Mike Calvert from York St John University drafted this blog during a recent visit to Nairobi and this will be followed by other blog entries from the students themselves and Mary Kiguru. For more on the story of the Sujali women click here
The Sujali story has taken a significant step forward with the news that the university is backing the project by way of supporting the students who are advising the women. You may have read in a previous blog that Mary, who works at Kenya Methodist University (KeMU), had recruited some Business Studies students to advise the women on bookkeeping and basic finance. It transpires that the original group of three female students, Joy, Yvette and Tichi has been augmented by the arrival of two male students, Benjamin and Macharia. Together they represent a formidable team as they each bring a different skill set with knowledge and backgrounds in finance, marketing and PR. Talking to them demonstrates that they are really appreciating the opportunity to engage with a ‘real’ business situation and make a difference. For most of them, this represents a different business world to the one that they usually encounter. They recognise that this is how so many African businesses function and that with a little support, entrepreneurs can make significant changes to their lives.
The project now has a patron (a business studies lecturer), as do other projects that the students come up with. What sets them apart is that they are the only group to submit a proposal this year for a prestigious award by the organisation Enactus which brings university, business and community together. It has previously been mentioned that KeMU has a strong community mission. This project fits well with this ethos and has attracted the attention of senior management in the Nairobi campus. The group has been given a budget and the university minibus has been put at their disposal for visits to the community. This is a significant support for the students and Sujali.
The students are looking to support all the women but are focusing particularly at the moment on Jacinta (cafe/shop/cows) who has the most diverse portfolio and is having difficulty with basic bookkeeping to the extent that she has lost her book! The money is coming in but she does not know where from and which income stream is the most beneficial.
What the students also offer is business acumen. They can look at her business with fresh eyes and see how she can maximise what she has and grow sustainably. They have already suggested changes which will help her expand the cafe (by taking away a partition wall) and moving the vegetables outside (to improve on hygiene).