I still remember the day Professor Mario Molteni, during a lesson of “Corporate Strategy” at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore of Milan, spoke to us about the chance of doing an internship in Africa with the E4Impact Foundation. Among the general skepticism that surrounded me, I immediately thought that for no reason, I could have missed such an unusual and out of the ordinary international experience.
Following the application process and some interviews, the Foundation selected me for this opportunity. At the end of February 2019, I left for Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, where for three months, I worked at E4Impact Accelerator, the startup accelerator born less than a year earlier. For this reason, the entrepreneurs I worked with were part of the first cohort. There, I lived daily immersed in the thriving Kenyan business climate, which not surprisingly has one of the highest entrepreneurial rates worldwide. At the Accelerator, I supported the start-ups on their daily growth path.
The moment that moved me the most, was when the entrepreneurs presented the pitch I did together with them at an event with some investors. As a result, they managed to receive funding. In that moment, I felt I had done my part in growing their business.
Over the three months in which I worked at E4Impact Accelerator, I have been able to establish relationships with the entrepreneurs I’ve worked with. The first one was Edmond Chesneau, owner of Lulea a leather good company whose materials and production are entirely made in Kenya. With Edmond I’ve worked on marketing and selling operations related to some products for new wholesalers.
On the other hand, with Ishmael Hezekiah, Chief of operations of Bentos Energy, we have cultivated a sort of friendship, strengthened by the fact that he is only 22 years old. I have invited him to my Kenyan home on a Saturday evening in which I’ve cooked the lasagna. Although he is very young, he already has a well-established business, that recycles organic waste into affordable, smokeless, charcoal briquettes, and organic fertilizer for low-income earners, social institutions and farmers. He has made me think a lot when he asked me if I would start to look for a job or if I would start my own business when I finish my studies. No one has ever asked me this question in Italy, undoubtedly because of the many difficulties that entrepreneurs have to face, but also because I think there is a great deal of fear in starting a different path.
This question reflects the Kenyan mentality in the business world, and I think it can be the perfect summary of this wonderful experience.
Matteo De Marchi