Student Spotlight: Wangechi Mwangi-Founder Valuraha Group
How do you turn passion into a livelihood? Wangechi Mwangi- a 3rd year Bachelor of Business Information Technology (BBIT) student, seems to have meandered through with much ease. Wangechis brain child-Valuraha group, is the new phase of financial literacy which educates students on finances, through simulated market assessment tasks. Valuraha Group, an incubated start up by @iBiz Africa Research Centre in Strathmore, was well represented at the Global Student Entrepreneurs Award (GSEA) competition,-which aims at honoring top student entrepreneurs who have founded and are running revenue generating businesses. Wangechi won the Global Social Impact Award category based on the start-up.
Working together with her colleague- Kinyanjui Njoroge, Wangechi started Valuraha group to help young people learn how to share and invest money. The investment club which they run in high schools and universities, enables students to learn about personal finance, investing, and interacting with a virtual trading platform that simulates the investment ecosystem in Kenya.
Who is Wangechi?
I am mostly curled up in a sofa with my head bent over a good read, I read a book every month mostly on behavioral economics. I seek to understand what dictates human behavior, and how people make their decisions. I am currently reading: The honest truth about dishonesty by Dan Ariely. He explores the dynamics of different levels of cheating/lying in a thought-provoking manner which challenges perceptions about dishonesty. My father is a veracious reader of whom I candidly take my reading from. Away from the comfort of my solitudes, I am an inquisitive character, minting knowledge from like-minded thinkers, mentors, and friends. Aside from books I also enjoy dancing and interacting with other people.
I have an elder sister and a fraternal twin-brother.
On the love for finance
I loved business from high school since my family was into business ventures. My mother; a vibrant business enthusiast inculcated the incentives in me and like she, I soon followed suit by turning my savings practice into a habit. Coming from a humble background where financial liberation is everything, I strongly believed the more understanding of money one has, the more liberated they get. Its not about how much you make but how much you save. These are basic concepts one can only learn and get after being knowledgeable on the working of money as a resource.
My quest for breaking down the concepts of money is like breaking down the process of acquiring power. A notion only those who have set their minds into learning can perceive.
Why study Information Technology then?
I had to increase the horizons of my knowledge. I went to Precious Blood Riruta, where I scored a strong grade A in the national examination, emerging in the top 100 countrywide. Considering the outstanding performance, I was privileged to be offered the Strathmore top 100 KCSE student scholarship, an opportunity I grasped with both hands.
After getting the scholarship, I kept grappling with which course I should take because most courses were enticing. I made up my mind and chose to go the technology way. As you can see, I have found a way of working around technology and the finance enigma.
What are your greatest achievements?
That would definitely be Valuraha. The ability to work with an amazing team that has made me grow so much, both technically, and personally. Building a product that has been useful to students and seeing them love it has been amazing. The Impact Award in Washington DC was also very reassuring.
Your greatest challenges
I think (just like most people) I am my biggest challenge. The biggest battles are those that we fight with ourselves. I’m still learning and growing. Learning how to accept being wrong, how to lead effectively, and trailing through uncharted paths that call for a lot of boldness and execution. It’s daunting and exciting at the same time.
What is your 5-10 year plan?
My plan is to continue building, serving, and leading. I have learnt not to make plans that are too rigid, and to allow myself to be flexible enough to take up the opportunities that come my way. That said, my plans are to grow and scale Valuraha Group and see to it that we serve the country, East Africa region, and Africa at large. In a personal capacity, I would also want to study Behavioral Economics at Stanford University and deepen my understanding of how to use human centered data to improve the decisions we make at a company level, national level, as a continent, and as a global nation.
What advice would you give potential students with big ideas but fear starting
I used to be afraid of stepping out and develop my potential, but one thing I have learnt to ask myself, is…”What’s the worst that could happen?”. I have also come to accept that our playing small doesn’t benefit anyone. So, dear friends, just take the leap. Take the first step, however small, and keeping stepping, no matter how difficult it seems. Surround yourself with mentors and people who walked the journey before you, because it is only on standing on the shoulders of giants that we are able to see further.
My philosophy or rather my drive is rooted from very simple sentiments; learn, understand, challenge and improve how things work- a philosophy inspired by Christian teachings: If God gave you 5 talents, double them to 10.
Listen in on Wangechi’s story.