Lynda Njeru, Entrepreneur Academy Graduate & Business Competition Winner
Business: YZ-Me International - email@example.com
Industry: Service & Consumer Goods
In 2018, when on a flight from Indonesia to Nairobi, Lynda Njeru experienced an unexpected challenge. The challenge no woman wants to go through in a public place. But she was up in the air barely halfway through the nine-hour commute when an unforeseen menstruation disrupted her comfort. Reflecting on that moment, she knows she was fortunate to have a spare sanitary towel within reach. A question stayed with her however, “what about the thousands of women who face the same challenge and have no access to an emergency pad?”
Today when she talks about the genesis of her business, Yz-Me International (pronounced wise-me), this is the story that she shares. A personal experience that gives meaning to the work she’s currently doing.
In Africa, one in ten girls miss school daily because they don’t have access to menstrual products. But in the last three years there have been several movements to eradicate period poverty on the continent.
Lynda joined the community of change makers as she chose to leverage her own experience, advocating for menstrual health as more than a woman’s issue, presenting it as a people’s issue. The challenge was where to begin. She had a blueprint of an idea began researching books and reports on how developed countries had made strides in menstrual health and period poverty. She shared her thoughts with her friends, which proved to be fruitful when one former Sinapis alumni introduced her to Sinapis’ EntrepreneurAcademy.
Lynda’s interest in the Academy was driven by the fact that the program was an MBA alternative designed for entrepreneurs like her. Created to address the critical, high-impact areas of a business idea to make it an actual business. She enrolled into the Academy and applied for a scholarship as part of her application. Once selected for the scholarship and program, Lynda fully immersed herself into the 4-month intensive business training.
Her vision became clear within the first few weeks. She envisioned a world where every menstruating woman has immediate access to menstrual hygiene products when faced with an emergency.
“I gained clarity on my mission. I wanted to provide menstrual hygiene products for women to manage their menstruation privately and independently. Our innovation can easily be adopted by corporates for their CSR programs to fight period poverty in schools.”
She saw changes in herself as an entrepreneur building a business that was an essential service capable of offering solutions to real-life problems with each program module. In addition to these, the Kingdom Business Framework module was the sweet spot as Lynda laid her business foundation.
“The beauty about Sinapis is the training that they give blends faith-based principles to their training. That connected with me, especially because I was still structuring my business idea and strategy. They nurtured me into my entrepreneurial self and I saw how it fit in with my purpose thanks to the step-by-step process.”
She graduated from the program inAugust 2018 and competed in the Sinapis Business Competition after making it through the competitive process. Despite being among several candidates with great ideas and excellent pitches, Lynda’s stood out, making her the winner of the competition and the recipient of grant-based seed capital.
“I left the16-week program with a proper business plan and the confidence to try out for the competition, which became the seed capital I needed for my business. I will forever be eternally grateful to Sinapis.”
This helped offset various business costs for Yz-Me International as Lynda worked towards offering peace of mind to women of menstruating age by providing access to affordable sanitary products.
But a thought came to mind. In a world of similar businesses, what would make hers stand out? And once more, it reminded her of her own experience. Lynda designed and purchased automated sanitary product dispensers with the intention to install in high-traffic areas in the country. These dispensers are integrated with an audio-visual display interface (17” and 27” digital screens) that they use to cover knowledge and educational gaps about sexual and reproductive health education.
Most importantly these dispensers would allow users to access one or two sanitary items as opposed to an entire pack. “I kept in mind that in most cases, women have already done their toiletry shopping for the month and emergency menstruation doesn’t require us to purchase an entire sanitary pack. So I gave them an easily accessible and affordable solution, some peace of mind.”
By August 2019, she began the pilot phase of working with different partners to set up the dispensers in locations such as malls, railway stations, and in universities. These were high-traffic areas and large sites that would appear complex to first-time visitors. It was essential to work with the administration teams of these buildings to install in the right spots that guaranteed visibility.
Sinapis programs train you how to stand against corruption.
Pitching and contracting at these sites put the Kingdom Business principles she learned to the test. In some institutions, the administration teams insisted on bribes to install the dispensers quickly, which is an ongoing situation Lynda still encounters. However, integrity and patience continue to be key aspects of her approach as she seeks more places to set up dispensers. She has built resilience as an entrepreneur and maintained her bold mindset even when faced with setbacks. “As we were shipping the dispensers,Kenya went through a change in currency, which made us transition to a cashless system. And soon after we started, COVID happened, which reduced the number of people visiting the locations where we have the dispensers.”
Yz-Me is reinventing every other day to make the innovation better. Lynda and her team are currently working to set up dispensers on different university campuses in different regions in Kenya. Her vision of the future of her business extends beyond Kenya. “We have warm leads in other countries in Africa, such as Angola, Rwanda, Ghana, and Côte d'Ivoire. We are also setting up a mobile application that will allow users to know where they can access a Yz-Me dispenser.”
From personal challenge to business idea to business model development to execution, Lynda’s business story and entrepreneur journey inspires and shows the value of our program.