Innovative Strategies for SMEs – 4th Annual SMEs Conference
Strathmore Enterprise Development Centre(SEDC) hosted its 4th Annual SME Conference, discussing Innovative Strategies for SMEs, while hosting over 300 entrepreneurs from across the nation. The key guest speakers were H.E Hon. Dr. Alfred Mutua Governor Machakos County and Dr. Katherine Getao Secretary Information Communications and Technology (ICT) who represented her CS. Hon. Joe Mucheru.
The conference tackled key topics in the industry that included; Mobilization and Management of Business Finance; Promoting Social Enterprise; Using Technology and Digital Marketing; and Succession Planning.
As reported on numerous business analysis reports, SMEs currently account for over 65% of the countrys GDP and have been highlighted as key players in employment creation. However, amidst great potential of these businesses, over 50% of SMEs face a lot of difficulty in accessing financing to conduct and expand their businesses. Debt sustainability, negotiating for lower cost of financing, and expanding the business financially were key topics that were discussed on financing. Contributing into the subject were; Mr. Paul Mwai CEO AIB Capital, Asif Chaudhry Partner PKF, Neema Rutayasire- Management Consultant Deloitte Kenya, and Dr. S. Gachara – CEO Synergy Financial Advisory Limited.
Dr. Getao encouraged entrepreneurs to adopt ICT in their businesses, noting that the more active entreprenuers are in their businesses, the more investors are attracted to invest. She also urged education institutions to produce business-minded students with licenses to operate businesses instead of focusing on producing certificates. Dr. Getao finalized her speech by encouraging entrepreneurs to collect data on activities that are succeeding and those that are not, to inform future decision making on SMEs.
Promoting Social Enterprises was highlighted to have its own challenges as well as advantages. The panelists Mr. Joe Wangendo CEO Blood Link Foundation, Dr. Vincent Ogutu Vice Dean Executive Programs Strathmore Business School, Dr. Mary Okello CEO Makini Schools, Mr. George Wachiuri CEO Optiven Limited and Lucy Muchoki CEO Pan African Agribusiness and Agroindustry Consortium, discussed the need for entrepreneurs to address social problems through business models.
Mr. Wachiuri stated that, Social entrepreneurship is a practical model and there are no businesses that can ignore people and the community. Affirming these remarks, Dr. Ogutu asked business practitioners to model businesses that are socially responsible of the community and its well-being. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) should not substitute the responsibility businesses have towards the making and the sustainability of a greater future.
Technology experts Dorcas Muthoni CEO Open World Limited, Mary Njoki Founder and Managing Director Glasshouse PR, Alex Maina a Search Engine Optimizer, Kevin Omondi Director Innovation Mode, and Moses Kemibaro CEO DotSavvy, sensitized on the importance of using technology, especially digital marketing for business growth. The team spoke of incorporating digital marketing in business strategies, highlighting the fact that online access has a 67% reach, second highest reach in Kenyan media today.
Before discussing the last panel discussion, Hon. Dr. Alfred Mutua addressed entrepreneurs while sharing his own entrepreneurial journey from as early his university days. Hon. Dr. Mutua spoke of ways of turning businesses into successes, while encouraging entrepreneurs to believe in themselves at all times. Hon. Dr. Mutua also emphasized on the fact that it is imperative for the government to accord entrepreneurs support in attaining their business vision in an effort to help the country financially and consequently lead to the countrys growth.
The last topic of the conference tackled succession planning and its importance, stressing the fact that it is an important aspect of a business and therefore should be incorporated in a business strategic plan. The panelists advised that this kind of planning should be incorporated from an early start of the business, while identifying children and other family members who are able to succeed the business when time comes. A strong emphasis was put on parents to teach their children matters related to the businesses from an early age, an effort that would enable children to identify with the business well and one that would help pick suitable successors. Mr. Paul Ouma- Academic Director Family Business Strathmore Business School, Angelica Kiboro Lecturer Strathmore, Joseph Kanyi A.G. Head Business Development and County Coordination MSEA and Dr. George Njenga Dean Strathmore Business School were the able panelists of this session.
The event also accommodated exhibitors who got an opportunity to display their products and interact with entrepreneurs, students and the university staff members.