27. 07. 2016

Second trade fair of training companies and Sote Hub Launch got our Kenyan project to the next level

Young skilled Kenyans showed their skills and business ideas.

Marvelous Arts from Kajire Girls preparing for the Trade Fair.

The second Fair Trade of training companies from 12 regional high schools took place on Saturday 9th of July in Kenyan city of Voi. A day before 16 teams presented their business ideas at Sote Hub. The second trade fair is a next step in our effort to transfer practical experience and know-how in the methodology of training companies to Kenya that we began in 2013. This is being done in collaboration with the Slovak centre of training companies at the SIOV and our Kenyan partners through the educational program of business and IT skills – Sote ICT, and with the long-term support by the SlovakAid. The Swahili word “sote“ means “everyone“ and represents the overarching idea behind our project: to educate skilled future employees and grow startups already at high schools. We focus on young people from villages and small cities, where opportunities are often limited. We offer an opportunity for students to gain real-life business skills through setting up the training companies. At Sote Hub we also offer mentoring for graduates who want to start their own businesses.

The students were gathered by school or charter buses whilst there was still dark to leave to the district city of Voi from their boarding schools situated in the surrounding villages. They came to the venue of the trade fair early, so that they could set up their stands and prepare the products. The participants could compete in 5 categories – the best sales person; digital presentation; marketing; documentation; and the best business idea. Altogether, 15 training companies were awarded in these categories, and another 6 training companies succeeded in a student competition of business plans conducted in the form of the so called Business Model Canvas.

PeakStars from Murray Girls present their training company to Governor of Taita Taveta.

At the Fair Trade, we were for the second time delighted to welcome the governor of the Taita Taveta county, John Mrutu. After seeing the presentations of the products and talking to students, he gave a speech in which he praised the work of the participants and encouraged them to pursue their business plans.

We managed to expand the methodology of the training companies across the Taita Taveta County, where in twelve high schools now students operate 26 training companies as the main activity of their Sote ICT clubs. Since the beginning of this year, two girl high schools joined the program and students there have already managed to set up 4 training companies. The Empire and Rogim Designs companies operate at Voi Girls, and companies Young Farmers Enterprise and Rukassy Wildlife and Tours Company were established at Kasigau Girls. Both colleges, despite their short experience with the program, already succeeded at the Fair Trade. The Rukassy Wildlife and Tours Company won the first place for their digital presentation, and the Empire company likewise came first in the best business idea category.

Another novelty is that the training company Rogim Designs has got its same-named counterpart in a real-business company set up by two of our graduates, Robert Mburu a Gift Mtambo. Their company is focused on graphic design and creation of websites and applications and is based at Sote Hub. Gift Mtambo, moreover, acts as a coordinator and mentor of the training companies in our program.

Sote Hub – an official incubator for startups

We introduced the Sote Hub in December 2015 as a place where graduates of Sote ICT program and the wider public can access further education and support when starting their own businesses. On July 8, just one day before the Fair Trade of the training companies, 16 business ideas were presented to the expert panel at the Sote Hub, which then selected 4 business ideas with the greatest potential. The members of the panel included: Ahmed Maawy, executive director of Swahili Box – a startup hub in Mombasa; Milica Radovic, founder of the Serbian organisation iTKonnect; and John-Paul Karijo from Nairobian iHub, the oldest startup hub in Africa. The Pontis Foundation was in the panel represented, too, by project coordinators Ivana Uličná and Jakub Šimek.

The panel unanimously decided on 4 projects, which will gain expert mentoring, training and financial support – seed funding of 2000€. These projects were:

  • Recycle Africa, which, besides other things, wants to focus on recycling electronic waste and installation of surveillance equipment to reduce thefts of motorcycles.
  • Redecor, which wants to manufacture 3D printers cartridges from recycled plastics.
  • Rogim Designs, which plans to be a digital agency for startups and help them build to their brands.
  • Cladika, which wants to launch an e-shop with premium second-hand clothes and cloths that have been tailor customized.
Startup G&Y Solutions pitch at Sote Hub Launch.

At the same time, the Sote Hub operates as the Kenyan centre of training companies and Kenya is through the project of Sote ICT trying to gain a membership in the international organisation Practice Enterprises Network (PEN), whilst being mentored by the Slovak Centre of Training Companies. At the moment, the mentoring period for the Sote ICT was extended by 2 years under the guidance of PEN and the Slovak Centre of Training Companies. During this time we aim to increase the sustainability of the project through commercial and consultation channels of the Sote Hub, following the example of a similar strategy used at the iHub.

One of the pillars of this effort are investments into startups set up by graduates of training companies, and the second pillar are consultations when establishing similar centres and programs in other counties and eventually countries. Furthermore, we want to expand our training capacities and sponsorship partnerships. That is why we have since the beginning of the year supported the establishment of the Sote Tech Queens – a group of female graudates who learn to code, and a similar group – Coding Club, which is open for all genders. And finally, very important is also a continuous improvement of the training companies’ quality and of students’ skills, as these are a guarantee of the continuous influx of quality graduates s into the Sote Hub and growth of the community of young businessmen and programmers.

You can also support our project here on our crowdfunding site Great Country.



Author: Jakub Šimek, Program Manager, Pontis Foundation

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