BIABU SHAFFI: On business mentorship

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Kindly introduce yourself to us.
My name is Biabu Shaffi, born and raised in Mombasa, Kisauni area. I hold a Diploma in Human Resource Development from Moi University, and is currently finalising my Bachelors Degree in Business Management , HR option. I am an entrepreneur, running a home baking business called SweetVille Bakery and also a volunteer at a community based organization called Youth Empowerment Programme Initiative (YEPI) as a trainer and mentor. I am also a full time employee, as a logistics administrator at a company called Afratech.

What motivated you to be a business mentor?
The benefits I have seen from having a business mentor through my entrepreneurial journey , motivated me to give the same opportunity to another person. Everyone needs a mentor, whether young, old or agemates. There’s always something that you will need from another person. Call it like a third eye.

What does YEPI do?
YEPI, Youth Empowerment Program Initiative, is a community based organization, founded by youths in Mombasa, that focuses in poverty eradication and youth empowerment. We do these through trainings and mentorship sessions on business and entrepreneurship, leadership and environment management. We have been in operation since 2014, empowered over 2000 youths and held over 500 trainings.

Any success story you have had so far in your business mentorship journey?
Yes, quite a number of them. We have Rika Africa, Bersel House of Ankara, Pollucare, Modiire Arts and among others.

In terms of poverty eradication, what have you done or are currently doing ? Which area specifically are you dealing with in regards to poverty eradication?
One of the programs under YEPI is a program we call SEED ( Social Empowerment and Entrepreneurship Development) This is a three months program where we train youths on how to build and run a sustainable business. Some of the topics taught are Business Model, Product Development, Marketing among others. After the training, we mentor them and later provide a pitching platform for the youths. This pitching gives an opportunity to the youths to showcase their businesses to potential customers and investors.

What is pitching?
Pitching in simple terms is presenting your business or idea to an audience, either investors or customers and convincing them to invest in or buy your product or your idea.

mwangaza | Mwangaza One of the trainings organised by YEPI
Courtesy: YEPI

So, as a business mentor, what are the key things to do for a successful business?
Starting a business is a daunting process that requires dedication and self motivation. One can’t just wake up one day and say I want to start a business because someone else is doing so. It is a long process. In fact it takes more time before developing the product, and then launching it.

One thing that my mentor always says is that, being in a business is not just about making profits. These days it is more of , what are you doing for the community and society at large? What problems are you solving for them? Thus, identify a problem in your community and work towards finding solutions to that problem. Test your findings with a group of people first, ask them if whatever solutions you have come up with will solve their problem(s) and satisfy them. Listen to them, (the customer is the most important stakeholder in a business) go back to the drawing board and analyze your findings. Once you get a positive response that your product will solve your customer’s problem then go ahead and develop your product.

Who can be a business mentor? What qualifications are required?
We have certified business mentors, but I believe everyone is a mentor. We might not realise it yet, but that advise that we dispense freely to our friends doing businesses or taking a certain journey is part of mentorship.

Where do you get your funding for YEPI?
We don’t have any funding at the moment so we get this from in-kind support, member’s contribution and the trainings that we hold is charged at 500/=. But this does not stop us from continuing with our work of empowering youths and women.

Tell us about the Annual Entreprenuership Summit.
For activities, we have the trainings, and an annual summit that we usually call YEPI Entrepreneurship summit. This will be the third year , and the main activity during this summit will be the pitching competition, where selected businesses will get to pitch their businesses to the invited guests and investors. It is also a networking session .

mwangaza | Mwangaza

The summit will take place on February 8th 2020 at Sairock Beach Hotel. To register, click here

Do you carry out monitoring and evaluation after the trainings? if yes after how long?
We have a person in charge of monitoring and evaluation but just for the sake of sharing, we usually make follow ups, and see how they are progressing. We are also available for them whenever they need, maybe an advise on something and also ensure that we keep them engaged with YEPI. We do this through extending invitations to the alumni to come and share their YEPI experience during trainings, and different opportunities just to make sure that we don’t “lose” them.

What are some of the challenges you go through before and during the trainings and how have you been able to mitigate them?
Mostly, the challenge has been in getting youths to apply and attend the trainings. When we started, the trainings were free, and we would get like up to 50 participants, but this became expensive and also difficult to follow up and also measure our impact. So when we decided to introduce the fee, the numbers went down to 10-20 in every cohort. Even though this was way below our target, we vowed that we will proceed with the trainings even if it was with just 5 people.

It is better to have few people that you can manage and show the impact after sessions than filling up the whole room but zero impact.

Also another reason we decided to start charging was one way of generating income for the running of the trainings and other activities since most of the time the executive members had to contribute from their pockets.

What is your parting shot?
Always start with the end in mind. This is what I always say. The journey is much easier and clearer if you know where you are going , why you are headed that way and what you hope to achieve at the end of your journey. Nothing is impossible, if I could do it, anyone can. You just have to believe in yourself, focus your strength in it and you will achieve the desired results.

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