Monday, 23 June 2014

'Grow is like a map, it gives you direction'

Dinner with a group of Grow clients is always insightful and full of energy; dinner with our female clients and this is really where you learn! Eric, Violet and I hosted a dinner with our women entrepreneurs in Kigali last week. 

'Passion, conviction and ...Grow Movement' is what you need in Business to be successful was the summation of our debate on what it takes to be a great entrepreneur. You need passion to cope with the bad days, conviction to stay true to what you believe is right and a Grow consultant to ensure that you make money and stay in business! The point on passion was an interesting one. Was it passion for your product/ service or passion for your life which gives you the drive to do something or anything in business? 

I met Joceyne for the first time last week. She runs a clothes business with her husband designing for the young professionals and expats of Kigali. Joceyne is a force of nature, driven and smart with a huge passion for her business. When I asked her what Grow was like for her she said  'She Grow is like a map, it gives you direction. It stops you from going the wrong way. It tells you left or right and places to avoid.'

I loved this description. I often hear from our clients about doing their businesses but not knowing why they are doing things, or describing just being busy but not getting anywhere. Grow Movement gives the solution to this.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The Hero Fruit Queen of Rwanda

 Rwandan women are incredible ladies! I had the pleasure of meeting Chantal at our quarterly client meeting last Friday. What a dynamo! Listening to her speak about her determination to finish school against all of the odds, to her journey of getting married, to her passion for fruit.

She simply loves fruit and spent evenings googling 'delicious foods made from fruit'. She came across fruit juices but did not want to take on the local Rwandan juice company and then came across 'smoothies' needing to ask her husband what they were. Within months she had her first shop naming it after her son who is called 'Hero' and also her  approach to life in general.

Chantal came to Grow for assistance with her marketing, expansion and new product strategies. She was matched with Ludmilla, a Brazilian lady living in the USA. What struck me about Chantal was her immense drive and determination; now all clients have this but she has this in buckets. I am so proud to be supporting someone like her and cannot wait to see her company Grow.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Quarterly Client Meeting in Rwanda

This weekend Eric and I returned from Uganda to host the quarterly client meeting in Kigali. Rwanda. Being far away from the action for most of the year in London I adore spending time with clients. I find the energy and passion that our clients have for their business just infectious. So a whole room full I find incredibly inspiring. Since we started our first client meeting in November 2013 our Rwanda family of past and existing clients has grown to over 100. this is down to the hard work and dedication of our Rwanda Manager, Eric, well done!

 Our clients were in for a special treat this time with a Master class on Marketing from Professor Naufel from London Business School. He spoke on the power of Word of Mouth marketing. For Grow this is an essential part of our recruitment strategy. Virtual consultancy is still a new concept in Kigali so we rely heavily on our existing clients to share their experience with friends. Hearing testimonials from our clients is great! They have incredible ways of telling stories that are so personal and engaging. The appreciation they have  for their consultants is always so immense explaining how they become an integral part of not just                                                               building    their business but also their confidence in their own ability.

I am often asked by our clients when our consultants are going to come and visit so we can have a full team meeting. Now that I cannot wait for!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Meeting Wills and Kate in Uganda

Ben from Hive Labs
Ok, so I did not quite meet Wills and Kate but I did come across a great poster of them whilst meeting Eric Olana from UK Trade and Investment at the High Commission in Kampala, Uganda. I met Eric to discuss Grow Movement activities and to seek assistance in connecting with different British companies who work in Uganda. I couldn't resist a quick photo with some of our favourite Royals!

Debbie from ICON
Part of my visit to Uganda was about meeting with different organisations who have clients who may benefit from Grow services. As  I met Ben from Hive lab a new tech co working space in Kampala, Debbie from ICON, Barbara from AWAN, and Susanne from AGOA. Looking forwards to working with new and different types of entrepreneurs and driving business performance across 2014.
Joshua at AGOA
Meeting Barbara from AWAN

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

'You read a book but you don't need to meet the author, knowledge is knowledge!'

