Your Name and what do you 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 about?
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 about.
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 as MombasaWorks.
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 for Founders?
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 in question.
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.