How would you feel about pitching your idea in front of an entire nation? On November 21st, eight of our alumni in Kenya found out. Our annual Business Competition showcases some of the strongest companies that emerge from our community each year. Finalists prepare for weeks to distill their dreams for their business into an 8-minute pitch. An independent panel of distinguished Kenyan investors and entrepreneurs ask probing questions to assess each opportunity. Beneath every smile and polished presentation, hearts pound and nerves waver.
Until 2020, the competition was always a live event with an audience of hundreds of entrepreneurs and family. But COVID forced us to find a unique solution. We turned to KTN Home, one of Kenya's leading television networks, to produce the event as a reality TV program. They then broadcast the edited show throughout Kenya to 2 million viewers. The full broadcast can be viewed here, but spoiler alert! If you’re planning on watching, you may want to stop reading and click the link now.
We divided the competitors into two groups – Early Stage and Growth Stage – with $10,000 for the winner of each category. While only two win the prize, each participant gained valuable experience in honing their pitch for future customers and investors. Even those who don’t make the finals walk away with valuable experience. One applicant wrote, “The Business Competition process has been a huge milestone in my life. I am happy I had Sinapis to bring out this new me.”The Early Stage finalists shared ideas ranging from a new business model for recycling waste plastic to eco-friendly charcoal briquettes to innovative concrete beehives. Each entrepreneur made their case with conviction and passion.
In the end, the judges chose Catherine Mahugu of Chiswara as the winner. Chiswara is a tech enabled specialty coffee company that offers a more equitable coffee experience for both local farmers and global consumers. With a network of 400 coffee farmers, Chiswara’s mission is to improve the lives of coffee farming families through fair compensation and gender equity. The Growth Stage entrepreneurs represent companies that are further into their entrepreneurial journey and have experienced greater traction and sales. These finalists presented exciting investment opportunities including industrial cooking solutions that reduce costs for schools, locally-sourced and manufactured leather footwear, and beauty products produced from East African natural resources and designed for the unique needs of local consumers.
After careful deliberation, the judges selected Desmond Nganga of ICT Fire & Rescue Limited as the winner. The company uses technology and its own fleet of modern ambulances and fire trucks to respond when emergencies arise. Besides equipping their own staff, they operate a training school for corporate fire marshalls, security guards, hotel workers, and members of the public. After ten years, they have 110 employees and annual revenue of over $500,000. Their solutions save lives and protect property while creating jobs.While the competition is a major milestone for each entrepreneur, their journey with Sinapis is only beginning. Some of these finalists continue on to Sinapis’ 6-month Fast Track Accelerator program and all are invited into our ongoing alumni community. We are thrilled to celebrate their success and look forward to supporting their growth in the years ahead.