If you ever slept and dreamt of a business idea and woke up with the urge to actually heed this call, who would be your first phone call? Does anyone come to mind for that deep consultation? If you are a woman, you will need this number. Its name is Kayana. And she will be your partner.
Introducing Kayana. The premier community of, and for, female entrepreneurs who come together to move their business from ideation to startup. Co-founded by Joe and Patricia Okello, it is the elegant knitting of two names, Kaya and Ayana, daughters to the founders of the organisation. Kayana also means The Keeper of Keys, a role that has for time immemorial been considered a reserve for women.
Founded in 2019, it was primarily birthed to hold women’s hands along their entrepreneurial journey by offering mentorship, capacity building and moral support, and a host of other things needed but as of yet, unknown. The entrepreneurial journey is a lonely one filled with challenges.
It requires the joining of equally yoked business minds. Patricia calls it “an ugly journey,” saying “The entrepreneurial journey is an ugly one. Finding people in the same stage of business as you are in is a motivation to continue with the business journey.” Small wonder that Kayana is now considered a macro-social media influencer, commanding followership of about 7,000 women who have in one way or the other, felt firsthand the impact of the exclusive platform. Patricia’s influence also segued into a book in 2017, A Candid Handbook for Women Doing Business in Kenya. It is available on Amazon.
Patricia calls it “an ugly journey,” saying “The entrepreneurial journey is an ugly one. Finding people in the same stage of business as you are in is a motivation to continue with the business journey.”
Building The Capacity
Kayana engages in the developing and strengthening of skills, instincts, abilities, processes, and resources that women entrepreneurs need to survive, adapt, and thrive in a fast-changing world. It therefore naturally works closely with regulators such as KEBS and the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) because women are a big deal in both the cosmetics as the food production industries. It also works with consultants who offer value adds to SMEs and finally, offering master class training to women. They have, in the recent past, trained three groups of women: 30, 28, and 33 in order of three cohorts, and are now eyeing the fourth bevy of 30 women in partnership with UK-KE Tech Hub. Note that all this happened during COVID-19.
In Praise Of Mentorship and Membership
Mentorship is done by leveraging Kayana’s membership portfolio of influential women to offer guidance and direction. “In an organisational setting, a mentor influences the personal and professional growth of a mentee. In our case, it is deliberately so. We reach out to women through that, as well as sharing opportunities, ideation, and the eventual creation of business opportunities.” Mentorship occurs thrice-yearly through its partners and is done annually through registration. To top that, Kayana offers co-working spaces for women to host meetings, interviews, training, and talks. With COVID-19, however, the space can only hold a certain number. Membership takes care of what the entrepreneurs need.
Patricia’s is a highly intelligent and precise mind, considers success as “the ability to sleep well at night, having tucked one’s children to bed with smiling faces and after a day in the office but with clear distinctions on when to do what.” Since the business journey offers less of that peace or just robs it should it show up, she has had to sit and think through what she could do to enhance the peace – which we have seen is her definition of success. With a broader trajectory of venturing into the Pan-African markets, Ethiopia and Ghana, Kayana intend to first scale to the rest of the country to cities like Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, and Machakos among others. Women outside the capital need Kayana too.
What Is Business Fluidity?
Her solid advice to any entrepreneur is this. After conceiving a business idea, one should have a clear vision and be innovative around the ways to achieve the end goal. “You have to be fluid in business. You cannot be rigid and be in love with just one way of doing things. Focus on your vision, but then also be innovative around the ways of achieving the vision.” She adds that business minds should not be fixated on only one way of achieving the intended purpose. “Be clear with your business offering but do not be rigid. One of the things we do at Kayana is to empower women so that they can grow the economy inclusively.”