Ascent is an elite program open to limited cohorts of African founders and their leadership teams aiming to achieve breakout growth, multiplied impact, and accelerated investment readiness.
For entrepreneurs, launching and successfully advancing their ventures past the early stage is no small feat. It takes vision, drive, and perseverance. There is real satisfaction in reaching that point of development.
But, the journey does not stop there. For entrepreneurs aspiring to take their businesses to the next level, new obstacles arise to achieving more than incremental growth. Challenges include competitive advantage sustainability, existing market limitations, new market opportunities, sales effectiveness, operational scaling, talent development and leadership, and raising needed capital.
There are also fundamental, personal questions: Beyond commercial success, for what purpose am I building my business? How does my faith fit with the desire to grow a thriving company?
Ascent is designed for entrepreneurs in this stage, equipping them to achieve breakout growth and investment readiness. We work with highly motivated founders to develop clarity and pathways for accomplishing commercial success and driving broader impact, transforming lives and communities.
Ascent is an elite program, open to limited cohorts of engaged and highly engaged East African founders and their leadership teams ready to take their business to the next level. For nine months, you and your team will engage in a series of high-impact workshops and individual time with successful advisors to advance your business model and team culture. You’ll also have time with other CEOs participating in the program in a peer-to-peer setting.
Ascent Core Points of Focus
- Overall orientation of innovating and solving for constraints to growth, and gaining further traction
- Evaluation and advancement of core value propositions, competitive advantages, and customer journeys
- Identification of the changes needed in business operations to support exponential growth and building plans to address them
- Exploration of how personal faith and values integrated with business build and growth can lead to broader impact in lives and communities - socially, economically, and spiritually
- Examination of organizational culture and develop a plan that strengthens the leadership team and fosters a growth mindset throughout
- Determination of the additional resources required to achieve the next stage of growth and understanding when needed
- Gaining clarity of the gaps in the investment readiness plan and achieving progress to better enable access to capital
Ascent takes place over nine months, with a small cohort of similar level growth-stage businesses, and consists of four primary elements: multi-day leadership team workshops, founders round tables, investment readiness-related activities, and mentor engagement. Together, these are designed to provide structure, space, assistance, and active engagement with other entrepreneurs to chart growth pathways (both business and personal) and remove bottlenecks and obstacles.
- Ascent begins with the formation of the cohort and early engagement with each participating team. Through the initial discussions and application reviews, we select those founders and businesses that both align with the objectives of Ascent and would fit well together in a cohort – where businesses are at a similar stage and size.
Upon acceptance, there are two engagement activities: Investment readiness assessment (addressed below) and DiSC personality assessments of the founder and leadership team. These, together with the early interviews and site visits, provide an ongoing understanding of aspirations, needs, and characteristics that will inform early workshops and participant-specific program goals.
A key component of Ascent is a series of workshops that work through core business dimensions - across strategy, sales, operations, and overall management – to define where and how to maximize growth potential and solve constraints to growth.
The first working session is held individually with each business’ leadership team. The DiSC assessment framework and results provide the context and content for working on enhancements in how the leadership team can work more effectively together. The work done here will set the direction for ongoing advancement of how the team can improve effectiveness in the coming months.
During the following months, we will conduct a series of six multi-day workshops bringing the cohort teams together and each workshop with clearly defined objectives. Anchoring on a modified lean canvas structure and utilizing other frameworks, we will work with the teams as they consider the “art of the possible” for their businesses, define and architect pathways to growth, and solve bottlenecks. These workshops also create space for peer: peer support and learning, as each team has the opportunity to provide constructive feedback and collaborate in the exploration of new ideas.
In these workshops, we will also address how personal faith and values can factor into how businesses are built and led. Through entrepreneurship, how can brokenness in lives and communities be addressed? How can a business be an agent for transformational change? How could intentional consideration of these questions inform business design, decision making, and stakeholder engagement? There are modules to explore this dimension throughout.