I am often asked by investors, clients and our consultants if virtual mentoring can be truly effective? Meeting Grace yesterday in Kampala, Uganda gave me a really simple answer, 'You read a book but you don't need to meet the author, knowledge is knowledge'. Thank you Grace.

Grace, a married mum of 3 quit her job in 2009 and attended an Enterprise Uganda training course on how to be come an entrepreneur and develop her business idea. She had some land so moved into construction and rental properties. Using her existing assets of a car she chose to do private hire to make sure she had enough money to build her business. She has 4 beautiful properties completed and 4 more in progress.

Working with her consultant Anushka Bide in the UK, she focused on her finances; ensuring that she kept track of everything that she spent, and splitting business and personal expenditure. She increased the rental on her properties by adding additional services such as car washing to her tenants and has been able to progress the build of her new properties at a quicker rate than previous with the additional capital she had saved by focusing on her spending. We chatted about the challenges of being a female in the construction world and how she manages to control all of this by having a tight control on every aspect of delivery and build.

Grace is an eloquent talented lady. On our drive back to the office she said to me... 'Whoever came up with the name 'Grow' was a genius! When you grow there is life, you are moving'

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

'The Pork is bad!...They need a Grow Consultant'

'The pork is bad...they need a Grow Consultant!'    On Friday night I had the privilege of a 'Girl's Night' out with some of our female entrepreneurs in Kampala, Uganda. What a humbling and inspiring experience! Grace Akullo (Uganda Assistant Country Manager) and I had dinner with Freidah, Christine, Esther, Lydia, Harriet, Grace, Grace and Judith. Our clients covered everything from peanut butter making to construction and property rental.

Asides from enjoying an evening out with the girls, I wanted to understand more about the challenges faced in business by women. Increasingly donors in the Western world are becoming more passionate about assisting females to progress within the commercial world. What I lot we learnt!   
Our ladies spoke of  the lack of respect that men can have for women in business, choosing to intimidate or offer different, less favourable terms business terms. Interestingly enough our ladies said that if they stood up to men their behaviour would change. On the flip side though they spoke of the increased level of trust that men have in them over other business men when it comes to loaning money and supplying product and services on credit. 

Some of our clients mentioned a phrase 'triple burden'. This is the responsibility of  a career/ business, husband and children. Indicating that they share more of the household load. What amazed me was that they took this challenge all in their stride. Many of our female clients have a number of children, a job a couple of businesses on the side as well as a partner. I found this a very humbling experience. So what does this mean for Grow and our VCs? 

1. VCs to be conscious of the additional work load that falls to our female entrepreneurs that may not be shared in the same way that perhaps we have in the UK, Europe and North America.

2. Build confidence. We all need people to believe in us, but our ladies need that belief, as well as the skills to negotiate against unfavourable behaviours.

Whist we had a great evening talking about business challenges and how we could improve the grow process, the food was not great. I have to say I felt really proud of the impression that our clients have when Grace who runs a construction and rental agency said..'Ah Claire, the pork is so bad, the service is bad, you know they need a Grow consultant!'

Monday, 9 June 2014

Meeting Harriet, a Female #Entrepreneur in #Uganda

There are many different aspects of my role that I enjoy. One of the best has to be spending time with our clients. Operating out of the UK this is not something that I get to do very often. Please meet Harriet Nankunde from Kampala, Uganda. Aged 27 with a degree in Social Work she was faced with a limited job market so has set up two businesses.
One focuses on decorations for weddings and the other she rents a space within a shop and sells fabric. She employs Nicholas to run this for her.

Harriet worked with Till Koch from Regents University in London, UK. Together over 12 sessions they focused on her finances ensuring that she was tracking all of her costs. This enabled her to make changes to ensure that she was profitable. Her long term vision to have her own shop in the same area.

