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Kenyan Apprentice: Zuckerbergs of Nakuru pitch for Citi funding

Kenyan entrepreneur Apollo pitches to farmers | VSO

Throughout April 2016, junior bankers from Citi worked with eight aspirational entrepreneurs from Nakuru, Kenya. They were mentored and supported to grow their businesses as part of VSO’s Knowledge Exchange programme, with our partners Balloon Ventures.

The project culminated in a 'Dragons Den' style pitching session. The talented Kenyan entrepreneurs appeared before a panel of experts, including senior Citi employees, to pitch for funding to take their businesses to the next level.

Meet the candidates

It's not easy to start a business from scratch anywhere in the world, hence our fascination with programmes like The Apprentice. In a place like Nakuru, Kenya, it's especially tough with extra challenges in accessing finance, technology and routes to market.  

Most jobs in Africa are in small businesses, but most struggle to grow beyond employing one or two people. The ambitious entrepreneurs taking part in this VSO Knowledge Exchange project with Citi volunteers have all shown grit and determination to get their businesses up and running, and have received training and interest free loans through the ICS programme of Balloon Ventures, a social enterprise that supports small businesses in developing countries. They include:

Apollo Karuiki


A photo posted by Yimin (@yimininafrica) on

Dairy expert Apollo produces a mineral supplement to increase the volume and quality of milk that farmers can get from their stock and has developed his business mainly with a focus on growing his customer base.

Now, Apollo's challenge is lack of finance making it a struggle to produce large orders for customers, farmers scattered across the Rift Valley, who can rarely make down-payments. Not owning his own vehicle, transport is also a considerable challenge. Apollo recently had to turn down an order for four tonnes, worth around £2,600 because he had no means of transporting such a volume.

Frida Nyambura

Friday Nyambura

Frida started out at an entrepreneur with poultry farming before moving into her true area of passion, hair and beauty, by setting up her own salon in 2011. She's so determined that she continued even after her salon was broken into within months of opening. 

Profits have increased by 70% (to £170 per month) for Frida's business.  She would like to expand by opening new units and has been supported by Citi volunteers to better understand her competition and how she can compete in the market

Solomon Muchiri

Solomon had the idea for a printing business whilst studying ICT at college. Lacking the capital to start immediately, he worked training primary school students in computing whilst he saved enough money to set up the business printing photos, student ID cards and a internet cafe service. He even hired an employee and now supports his young family using his business income.

The biggest challenges Solomon faces in getting his business to the next level include frequent power outages, and overcoming quiet periods when the local college and schools are shut for holidays. He's been learning about growth planning from the Citi volunteers and considering new services he could offer to make his business more secure. 

Why entrepreneurs are poverty-busters

Group of corporate volunteers from Citi in Kenya on VSO Knowledge Exchange programme

Group of corporate volunteers from Citi, in Kenya on the VSO Knowledge Exchange programme

Citi shared its top talent to coaching these small businesses because of the power they have to lift communities out of poverty, as Rachel Barber, Head of Community development EMEA at Citigroup, explains:

“The growth of small businesses can help build a community; increasing wealth and opportunity for all. All the entrepreneurs have benefited from coaching, and Citi has learned a lot about the challenges small businesses face in accessing finance, technology and markets. Citi is proud to be working with VSO Knowledge Exchange on such an innovative project.”

Find out more

This kind of mutually beneficial exchange of skills and information lies at the heart of VSO Knowledge Exchange - our innovative private sector volunteering programme.

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