Who are you and what do you do?
Jina langu ni Mohamed Gharib Mazrui, I grew up in Mombasa. I am married and a father of two. I am a self-employed data consultant and an entrepreneur currently based in Nairobi. I am passionate about technology and leadership. I love books (non-fiction only), motorbikes and I would not miss an opportunity to mention that I love TEA.
Tell us about your Entrepreneurship journey?
In 2012, while working as an ERP consultant in Nairobi, Hassan, a good friend of mine came up with a business idea (uhired.me – a recruitment website) that required funding. We decided to raise money within friends to set up the technology. We pitched the idea to potential funders when we were incubated at GrowthAfrica. While the incubation really helped us shape our business model, we were not lucky enough to get funding. We decided to continue bootstrapping until we got our first customers.
Late 2015, getting into self-employment I started doing some data consultancy work while running uhired.me. Since then I have been working on short term consultancy projects while trying to grow our recruitment business. I cannot say we are where we ought to be, but the journey continues.
Along my entrepreneurship journey, I have been lucky to partner with Athman from 1000 Alternatives an impact investment fund to identify businesses that are ripe for investment. Through the first Pwani Innovation Week at SwahiliPot hub, we identified 10 startups. The top two received seed capital and all the entrepreneurs received training (incubation) to help them grow their business and refine their ideas in order to scale. We have just launched another startup competition (#ImpactReimagined) in Kigali, Rwanda this year. It has been interesting working with startups.
What is the number one resource the youth lack in terms of self-employment?
The youth need skills that would enable them to become successful entrepreneurs. Having worked closely with Amani and his team at Youth Enterprise Program Initiative (YEPI) over the last year, I have had the opportunity to witness first-hand how equipping youth with the required knowledge is sharpening their entrepreneurship approach. While lack of capital has always been cited as an impediment into self-employment, it is encouraging to note that a number of youth have creatively overcome this “barrier” and have successfully setup interesting ventures.
What are the skills it takes to be a successful entrepreneur?
One needs to learn the key business skills in order to understand the basics of running a business. In addition to business skills one needs to nurture and develop soft-skills like presentation skills and networking that will enable you to thrive as an entrepreneur. You also need perseverance above all else (lots of perseverance). Entrepreneurship is not easy, sometimes things just don’t work.
If you had 10,000 kshs what kind of startup can you start?
I would use 500Ksh to attend the YEPI Entrepreneurship Training cohort sessions that take place at the MEWA Library every month. I would then do a small survey to understand what business opportunities are present near me. The survey will inform me what kind of startup I should focus on. I will then leverage on small amount of capital left to start small as I look for more capital to grow the business further, potentially rope in more partners.
YouTube has become popular in the world, a lot of people have learnt skills through watching tutorials online on YouTube. But a lot of the Youth in Mombasa have not utilized this tool, how can we address this issue?
Some may remember Julius Yego, a Kenyan athlete who learned javelin throwing on YouTube and became a world champion. Will this example make the youth sing to the tune “Yego Baba Lao”? YouTube and a lot of other online tools present an opportunity for the youth to compete with the world. While one can learn skills like Yego, they can also use it a tool to showcase their work to the world like Mombasa’s own Farhana Oberson and Nadia Ahmed. It is encouraging to note that there are a number of youth groups and organizations in Mombasa working with the youth on digital literacy. As their effort continue to yield fruit, we will slowly see more and more youth making maximum use of YouTube and other digital tools to advance their agenda. We need to keep educating the youth about these opportunities.
What have you accomplished as an Entrepreneur?
I have learned a number of (hard) lessons through my entrepreneurship journey (and I am still learning). During our early entrepreneurship days incubated at GrowthAfrica we were lucky to have been mentored by Ali Hussein a seasoned entrepreneur, now it is our turn to give back. It has been fulfilling journey sharing lessons with upcoming entrepreneurs. I mentor some of them, trying to make them better entrepreneurs than we were. That to me, will be my greatest accomplishment.
What do you think we need to do to change the current mindset of the youth in Mombasa?
The County Government of Mombasa ICT Department through universities, asked the youth to pitch their business ideas. The Chief Officer ICT, Anwar and his committee selected the best Ideas which were showcased during the 2019 ASK Show in Mombasa. The youth in Mombasa therefore may not lack opportunities all the time, they sometimes lack awareness and maybe the drive to chase after opportunities. We need to keep sharing such success stories with the youth. The youth need to know that they too can do it, if they put their mind to it.
I spent the last few years interacting with the youth in Mombasa, I can attest that the old mindset is slowly changing. It has been great working closely with MTY youth group, Salma and her team are doing an amazing job changing the narrative and challenging the youth to rise to the occasion. The world is changing, the youth need to know that they are no longer competing with the country, they are competing with the World. I tell that to form 4 boys in my old school Sheikh Khalifah every year, encouraging them to change their mindset to a “YES WE CAN” attitude.
If we want the youth to get inspired by our very own Dr Mohamed Bahaider, we need to tell them his story. Dr Bahaider has raised the bar so high in terms of how much one can accomplish with the right mindset. We have Amani Katana, Zayyad Alawi, Ahmed Juma Bhalo and many other examples of the youth who are doing amazing things in Mombasa and beyond. There are initiatives like the monthly (Sav-Skills) Stories of Significance-Mombasa, which invites people from various walks of life to tell their stories. We need to keep sharing inspiring stories. Jammy, you are a great example and you are doing a good job in changing the youth mindset through your blog. Let us keep telling our youth positive stories.
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
God willing, I see myself in a University campus (I don’t know where), lecturing. I need to work on getting a Doctorate before that. While I am passionate about continuous learning, teaching and empowering others is also something I want to keep doing. In 10 years’ time, Insha’Allah I also hope to have accomplished a lot more in the entrepreneurship space. Wish me luck.
Mombasa’s own, the late professor Ali Mazrui, went on to become a world renown Scholar. There are many more examples of Mombasa’s own who are achievers and they are out there. Like most societies in the world, Mombasa has its own unique issues. We should not be consumed by these (mostly negative) issues. It is time we rise and tell our own positive stories to the youth. The youth need role models, mentorship, guidance, support and encouragement. We all need to do our part to work towards a better future for our people. That is the only way we can foster a better future generation. “Success is not owned. It’s leased. And the rent is due every day” – J.J Watt