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Turning passion into profits

How mentor startup helps businesses grow by advising them on how to access capital, network and maintain their ventures in the highly competitive entrepreneurial field

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By Caroline Theuri                                                 

When she came from the United States of America (USA) nine years ago, Ms Frida Owinga noticed that many Kenyans were coming to her to ask for jobs. Yet, it was not that these people lacked jobs, but they did not have fulfillment in what they wanted to do in terms of entrepreneurship.

“This is what inspired me to start Passion Profit, a business development firm that mentors small enterprise owners,” says Owinga, the business’ founder.

According to research from the World Bank, graduates who come from universities face the challenge of not being able to fit into the market. This is because their skills are more theoretical than practical. This is a factor that leads to unemployment. There are over 60 percent unemployed graduates in Kenya, yet the number of universities in the country are increasing.

Ms Owinga acknowledges this challenge, drawing from her own experience when mentoring businesses. She says that she started her ventureat a tender age of 20, which had been motivated by a previous job that she did two years ago.

“It dealt with handicrafts and stone carvings, which she then exported to the USA,” she notes.

MsOwinga says that Passion Profit mentors businesses through a certain process. This involves taking the business owner through an assessment that helps them to understand the reason and stage of the business, as well as its competency level.

“The services of Passion Profit range from advising business on how they can access capital, business growth mentoring and networking,” she adds.

Challenge

 It is a challenge for SMEs to access funding, Ms Owinga says. Passion Profit this void by advising businesses what they need to acquire funding. These include how they should manage their cash flow, to how they can create a viable business model and system structure, as well as keeping a proper record of accounts, which is not something that they do.

The founder says that she draws her expertise of advising banks how they can be creditworthy. This is because she sits on the panels of Kenyan financial institutions, such as Barclays Bank, Commercial Bank of Africa, Gulf Africa as well as Kenya Commercial Bank.

Ms Owinga says that when Passion Profit started out, they focused on startups that were starting out. Their focus of late has shifted to businesses that are more serious, such as those that have been operating for the last three years. This year, the company started a programme to target 10,000 businesses that can be able to generate an income of a million dollars by the year 2030. Ms Owinga says that Passion Profit calls this programme, “ 10k by 2030.”

She reveals that for the last nine years, Passion Profit has been able to work with 30,000 businesses in the service industry. These are based in different countries in Africa, such as Kenya, Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda to Zambia.

A 2018 study by the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) titled the “Skills Mismatch”, states that there is some disconnect between the theory that is taught in universities and the practical bit that employers in the industry require. The unemployment rate in Kenya stands at over 60 percent. Blame is also cast on official information sources, who refuse to reveal the information that they have regarding such. This is despite the fact that the government is giving additional funding to increase the number of universities. Data from the Kenyan government shows that by 2014, the number of public universities in Kenya had risen to 22, while they had previously been seven.

Ms Owinga says that she understands the struggle that many businesses go through because education is tailored in such a way that people look for and not start a business. This is why she says that she has practical experience in starting a business. For instance, she started hers at 20 years of age, which had been motivated by a previous job that she did two years ago, which dealt with handicrafts and stone carvings, which she then exported to the USA.

“We advise entrepreneurs to use technology, mentor and coach them by advising them on the right teams and systems so that their business can be productive. We also have a pool of suppliers that entrepreneurs can access at an affordable rate,” she explains.

Passion Profit has been able to work with 30,000 businesses since they started nine years ago, which have been based in Ghana, Malawi, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia.

Another challenge that Passion Profit tries to address for entrepreneurs who have signed up to them is with regard to automated systems. She realises that entrepreneurs may not be able to afford the high costs to hire staff for their operations. Thus, Passion Profit advises them to adopt automated systems which would also lead to more efficiency. The startup has a team of 12 either based in Kenya, India and the USA.

“When I started out, I wish that I had known more about the internet, as it can help SMEs to make decisions that can turn their businesses into profitability, as well as give them market access for their products or services,” she says.

In as much as Passion Profit is committed to helping SMEs, they note that not all of them can afford the cost of professional development. They have to turn some of them away, though she does not give up on others, instead choosing to get them sponsors who can pay for them.

Her professional knowledge in entrepreneurship has also come in handy, says Ms Owinga. For instance, she has knowledge in starting a business based on a professional development programme that she studied at the University of Georgia, which supports small business owners.

In addition, three years ago, she was selected to study at Babson College, which is based in Boston, Massachusetts, to be among the people that can develop an empowerment programme for women. The name of the programme was the “10k Women of Goldman Sachs”.  The programme was held at the United States International University (USIU) in Nairobi.

Ms Owinga is the first African woman to sit on the Executive Board of Women in International Trade, which is headquartered in the political state of America, Washington, D.C. The aim of the initiative is to help in setting up chapters for women in trade globally. Hence, Ms Owinga was given the title of “Vice President for Chapter Development” three years ago. Based on this mandate, she has been able to open the chapters for in countries such as Brazil, Mexico and Nigeria since then.

The future for Passion Profit, says MsOwinga, is to support 10,000 business owners so that they can be able to generate a million dollars by the year 2030. It is an initiative that started this year, which is called, “ 10k by 2030.”

The advise that Ms Owinga to aspiring entrepreneurs is that success only comes if one has a mindset to succeed.

“An entrepreneur is someone who finds a solution to an existing problem and then raises money to create that solution. If not, they should get a job,” says Ms Owinga.

 

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