cat culture that you see over there with stalls on every street selling exactly the same products.”

Dan later had the task of preparing his class to pitch their business proposals in a bid for funding.

http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/business/sheffield-student-s-advice-helps-businesses-blossom-1-6128055

ARTICLE – Balloon Kenya: Student Helps Business Balloon in Kenya – Sheffield Hallam University Article

Entrepreneurs in Kenya have had their business prospects boosted thanks to support from a Sheffield Hallam University student.

Dan Garlick, a final-year business studies student, spent the summer in the Kenyan town of Nakuru where he provided valuable business advice to local traders.

The 21-year-old from Loughborough, was one of 24 students from across the world picked to take part in the global Balloon Kenya scheme.

He spent six weeks working with a group of 11 local entrepreneurs all of whom had businesses ranging from clothing stores, fruit stalls, shoe shops and motorbike transport service while another wanted to start an affordable recording studio.

“They all wanted to grow their businesses and improve their standard of living, as some earned as little as £2 per day,” said Dan.

“Some had little concept of basic business principles like profit margins or cash-flow systems so we spent the first fortnight in the classroom getting them to think outside of the box and look at ways they could improve their businesses. It was important that we were there to be facilitators rather than leaders in this project and we wanted to steer them away from the copy-cat culture that you see over there with stalls on every street selling exactly the same products.”

In the latter part of the project, Dan had the task of preparing his cohort to pitch their business proposals in a bid for funding from the scheme’s partner organisation, Hope and Vision.

“One of my proudest moments was seeing them all blossom in confidence, in particular, Jackson. He was 44 and had a wife and four children and he sold suits for women. He was so shy at the beginning and lacked confidence. He only focused on selling suit jackets and skirts but after some encouragement, I got him thinking about increasing his stock and he became really driven. He came out of his pitch with the biggest smile on his face so I really hope he gets the funding.”

Dan is now back in Sheffield but his Balloon Kenya experience has resulted in the University’s Students Union providing part-funding for two places on next year’s scheme.

http://www.shu.ac.uk/mediacentre/student-helps-business-balloon-kenya

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: Warm Rotary Welcome

Back home in the UK I was fortunate to sponsored by Soar Valley Rotary Club for my trip to Kenya. As part of the sponsorship I was required to make contact with the Rotary Club in Nakuru to exchange a pendant and find out what projects they are working on.

I attended the first meeting, although I shouldn’t have as I was later told it was a closed meeting the discuss their AGM. Despite this I was welcomed with open arms by President Kahendah Vitalis and his fellow Rotarians. During the meeting I gave a short introduction to what I was doing and why I had come to visit the Club. I was fortunate to be placed next to the former District Governor for East Africa. Ken Joslyn moved to Kenya from his native Chelmsford in 1950, starting his own farming business as he came from an agricultural background, after joining Rotary he went on to become the District Governor for 12 countries in Africa. After the meeting I was asked if I would like to speak at the following meeting about Balloon Kenya.

On the Thursday I was invited to lunch with two Rotarians, Lorna and Michael at the local business school, Tracom College to discuss my project with local entrepreneurs. I am going to talk to their students before I leave about what Balloon Kenya is trying to do in their community.

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On Tuesday I took Balloon Kenya’s Co-Founder Josh Bicknell to the meeting with me, where we were both warmly welcomed by the members. Bromley Rotary Club were also guests, as they were visiting project that they had sponsored in Nakuru, so all the speakers flew the British flag. Josh followed Peter, the President of Bromley Rotary and spoke about how he had visited Nakuru following the post-electral violence in 2007/2008 and how Balloon Kenya was born from the entrepreneurial spirit he had witnessed here. I followed with a ten minute presentation about my background, why I had chosen Balloon Kenya, my Kenyan adventure so far and concluded with my plans for the future. My presentation was well received and the compliments afterwards were a confidence boost.

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Today whilst passing through the park I spotted the Rotary sign being packed away, so I went to investigate. I found President Vitalis amongst crowds of school children. He was stood at the heart of the Rotary’s School Furniture Project which has provided over forty schools with thirty desks and chair. I was also lucky enough to be invited into the official photograph and it was great to see the Rotary’s work in action.

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.

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: One Hell of a Journey

Wednesday’s fire at Nairobi’s airport meant that the tents that they had erected were only able to cope with a small proportion of its normal schedule. This meant that the Balloon Kenya Fellows were sent to various airports across East Africa.

The night before Christmas was the only way to describe the amount of sleep I got prior to travelling to the airport – none. In all fairness it wouldn’t of been a great night’s sleep bearing in mind my alarm was set for 01:45 in order to catch my flight from Heathrow at 06:50.

The first flight left slightly late and was bound for Brussels, a 2 hour wait then saw us join a connection to Kigali, Rwanda’s capital. The flight was again delayed and was sat on the concourse for an hour longer than it should of meaning that we arrived in Uganda’s at gone midnight.

Our first night was spent in a lodge on the shore of Lake Victoria, near Entebbe. We arrived at the hotel at just after 01:00 and were told that an evening meal had been prepared. After eating we got to bed around 02:00 and set an alarm for 04:15 for breakfast before leaving for Kenya by coach at 05:00.

An entourage of 5 coaches were outside the hotel for the 10 hour journey to Nairobi – so we were told. We knew that Nairobi was 3 hours from Nakuru and thought that the journey would take around 7 hours to travel. Having only just crossed the Kenyan border after 7 hours we thought that it might take longer than we were told and arrived at the hotel at gone 21:00.

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However the bubble of the coach allowed me to witness the beauty of both Uganda and Kenya. Uganda notably has better roads for example. I’ll never forget watch the silhouettes of fisherman head out over Lake Victoria on a misty sunrise, it was beautiful!

We passed through Kampala, the capital of Uganda and it couldn’t be compared to our capital. I took note of different things on my journey and I’ll share them with you:

  • Shacks selling everything from bike parts to bananas to toilets, bed frames and coffins line the majority of the roads
  • Packed streets at 7am – Kampala was full of bikes, motorbikes, tuk-tuks and cars
  • A cow on a petrol forecourt
  • Motorbikes with up to 4/5 people on them (some children)
  • A Leicester City shirt in the small Kenyan town of Bungoma
  • People with AK47’s wearing high-vis acting as traffic lights at roadwork’s holding green and red flags

I’ve only been here three days, but I’m loving it!