To have or not to have a Mentor: Why you should have a mentor and be one yourself?

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Is having a mentor in your list for new year resolution? If yes, then you are in the right path. Having a mentor has always made it in the list of “things to do to be successful in life”.

At Somo, we understand and value the need for mentorship, making it one of what we do? Our advisory program ensures that entrepreneurs receive market advise from both local and international entrepreneurs, investors and advisors. We also conduct business development workshop to provide them with one on one mentorship and to finalize, we sign a long term mentorship commitment with them.

As part of our new year resolution, we have introduced a program to continue the cycle of mentorship. Entrepreneurs  who have graduated into our acceleration program and are successfully running their own businesses get to mentor trainees in the current Entrepreneurship Bootcamp (Cohort 9).

We asked some of them why they were interested to become mentors? and here are some of their reason.

Johnstone Founder of Ufanisi Power Back Up  says he wants to share knowledge he gained from SOMO business mentorship program and the practical experience gained from starting a business with the upcoming entrepreneurs. ¨My experience will help upcoming entrepreneurs learn from my mistakes, successes and lessons, so that they need not make the same mistakes on their own.¨

David, Founder of @LookslikeAvido(Instagram/fb) and a recent mentor at Blaze says he has gained new perspectives, strengths  in his field and the lessons he learnt before would change the lives of his fellow youths  ”I want to help them identify and utilize opportunities and further motivate them, for us to grow together.¨

Allan Minani, the founder of Portable Voices had a very different opinion. He says, it will be a good opportunity to not only share his  skills but also learn from the trainees. ¨I will be able to support the entrepreneur using my skills for example doing their financial support, revenue plans and onboarding new clients.¨  

Veronica,  a co-founder of Verics Hydroponics says she will bring to the mentees the tricks she learnt as a startup in the market, influenced by current market trends that would help them penetrate their market niche comfortably.

Other entrepreneurs said mentorship challenges their comfort zone, it's a good way  to give back to the community and there is great goodness in being guided.

SOMO entrepreneurs are young, talented, creative, change-makers within low-income urban slums in Nairobi.  They are individuals we identify, train, fund and mentor to build sustainable enterprises that would break the cycle of poverty and  bring long term stability in to urban slums.

If you are reading this and you are interested in becoming a mentor to any of our entrepreneurs feel free to fill out our  become an advisor form and reach us out anytime.


Meet our Cohort 8 Acceptances!

Meet our Cohort 8 Acceptances!

It is our great pleasure to introduce to you the finalists from the last 2018 Entreprenurship Bootcamp. Indeed, this was one special group. For starters, it was the first youth cohort we took in. Secondly, the training was fully funded by Polish Aid, which we will forever be grateful for and lastly this was the largest number we ever took in for training.

The 13 individuals representing their business ideas went through the 12 weeks training program from October and eventually graduated on 24th November having submitted their final business plans and receiving their certificates.

The judges picked six finalists to proceed to the next stage where each and every business will receive a grant of Kshs. 185,000 (USD 1,850). Here are their profile:

Keira Styles, Vivian Mokeira

Vivian creates unique Afrocentric pieces, providing a look that gives the wearer a one-of-a-kind flair. Her designs are made from recycled scrap material she gathers from seamstresses, creating sustainable apparel.  Through apprenticeships she employs youth to collect scrap fabric and produce clothes.

Floritech Ventures, Josphat Ngusale

Josphat takes toxic solid waste and repurposes it to create jobs in underserved communities. He employs youth to collect electronic waste and make different electronic products from it.  He was inspired to do this after being unable to afford a phone when he was young and witnessing the pile up of toxic materials outside his home

Sannaa Graphics, Emmanuel Mwangi

Emmanuel grew up in Kawangware where he witnessed many small businesses popping up that would last only a short period of time because they did not have a clear idea of how to market to their customers. He therefore started making digital art and branding for businesses in Kawangware. Sanaa Graphics empowers local youth by offering digital art and design training and then connecting them to jobs.

Seline Pads, Maseline Ogore

Maseline was inspired to found Seline Pads when a girl came to her office for counseling after her widowed mum could not afford sanitary napkins. The young girl had to improvise with rags which made menstrual blood leak through her dress. Seline Pads now provides disadvantaged young women with sanitary towels and undergarments. Her products are eco-friendly, reusable, and washable.


Kizito Art Creations, Kizito Ingosi

Kizito converts natural materials like wood calabashes into artifacts such as wall hangings and lampshades. His goal is to preserve Kenyan culture while empowering young talented entrepreneurs. His vision is to see today’s youth earn from their arts and original creations.

Naicolor Art, Steven Ochieng

Steven grew up in Baba-Dogo where he saw many of his peers turn to drugs and alcohol as they got older.  He wanted to create an alternative outlet for youth and began to recycle local solid waste to create fine pieces of art. His products include paintings, portraits, sculptures, bracelets, earrings, door mats and bookmarks. To make this artwork he employs youth in low-income areas to both collect the waste and make the final products.