The following is the slate of workshops and their objectives:
Individual Team Assessment
- Develop mutual understanding and appreciation for relative strengths among the team members
- Begin exploring options for enhancing team effectiveness
WS 1: Kick-Off, Identity & Team Alignment
- Sharpen and align on ideology for each enterprise team – values, purpose, vision, driving 10 year goal
- Foster team community
WS 2A: Business Modeling – Distinctive Value Proposition & Creating Loyal Customers
- Introduce business model as the means to identify and document the unique value proposition and supporting strategies which enable break-out growth
- Test and validate/pivot the business’ value proposition to achieve high growth traction
- Focus on high value customers & advance strategies for achieving conversion & improving customer lifetime value
WS 2B: Business Modeling – Delivering & Capturing Value
- Deepen understanding of cost dynamics and considerations in a high growth setting
- Review, challenge, revise pricing strategies
WS 3: Growth Planning
- Define/refine customer targets to achieve growth aspirations
- Develop actions and goals for scaling in next three years
- Identify/prioritize the key elements enabling – and inhibiting – growth realization
WS 4: Processes and Performance Management
- Identify and prioritize key process inefficiencies/constraints/bottlenecks affecting growth ability
- Define and assess options for improving efficiencies
- Equip leadership with the right dashboard for effective performance management and monitoring
WS 5: Financial and Cash Flow Management
- Strengthen discipline of financial management
- Understand levers for cash flow management and begin improvement plan
WS 6: Investment Readiness & Effective Capital Raise
- Assess and prioritize capital needs – for what, when, type of funding
- Understand investor expectations, and initiate development of compelling pitch deck
- Gauge level of investment readiness
Founders Round Tables
In addition to the workshops, a series of four round tables are held during the initial seven months. These are designed for founders only, recognizing their unique responsibilities and challenges.
These sessions address leadership, culture, governance, and personal wellbeing. These times together are also intended to be energizing and reinvigorating. The founder’s journey is often a difficult and lonely one. We desire to foster honest discussion and sharing, which leads to the building of relationships that can be sources of support that continue beyond the program.
Below is the slate of founders’ round tables:
RT 1: Leadership Model Development
- Explore founder leadership orientations (insights from DISC), desires, challenges
- Identify personal growth needs to empower team and lead exponential growth
- Craft individual founder leadership models
RT 2: Business Model Disruption
- Identify disruptive innovations which lead to exponential growth
- Address constraints to innovative breakthroughs
RT 3: Corporate Governance
- Understand value and core elements of effective governance and having an impactful board
- Develop governance strengthening plan
RT 4: Investment Readiness
- Identify and prioritize capital needs
- Conduct Investment Readiness #2 (post workshops)
- Explore core obstacles and “must-haves” in raising capital
- Establish construct for assessing fit of investors with the founder/business
- During Ascent, participating founders have access to the program leaders and a mentor aligned with them. These individuals are themselves successful entrepreneurs who have been down the path of successfully growing businesses. They have endured the trials of charting new avenues for growth, the dilemmas of making hard strategic choices, and the ongoing tension of balancing personal, family, and business responsibilities. Given their experiences, they are well-positioned to be sounding boards, points of review, and counsel.
In Ascent, mentors come alongside the founder to provide:
- Guidance – act as a sounding board, provide input and counsel
- Accountability – help ensure founders and teams are progressing
- Encouragement – support through times of difficulty, discouragement
Those who we select as mentors have several distinguishing characteristics:
- Experienced in building businesses, and in leadership, management
- Passionate about entrepreneurs
- Desire to mentor others
- Active faith
- Sound judgment and good listening skills
Members of our mentor team include:
- Curt Laird
Founder of Re:Frontier, Xana Ventures, American University of Afghanistan Business Innovation Hub
- Prisca Muyodi
Founder of Educor
- Joram Mwinamo
Co-founder of SNDBX, WYLDE
- Dave Payne
Co-founder of Kentegra Biotechnology; Founder of OpenRise Advisory
- Dr. Louis Somoni
Founder of Haltons Pharmacy
Months 1, 7-9
- The absence of capital is an increasing constraint on growth as a business advances. All too often, however, a firm’s readiness for investment does not advance together with its need for capital. Recognizing both dynamics, we initially work with founders to assess their investment readiness, identifying critical gaps and limitations. This informs points of focus to address through Ascent. An assessment is also conducted towards the end of the program to take stock of progress achieved and determine areas of continued work.
