BASED IN: NAIROBI, KENYA
Based in Kenya, I am a media and tech leader in the region and have founded two companies in the past few years. Asphalt & Ink is a strategic advisory firm that works with clients across Africa. MumsVillage is an online platform that empowers African women to make informed choices for the health and well being of their families through access to locally relevant content, communities and resources. I started MumsVillage because accessing locally relevant child and maternal health information is a big problem for African women and the Internet has the power to change this and improve lives.
How did your past experiences (school, work, childhood, family etc.) help you get to where you are today?
My path to full entrepreneurship probably started when I was a child living in Kenya. My mother is a doctor who had worked for herself, for others and started a healthy juice company all before I was 5 years old. And before I was 10, she'd lost a job due to corruption and had her business stolen from her by her business partners. She urged me to be sure that I was my own boss. After an amazing and fulfilling 10 year career scaling companies like MTV and Google across Africa, I finally reached the stage where I am now my own boss having launched 2 companies in under two years.
What are some ways of motivating yourself in times of doubt? Do you ever feel like giving up? Why do you keep going?
One of my running jokes is how I occasionally have a 'bad Monday' where the doubt can creep in since the entrepreneurial journey really is a marathon and not a sprint. There are 2 main things that keep me going - first, I've got two very young children and I really want them to witness firsthand how to build a (hopefully!) long lasting institution. I think just knowing it's possible and the how and why behind it will set them up for a life where they'll have the confidence and skills to contribute to our society as creators and not just consumers. Second, I'm increasingly convinced of the importance of women creating businesses and feel that I've got to give it my best shot!
Do you think you want to start other businesses in the future or do you want to keep growing this one as long as possible? What is the dream?
I aim to scale MumsVillage to improve the lives of millions of women - and the timeframe under which this will happen is still unfolding. I absolutely love building companies and now that I've done it from scratch, I can apply a lot of these learnings to new ideas which may be spinoffs of the core brand. I wake up with a thousand ideas every morning!
Someone once said that you can’t tell your big dreams to small minded people. Do you believe that it’s a true statement?
I generally think most people are well-intentioned and don't think of themselves as small-minded or dream-killers. However, I've dealt with my fair share of naysayers who are close enough that I'd shared my idea early on with them. I honestly think that the main reason these particular people were dismissive is that we all give advice based on our own experiences and how we see other people. For example, anyone who has had a bad entrepreneurial experience may want to save others from that and thus dissuade them -- or, someone may see someone else as strictly a corporate executive who couldn't handle the stress of building a company.
And sometimes people just say things to say something! I really believe that most people feel any opinion (and it might be based on nothing) is better than none. I try, when appropriate, to ask many questions about why someone's holds a particular opinion so that I can evaluate whether or not to incorporate it into my life or business. I find that this approach helps me get to a much deeper level of insight when it is an opinion rooted in something and that much easier to dismiss surface opinions based on what someone saw in a recent headline.