Please, feel free to contact us if you are interested to work with any of these entrepreneurs and many more. We appreciate all the support we get!

We also want to acknowledge that you made it possible for us to make 2018 a success. Let´s work together again to make 2019 even greater for these entrepreneurs with talents and dreams beyond their backgrounds. Thank You.

Happy New Year!!!


Kibera’s Next Alternative Energy!

Kibera’s Next Alternative Energy!

Johnstone and Derick founders of Ufanisi Power Backup System felt the urge to tackle the frequent power blackouts in their community. The name Ufanisi is Swahili for Breakthrough. This is after the duo successfully came up with their first model of power solution in March, 2017 which they believe is superior to the existing ones in the market. 

For starters, the Ufanisi Power is superior since it’s a hybrid system that uses both electricity and solar but maximizing on the solar, therefore it provides uninterrupted power supply. Secondly, it costs less than the others since they fabricate the system themselves. Thirdly, it has the capacity to sustain more power since it can be customized to fit a client’s need. One backup can support operations at a restaurant for an entire day. Fourthly, they use a Quality Assurance Consultant to ensure the components they use are of high standards and lastly, they buy the solar supply parts from a certified company.

During the interview Johnstone asks “Imagine going to a barbershop, only for the power to go off when you half way through your hair cut?” he paused, “It is very embarrassing for a business owner. You have to keep the customer waiting, unaware of when it will be back.”

This has been the situation for the numerous small businesses and households in this community.  Lots of them come to a standstill on such blackout days. The easiest way to deal with the blackout is using candles. These candles may cause fire outbreak when untended. There have been several cases reported. When it comes to the use of generators, they also have their pros and cons. A major disadvantage being that the small enterprises cannot afford to buy generators. If they do, the maintenance cost becomes a hurdle. For households or businesses who use paraffin for their lamps, it was quite a shocker as the fuel prices have been increased.

Johnstone says they have lots of plans having successfully qualified for the Somo grant. These include; increasing bulk purchase of materials and importing of solar panels to reduce on cost of production, making bigger units that would sustain big organizations like schools and supermarkets, looking into partnering with Gear Box to continuously assist them with research and development and lastly adding complementary products like fire sensors that would work with the backup.

He is proud to have applied for the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp. He says Somo is giving the poor the ability to earn which is so much better than providing aid. “You know you can’t feed someone for lets say over 10 years, you have to teach them how to fish. These kind of business we are all starting will last even after Somo.”

U.S.A has Hollywood, India has Bollywood and Kibera has Nurture Roles.

U.S.A has Hollywood, India has Bollywood and Kibera has Nurture Roles.

Boniface Okumu from Kibera, Nairobi is another beneficiary of The Somo Project. He is the Founder of Nurture Roles Arts. Boniface and his team of 10 actors performs set books in secondary schools in his community.

He was inspired into starting Nurture Roles Arts from his passion in acting. He has been acting all through his primary and secondary school. Later, he joined other fairly popular acting crews for 2 years. 

He also noticed that there is only one place where students would go to watch the set books being performed. In addition, entry fee to the acting hall was expensive, not all the students could afford it. Therefore, Nurture Roles Arts charge an entry fee of Kshs.100 ($1) per student which is affordable compared to Kshs.500 ($5) charged by the other production team.

He heard about Somo from a friend and joined the Cohort 5 Entrepreneurship Bootcamp. He says, he learnt all the entrepreneurial skills from the program like branding and marketing his company, making a business plan and creating a strong value proposition thereby producing the best content. “The partnership with Somo will help me realize my childhood dream of owning a production company.”

Currently, he is looking to get certified. He has been conducting auditions to recruit young idle but talented youths from Kibera. He is also looking into partnering with famous local actors to mentor his team.

The interpretation of "The Broken Glass: A masterpiece from Stephen Omondi

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It is made of graphite, acrylic, spray paint and oil on canvas which is mounted on a board. The hair is made from recycled broken glass. The watch and button are real, though recycled too.

It talks about a young school girl coming from a humble background. She is still in college but enjoys living lavishly. She seems to be wearing an expensive watch with well done nails and make up for a girl her age to afford. Therefore, she decides to date older men (sponsors) to fund the lifestyle.

Looking at her face, she looks worried. She knows the danger that comes with living such a life, making her fearful and broken inside. She isn't certain of the future since the sponsor might jilt her for someone younger overtime. She is also afraid of getting pregnant, having an abortion or even dying when aborting.

However, she is still adamant to leave this life and focus on her studies. Her hope is to get the most out of it (her definition of success).

This piece talks to every girl out there who believes that sponsors are the solution to success. Hence, the title The Broken Glass since she is so fragile and she's broken deep inside.

Disclaimer: The opinion from this article are from the artist who made this piece and does not speak on behalf of The Somo Project.