Also built into the program is staged participation of select investors. Investors of all types commonly express the desire to be able to see potential investees before being asked for funds. There is an opportunity for them to understand both the business and the founder better and provide perspectives about areas of potential concern. These investors are keen to see growing businesses advance and are active in this stage.
During the final months of Ascent work, we work with the business leaders to develop investment raise material, including investment memorandum elements, associated financial modeling, and a pitch deck.
- Ascent concludes with a live pitch day where investors will be present and for whom this will not be the first time of exposure to the cohort participants. We will support the engaged founders as discussions continue with interested investors after this event. Our goal in Ascent is to assist the participant in their progress toward investment readiness, to allow each the opportunity to engage with and ultimately pitch to investors, and to see some early success in raising capital.
Unique Strengths of Ascent
Structured, team-based approach
We work directly with you and your leadership team on your growth challenges and opportunities, using lean scaling business modeling.
Distinctively experienced advisory team
Our team is comprised of business leaders who have grown businesses ranging from $5M-$200M, worked with leading companies on growth strategies, and advanced founder engagement with investors.
High quality mentors
Our mentors have track records of building businesses and have a passion for coming alongside founders to help them advance and grow personally as well as in business.
Accelerated progression in becoming investment ready
This involves identifying and addressing hurdles to raising capital, getting perspectives from investors along the way. Access to different platforms is also provided as appropriate.
Peer-to-peer learning and support
With no more than six teams per cohort, interaction is designed to sharpen ideas and provide constructive feedback loops.
Integrated, holistic goal
Our intent is to see founders and businesses thrive. This means not only strong growth but also striving with purpose, grounded in one’s faith and values, to be agents of transformational change, in individual lives and communities.
Ascent Team Leaders
Ray Barreth is a serial entrepreneur and has 35 years’ experience creating, directing, and leading SME ventures in the United States, United Kingdom, and Europe. As a serial entrepreneur, Ray has launched six companies from product inception to scale. His companies ranged in size from $40M U.S. to exceeding $100M U.S. in revenue. Ray coached entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and the Silicon Prairie, in the Kansas City Start-Up Village. Ray has been training, coaching, and growing African companies through his Venture Village (V2) GROWTH Lab which operates in Zambia and Nigeria.
Martin is a seasoned business and organizational strategist with over 13 years of experience working with a major Kenyan international company, including leading the innovation hub. Martin is passionate about innovation and co-creation with the start-up/SME ecosystems as a practical and mutually beneficial way of solving existing and emerging business challenges. He has mentored and coached start-ups to build sustainable business models. He believes in pushing boundaries and that impossible is only a figment of our imagination.
As Managing Director, Toby leads Sinapis’ post-training entrepreneur services, including accelerator and scaling programs, advisory and investment connection. He is passionate to see entrepreneurs flourish in frontier markets, embracing both building businesses with excellence and intentionally living out their faith and values through their endeavors. Toby’s career prior to Sinapis involved working with executive teams of leading domestic and international institutions successfully addressing core strategy and performance issues. As partner at Deloitte Consulting and Kearney Consulting, he had responsibilities for building practices as well as serving tier 1 clients. His areas of focus included growth strategy development and execution and customer experience enhancement. Toby received an MBA from Harvard University, and a BA in Economics from Vanderbilt University.
Ms. Purity Wainaina is an entrepreneur trainer and coach with over 18 years’ experience in financial management, internal audit, risk management and control systems assessment within National Projects, Microfinance and Business Accelerators.In the last 4 years, she has successfully facilitated training and coaching for more than 200 entrepreneurs from various sectors who have subsequently gone on to achieve exponential growth. A recent achievement was designing a Business Continuity and Recovery Program to support business growth during COVID - 19. The businesses which have gone through this program have made changes in their business models that have enabled them to realize increased sales despite the depressed market, reduce costs and achieve profitability.
