NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 13 – About 35 established business leaders and 35 upcoming entrepreneurs from Nairobi met for a night of speed dating on Monday, as part of a business mentorship program.
The Launchpad Business Mentorship Programme that got its start in Uganda a year ago is the brainchild of pan-African social enterprise Mara Foundation.
Mara Group Managing Director Ashish Thakkar said the launch of the program in Kenya was to develop ideas and harness the enthusiasm of the next generation of entrepreneurs and turn them into successful businesses people through mentorship.
“We’ve got business leaders who are mentors and we have upcoming businesses who are our mentees. The mentors get to interview the mentees for three minutes. Then they select who they want to mentor (for) a six month program we monitor and guide them through and hope in the end to see some results,” he said.
The young entrepreneurs or mentees are selected from local universities and organisations, and are required to have run and sustained a business for at least a year.
Thakkar, who started selling computers to friends at the age of 15, said the Entrepreneur Launchpad offers young traders the support and guidance needed to build a lasting company considering that businesses are generally difficult to start and even more of a challenge to maintain in Kenya.
Thakkar said the mentorship program is the first phase of subsequent programs that will later include a business incubation model, entrepreneurship academy and venture capital fund to help fledgling enterprises establish themselves in the region.
“The first phase is the mentorship program. We want to set up a business incubation called the Mara Launchpad, a location which we will furnish and will be an identity for these upcoming businesses. They can rent desk space and build credibility,” he said.
The Mara Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Mara Group and has been operating for the last year facilitating developmental education and entrepreneurship programs in Kenya and Uganda.