Your Name and what do
My name is Cindy Ondego, born Lithimbi. I’m married to a
wonderful man, we have 2 beautiful daughters and I have the ultimate blessing
of being called ‘mum’ about 1000 times a day.
I am also a business owner: MombasaWorks is a coworking, learning and event space that I opened in October 2018; and an international development practitioner. I was born in Mombasa, and it continues to be home to me and my family.
How did Founders come
When the idea for MombasaWorks first entered my mind, I
parked it for a long time because I just didn’t’ see myself as a business owner
or entrepreneur. But I got a lot of inspiration from Guy Raz’s podcast ‘How I
Built This’ – a US-based entrepreneurship podcast. The show is full of raw,
real-life accounts of how ordinary people have built wildly successful
companies. But it’s a US-based podcast; and I struggled to find local content
that also celebrated the entire
journey, recognizing achievements and success, but also unpacking the failures,
personal sacrifices, breaking points etc. That’s how the idea for Founders came
I also really wanted to create a platform for Coast-based
entrepreneurs to share their story, to demonstrate that Mombasa is working, and
there is an entrepreneurship and innovation space here.
Naturally, it has sort of become our flagship event series
Has Founders been
helpful to the attendees?
Yes! You get to hear the unscripted, real and detailed stories
from a founder who is either from this region, or whose business has a presence
in this region. So it’s like vicariously living through someone else’s
experiences that are probably not far from your own. It’s essentially a huge
learning opportunity without any risk.
We’re really honoured and blessed to have had guests who are
generous with sharing their experiences – so nothing is off the table in terms
of discussion: we’ve discussed everything from racism and the politics of
venture capital fundraising, painful exits and contracts gone sour, work/life
balance, and really major fails. The series provide a risk-free learning
opportunity, and meets people where they need it most, wherever they are along
the entrepreneurship journey.
It’s also a great opportunity to meet new people living and
working in/around Mombasa, in a relaxed environment. I’ve had two people tell
me that they started their ventures after being inspired by the stories from
founders. I didn’t expect that so was really pleased to hear that!
I’ll add, I don’t think there is one path to being a
successful entrepreneur. Nor one ‘model’ of a successful entrepreneur (in terms
of background, education, race or class). I’ve seen that in the guests we’ve
had (and will soon have) on Founders. This diversity in entrepreneurship makes
it really quite exciting as well as accessible for people.
What is your vision
To see Founders reach more people: so for the discussion to
be available in different medium. And for Founders to be a vehicle through
which we can demonstrate the vibrancy of the local ecosystem, to ultimately
spur more local development through more local/community-level investment.
Are you planning to
have creatives like photographer, content creaters etc. to share their stories?
Definitely! I think the journey of a creative entrepreneur
is so rich in lessons particularly because we have a relatively nascent
creative economy so hurdles are bigger and the potential for learning that much
bigger as well.
Can you give us an
insight to what topic will be covered?
All Founders typically follow the same format, one founder
and one moderator having a frank discussion about the former’s journey building
an organization. So, the conversation is broad, but generally covers a founder’s
early years, origins and motivations, experiences raising capital, and insights
into entrepreneurship and Mombasa’s economy in respect to the certain industry
But the rest of the conversation is entirely led by the
audience and their questions. Some events have focused a lot on raising venture
capital, others on the business model and operations, some on entrepreneurship
and family life and values.
We summarize all events on our blog so one can get an idea
of previous conversations there (www.mombasaworks.com/blog).
Where do you see
Founders in the next 10 years?
In numerous MombasaWorks locations across the Coast region,
through different mediums, telling stories of founders and spreading the values
of curiosity, humility, kindness and diversity in business.
Ask lots of questions, always, of everyone. But
especially of yourself.