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How to build resilient and successful businesses

Sheila Mwanyigha, Founder and Managing Director of Rembesha Kenya, speaking with a student.

It is beyond argument that Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) play a vital role in a country’s economy. Recent data from the Central Bank of Kenya shows MSMEs constitute ninety-eight percent of businesses in Kenya, employ around thirty percent yearly and drive roughly half of the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth.

However, despite this crucial importance played by MSMEs, stakeholders have been slow in setting up efficient measures to drastically reduce the high mortality rate these types of organizations are exposed to. According to the 2016 MSMEs report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, approximately 400,000 MSMEs do not survive their first year, and very few even celebrate their fifth birthday. After looking at this issue closely, experts have concluded that some of the challenges faced by MSMEs, such as inadequate capital, limited market access, poor infrastructure, inadequate knowledge and rapid changes in technology, go beyond government bureaucracy. Dr. Bitange Ndemo, a distinguished entrepreneurship thought leader and associate professor at the University of Nairobi School of Business, regrets that “most people prefer replicative businesses. Nobody does a market survey to see whether the business is viable.”

In a bid to address this, the Strathmore Marketing Club identified the need to equip budding entrepreneurs with adequate knowledge and skills to build, run and develop successful and resilient businesses. To bring this to life, on 7th September, the club held its fourth talk themed: How to build resilient and successful business ventures. The club brought together some of Kenya’s renowned entrepreneurs to share their journey in building their businesses. The panelists were Ms. Sheila Mwanyigha, the Founder and Managing Director of Rembesha Kenya; Mr. Simon Kabu, the co-Founder and CEO of Bonfire Adventures; Ms. Suzie Wokabi, the Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Suzie Beauty and Mr. Wilkins Fadhili, well-known brand strategist and CEO of StartUpsNOW.

“When I quit employment to start my business, I thought I would be waking up at 10:00 am because I was the boss. Instead, I ended up waking up earlier than anyone else because when you are in business you don’t own your time. The customer does,” said Simon Kabu, co-founder and CEO of Bonfire Adventures. “Sometimes, customers call you very early in the morning and you have to get up and respond to their queries or solve their problems,” he added.

Ms. Wokabi reminded the 150 plus students about the importance of passion and collaboration. “Never venture into a business you are not passionate about. Personally I have 3 Ps that I believe are very important in building a successful business: Passion, Patience and Perseverance.” She also emphasized the importance of finding good partners. Speaking from experience Ms. Wokabi shared how a few years ago she found a good partner to develop her brand and allowed Suzie Beauty to be acquired by Flame Tree Group, a listed company on the Nairobi Stock Exchange.

And as the talk was ending, Ms. Mwanyigha shared on the power of relationships, citing it as perhaps the biggest lesson she has learned in business. Mr. Fadhili talked about the need for entrepreneurs to clearly understand their market and strategically position their brand to stand for something meaningful in the mind and heart of the customers.

It was indeed a great session and the Strathmore Marketing Club’s Executive Committee would like to extend its thanks to the panelists, guests, the event sponsors, CCBA Nairobi Bottlers, the Marketing Society of Kenya, the Office of the Dean of Students and Strathmore University for playing an important role in the success of the event.

The club is dedicated to creating meaningful value that is instrumental in advancing careers to all its members and guests. Thus, if you are an entrepreneur or a student looking to hone your marketing and personal branding skills or develop your network, we can help you meet your objectives. Feel free to contact us via our email: marketingclub@strathmore.edu.

This article was written by Prudence Mukami, Director of Events & Brand Experience at Strathmore Marketing Club.

Do you have a story? Feel free to inbox: communications@strathmore.edu