MichiKen kicked off the creation of new businesses in Kithoka in June 2012. The plan is to develop a program targeted toward existing small businesses desiring to grow, and in addition to identify established Kithoka area entrepreneurs desiring to start new businesses. The local community and business leaders, having established KLDC, organized the Business Plan Competition along with mentorship for the businesses selected. MichiKen supports this effort with business funding in the form of micro loans, as well as student and community personnel working with Kenyan partners on entrepreneurship.
Overflow crowd of presenters at Business Plan Competition
The business plan judging was led by KLDC, a committee of five local leaders and two business representatives from Meru University. Evaluation criteria included the quality of the business plan, the ability and experience of the entrepreneurs, the potential for business success and sustainability, production, job creation, and the future ability to repay loans. Consideration was also given to promoting diversity of age, gender, and business sectors.
Dickson Gitubu (Kithoka and Meru area business person with a Master’s degree in business and entrepreneurship from Kenya Methodist University) and Andrian Mungonia (business professor from Meru University with Kithoka ties) led the screening meeting and interacted with the applicants. They showed great knowledge and expertise, mixed with an engaging, trusting, and humorous approach that put the applicants at ease. Bessy Mugambi, MichiKen’s Kithoka area Finance and Project Manager, added insightful questions and clarifications. Bessy will work with each of the selected businesses to monitor progress and collect loan payments.
University of Michigan students, faculty, and US business volunteers observed the process and partnered for a two-week practicum for business idea generation, market research, and preliminary business plans. Following the initial screening meeting and the two-week practicum, site visits and interviews were completed by KLDC during the month of July. A requirement for each business was obtaining an endorsement from the mayor of Kithoka.
The nine businesses selected will be announced in upcoming articles. Jim Sterken, President of MichiKen, commented on the quality and potential of many of the submitted proposals. “The people of Kithoka are serious, dedicated small business owners with solid ideas on which to build a strengthened local economy.” Many of the applicants were women, and most proposals were retail, farm or agricultural related. Business proposals funded in this first competition include: extra cattle or poultry for farmers, a sewing machine and materials for a seamstress, a color printer for a photographer, a refrigerator for a butcher, and an extra oven for a baker.
An example of the success of providing a small amount of start-up funding is the earlier award of a MichiKen Entrepreneurial Grant of 100,000 Kenya Shillings ($1,200) to MEPO Poultry, a start-up agricultural business in Kithoka. Founders Emmanuel Murithi, Eric Mwenda Mwobobia, and Julius Mwangi established a business to raise chickens incorporating healthy, locally sourced feed, and a free-range environment. By using a special breed of chicken, MEPO can offer its customers a larger, healthier chicken than those typically sold in local markets. See article, “First MichiKen Grant” below for a report on the progress of this small entrepreneurial business.
MichiKen and KLDC plan to fund more businesses in the future, as well as providing ongoing mentoring and additional loans for expansion of businesses showing success after their first round of funding. An objective for the June 2015 Business Plan Competition will be to generate proposals for brand new businesses in Kithoka.