Friday, 6 June 2014

This week Joshua Mwesige (Grow Uganda Country Manager) and I met with Grace Kirabo from the Textile Design Agency (TEXDA) in Kampala, Uganda. They work producing high quality woven fabric as well as providing training in how to tailor. Many of their students go onto run their own businesses.

With Grace we are looking to provide our consultancy services to her clients. The great news is that Grace is going to join Grow Movement as a client herself to help her take TEXDA to the next level. Reviewing our consultant list, I have the ideal volunteer to match her with! Welcome Grace Kirabo, looking forward to working with you. Please take a look at their   website

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Martyr Day in Uganda

Tuesday this week  in Kampala was a day of remembrance and consequently a public holiday known as 'Martyrs Day'.  Between 1885 and 1887, 45 young Christian men of different denominations were burnt to death on the order of the Buganda King, Kabaka Mwanga. He believed that the coming of this new religion, and its popularity would over throw his kingdom.

The Grow Ugandan team
People from across Uganda arrive to a town called  Namugongo some 3 hours outside of Kampala to the location where they spend the evening praying. For others that remain at home it is time to spend with family and friends.

An interesting video below!

Claire Jenkins

The wheels on the bus go....Could an internet bus help drive entrepreneurship in Uganda?

I read with great excitement this week, whilst in Uganda,  that MTN had produced an Internet Bus with WIFI and computer work stations to help promote ICT education in rural communities and reduce the economic gap between countryside and city.

Fantastic idea! Something that would be super for Grow Movement. Internet and phone networks are notoriously inconsistent for our rural entrepreneurs. Those consultants that have clients 'up country', require that additional level of patience to manage the continual problems with not being able to access our clients. This means that the number of business owners we can work with in this area is heavily reduced.

Imagine the impact we could have with a fleet of Grow Movement buses kitted out with computers, headsets and Wifi' effectively connected to our global team of consultants.

Claire Jenkins

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Could business consultancy via a local business advisor work?

Eric ready and waiting to talk grow!
A challenge we face in Rwanda is being able to offer our services to a wide audience. Our consultants mainly speak English, French, German, Spanish, Hindi and Arabic. We have very few Kinyarwanda (Rwandese local language) speakers. This means that there is a considerable number of entrepreneurs that we are unable to assist.
Recruiting Kinyarwanda speakers from the Diaspora communities in Canada, UK and the USA has been positive yet we still do not have enough. So in line with our organisational value of 'Continuous Improvement', what could we do to improve?

With the BDF team in Kigali
Eric and I went to visit BDF in Rwanda, the Business Development Fund  BDF Ltd is a new company established to support SMEs in form of on and off farm Credit Guarantee, Lines of Credit, Matching Grants as well as Advisory Services.  
Many of their clients receiving funding are Kinyarwandan speakers only so would be unable to benefit from Grow services. Or could there by a way? Eric and I discussed with Janet and Livingston the possibility of trialling using Grow consultants supporting BDF business advisors as they coach local businesses.
Eric and I liked this idea as not only would we be able to provide support to Kinyarwandan speakers, but also enhance the skills base of business advisors as they start off in their new roles.

What do you think? Can consultancy work via a business advisor who then translates with a local client?

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

What is missing from Eric in #Rwanda?

1 -2 -1 with Eric in Chez John restaurant
Team Rwanda in Kigali
 Last week I travelled to Rwanda for a few days to see Eric Iyaremye our Grow Country Manager. Not having been since December last year we have only communicated by phone, Skype and email for the last 5 months.

Eric and our intern Grace Marline, came to pick us up from the airport. I spent some time looking at Eric and thinking what is different about you today, trying to work out what had changed. I am used to seeing Eric on a lap was the lap top frame that was missing from my view of him! Skype is an excellent way for companies to stay connected especially charities. However, there is no substitute for face to face meetings.

Our first day together was spent in a 1-2-1 discussing the our strategy for Rwanda, the challenges that he faces in his role and then delivery plans for our exciting new project for 2015!