2022 Ascent Program Participants
Nelson Ashitiva, Founder - Ashitiva Advocates, LLP
“Ascent has been the best investment we’ve ever made as a company. We are now able to chart a pathway to bridging the gap between our current reality and envisioned future.”
Ashitiva Associates LLP is a premier African law firm founded in 2010. Serving a wide array of local and international clients, Ashitiva has grown its corporate client base to 250 businesses in different sectors and industries. They rank among the ten largest law firms in Kenya regarding the number of advocates. Their vision is to be one of Africa's recognized leading business advisory firms. They have gained recognition by several prestigious legal directories, including Chambers and Partners, Legal 500, and IFLR 1000. They also received the prestigious Law Firm of the Year (Small Practice) Award during the prestigious African Legal Awards in 2018.
Nelson Ashitiva, a highly rated and respected Advocate of the High Court of Kenya, was admitted to the Kenyan Bar in 2006. As the Senior Partner & Head of Strategy at Ashitiva Advocates LLP, his legal expertise includes mergers & acquisitions, capital markets, competition & antitrust, private equity, and insolvency. In addition, he regularly advises boards of private and publicly listed companies and other local and international investors keen to invest in Kenya and the African continent.
Ernest Jura, Founder - Collabmed
Collabmed is a medtech firm with a vision of creating Africa’s most prominent healthcare data bank and being the leading healthcare information manager and aggregator in the continent. Collabmed employs cutting-edge technologies to ensure quality patient management in a secure environment. At their core is the desire to improve healthcare outcomes through collaboration, leadership, and insights for the individual and the community. Collabmed has identified four critical areas to drive impact over the next decade: enterprise healthcare, consumer healthcare, healthcare supply chain management, and healthcare analytics/decision support.
Ernest Jura has a degree in Computer Science from the University of Sunderland and is a Certified Information Security professional. After working for NASCOP (National AIDS and STI Control Program), Ernest realized the need for improved information management in healthcare in Kenya, leading him to found Collabmed. Ernest has won several awards, including the 2009 Enablis Chora Bizna entrepreneurship award supported by the Youth Enterprise and Development Fund and the Sukuma Afrika entrepreneurship award presented at the New York Stock Exchange.
Margaret Komen, Founder - Mace Foods LTD
“I’ve been through a variety of programs, but this has been truly distinctive and impactful…it has enabled me to bring my leadership team along and for us to move forward.”
Mace Foods Limited specializes in processing & preserving carefully selected varieties of chilies & African leafy vegetables into high-quality, nutritious, read-to-use products. Mace is the leading chili processor in Kenya. They serve ingredients and specialty food markets in Kenya and for export. Since its inception, Mace Foods has mobilized, recruited, and trained 3893 households (1863 are women-headed) living in 14 counties in rural Kenya while providing a reliable, sustainable, profitable market for their produce. Over 15 years, Mace Foods has built up intensive know-how in sourcing, processing, and marketing the untapped Specialty Foods & Ingredients market while providing holistic technical support to farmers.
Margaret Komen, the Founder and Managing Director of Mace Foods Ltd, is a Food Science and Technology graduate and possesses a post-graduate Diploma in Food Science from Karlsruhe University in Germany. Margaret is an accomplished executive Food Technologist with a proven ability to develop and implement sound strategies that support business and financial objectives.Click Here to watch, Beyond Profits - The Story of Mace Foods
Mark Kaigwa, Founder - NENDO
Nendo, a digital research and marketing agency, has been operating since 2015. With a high-quality hybrid team of marketers, researchers, strategists, and creative professionals, Nendo has quickly created a distinction for its research-led marketing, advisory, and training assistance for such blue-chip firms as Safaricom. Since its inception, Nendo has also published reports that benefit the small and medium-sized enterprise space and the ecosystem at large. Entrepreneurs, policymakers, academics, and the general public benefit from Nendo's free publications on its website. Since 2019, Nendo has been a distinctive part of the United Nations Global Compact. Nendo serves both domestic and international clients, doing work spanning 20 countries.
