Innovative entrepreneurs are game-changers in the fight against poverty.
This is the heart of the Kenya Catalytic Jobs Fund (KCJF). Created and funded by UK Aid, the 4-year, £5M ($6.5M) project provides grants and technical assistance for businesses in Kenya with the potential to create jobs for vulnerable populations. Sinapis was selected in 2019 to manage KCJF because of our decade of experience in advising Kenyan entrepreneurs and running business plan competitions.KCJF meets pressing needs in Kenya. The population is young with a median age of 20. Youth unemployment is a persistent challenge. Vulnerable families, especially in rural areas, need companies that offer employment, improve productivity, and provide access to markets. And COVID-19 only intensifies the need for new solutions.
The opportunity to compete for one of five £100,000 ($133,000) grants doesn’t come around every day. In February and March, 850 entrepreneurs across Kenya accepted the challenge of distilling their dreams into a KCJF application. The Sinapis team managed the process, and a selection committee from UK Aid chose the 10 finalists. Once selected, we coached each founder on refining their pitch. Winning the prize money isn’t the only definition of success. Participation in competitions like this, even without an infusion of capital, has been shown to generate significant growth in jobs, revenue, and capital.
Because of COVID, the plan for a live event pivoted to a television show, aired on KTN on September 1. The station is one of Kenya's largest and broadcasts to over 2 million regular viewers. As each founder stepped to the stage, they ignored their jitters and boldly made their case.A panel of experienced local entrepreneurs, investors, and business leaders served as judges. They looked for companies offering the greatest potential for innovation, impact, and scalability. Differentiating between great ideas is hard. But in the end, they awarded five entrepreneurs with trajectory-altering grants of £100,000 ($133,000). The competition aired nationally to rave reviews.
“I think it’s been a huge success.We were very impressed by the qualityof the entrepreneurs and the businesses.” Darshan Chandaria Group CEO Chandaria Group, Chief Judge
The KCJF team used a rigorous three-month selection process to choose a shortlist of businesses. Finalists were selected from the list by UK Aid officials, and external judges chose the winning five from these finalists. We are thrilled to share that two of the five winners, Yvonne Otieno and James Ambani, are Sinapis alumni!
Yvonne leads Miyonga Fresh Greens, an exporter of fresh and dried fruits, herbs, and vegetables. Miyonga plans to use the KCJF funds to launch a mobile fruit processing factory in order to reduce food waste, create jobs in rural areas, and improve digital traceability of food using GPS technology. She is passionate about improving the livelihood of smallholder farmers.
James is the founder of Value Villages Food & Leather, a fish processing plant that upscales fish waste. The company is based in Turkana, one of the poorest counties in Kenya. James is leveraging the potential of the fishing industry to benefit his local community. Watch him share his vision for Value Villages and passion for youth empowerment.
The KCJF partnership with DFID offers Sinapis a powerful new channel for engaging high-caliber Kenyan entrepreneurs and other leading organizations in the sector. Traditionally, most students have come to Sinapis because they want to be a more successful faith-driven entrepreneur. But KCJF is not a faith-based initiative. Is this mission drift? We pursued the project because we view it as an exciting opportunity to serve a broader community of entrepreneurs.And it’s already paying off.When we surveyed the top 100 participants in the KCJF competition, 82% indicated interest in ongoing faith-driven entrepreneurship support. So today as we celebrate the successful 2020 KCJF competition, we thank God for the opportunity to grow these relationships, serve amazing businesses that are changing lives, and make a greater spiritual impact.