Mark Kaigwa, an entrepreneur, author, and professional speaker, is the Founder and CEO of Nendo. Mark is passionate about causes concerned with media literacy and misinformation and is also the Founder and Team Leader at StopReflectVerify.com, a false news and misinformation quiz covering democracy, elections, and COVID-19. Mark has been recognized for his work, including among Forbes Africa's inaugural 30 under 30 Best Young Entrepreneurs in Africa in 2013, the Business Daily's Top 40 under 40 men of 2019, and Yahoo! Finance's Top 20 Marketing Influencers of 2019.
Joseph Kamata, Founder - Nulands LTD
“Unlike other programs, Ascent has clearly delivered on the promise to connect with and engage investors.”
Nulands is a Nairobi-based real estate and agribusiness company. It specializes in identifying undeveloped high-growth potential areas and then acquiring, improving, and selling subdivided parcels to investors. Nuland’s mission is to make it easy for people to acquire land at affordable prices and terms through a frictionless process. In the nine years the company has been in operation, it has helped over 200 individuals, more than 15 investment groups, and multiple companies acquire land and obtain ownership titles. Additionally, Nulands provides farm management services to its clients and others. They have helped put over 400 acres of previously underutilized land under crops and trees. From a starting base in Isinya, Kajiado County, Nulands has expanded its land development and agribusiness operations to Narok, Naivasha, Juja, and Machakos.
Joseph Kamata is the CEO and Founder of Nulands. Joseph holds a BSc Degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master's in International Business Administration. He has worked in senior management positions in various organizations, including CMC Motors, Frigoglass, UNICEF, and Transcentury’s Tanelec Limited.
Premiercare Hospital Group - Dr. Stephen Ojwang, Founder, Dr. Diana Nyakoe, Co-Founder, Loice Muhonja, Co-Founder
With its vision to become the preferred Diagnostic and Specialist Center in the region, Premiercare offers quality radiological and laboratory services under one roof at cost-effective pricing. The company aims to provide top-tier medical and diagnostic solutions by investing in state-of-the-art equipment and systems while attracting qualified and experienced personnel to run the centers. With three sites currently, Premiercare is intentionally located in underserved areas with limited access to quality care.
A Consultant Radiologist by profession and the Founder of Premiercare Hospital Group, Dr. Stephen has a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (M.B.Ch.B.) Degree and also holds a Master's Degree in Imaging and Diagnostic Radiology. He has trained and worked as a specialist radiologist at the Aga Khan Universities in Karachi, Daresalaam, and Nairobi, with a special interest in Body Imaging and Interventional Radiology. In addition, he has over 10 years of experience in radiology practice and hospital management. Dr. Stephen is a member of the Kenya Association of Radiologists and has an ongoing Fellowship of the Royal College of Radiologists, providing international linkage to the diagnostic centre and a constant check on the quality. He also holds an executive diploma in Managing Healthcare Business from Strathmore University and Leadership and Management in Health from the University of Washington.
Loice Majani is a Director of Business Development at Scanlab Kitengela ltd. She provides leadership in marketing, strategy formulation and execution, and operations management. In addition, with her background training in education, Loice has provided valuable insight into human resource recruitment, training and development, and management. Overall, Loice has helped the company make critical strides in growing the revenue from 8M KES at inception to over 50M KES.
Fit and Application
- CEOs/Founders + 1-4 executives
- Growth-stage business, aspiration to double in size in 3-4 years
- Initially proven business model
- Expanding market potential
- Annual revenues of $300,000+ or KES 30M+
- More than five employees
- Interested in exploring how to live out faith & values through business
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Does the Ascent Program seem like a good fit for you and your business? Call us at +254 721 552 040 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to speak with a member of our team or click the button below to "Apply Now."