Last year, when President Barack Obama and the United States partnered with the Government of Kenya to host the sixth annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit, it marked a new global interest in the country and its inspirational entrepreneurs. The event had an overarching focus on generating new investments in entrepreneurs in the country, particularly women and young entrepreneurs.
Choosing Kenya as the destination for the GES underscored the fact that Africa, and Kenya in particular, has become a centre for innovation and entrepreneurship. Kenya is a world leader in mobile money systems like m-pesa and a driver of innovation, through creative spaces like "iHub." These are just a few tangible demonstrations of the entrepreneurial spirit that is deeply rooted on the African continent and in Kenya in particular.
So, this month at Lionesses of Africa, we are focusing on the successful, highly established, and up-and-coming women entrepreneurs of Kenya who are building great businesses, brands and social enterprises, and helping to put the country firmly on the pan-African and global business map. Here are 25 of the inspirational women entrepreneurs in the country whose startup stories we have featured on Lionesses of Africa over the past year since the Global Entrepreneurship Summit took place in the country. Also, look out for new Kenyan women entrepreneurs to watch throughout this month as we feature them on all our Lionesses of Africa platforms.
Tabitha Karanja, founder of Keroche Breweries
Tabitha Karanja is founder and CEO of Keroche Breweries. She is one of Kenya's leading entrepreneurs, a remarkable trailblazer and an example of a woman made good against all the odds. Tabitha chose to venture where none before her had dared. She took on an 87-year-old business monopoly and entered an industry with a deeply entrenched male gender stereotype. Tabitha broke the mould to become Kenya’s first home-grown beer and alcoholic drink manufacturer. Today, her company's state-of-the-art production facility is targeting 20% of the Kenyan market. For her enormous contribution in liberalizing the liqour market in Kenya, Tabitha was honored by President Mwai Kibaki in 2010 with a most significant Kenyan accolade - the Moran of the Order of the Burning Spear (M.B.S.) Award. Read more.
Dr Jennifer Riria, founder of Kenya Women Holdings
Dr. Jennifer Riria is the Group CEO of Kenya Women Holding and one of Africa's leading women entrepreneurs who has always been on a mission to transform the lives of women and their families in her native Kenya. She is distinguished as a microfinance banker and practitioner, researcher and gender specialist. She has served in many leadership roles for which she has been recognized locally and internationally. In 2013 she was awarded the Ernst & Young (EY) Entrepreneur of the year for East Africa, and subsequently, the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2014, at which point she was admitted to EY’s Global Hall of Fame. Kenya Women Holding is a microfinance, banking and insurance group that works with over 900,000 women, employs 2,800 people and since inception has disbursed $1.3bn of loans, each one averaging less than $600. It is Kenya’s largest micro-finance provider working together with many leading civil rights organizations. Kenya Women Holding also coordinates the Tuvuke Initiative for a Peaceful and Fair Electoral Process, which works to prevent violence and create a safer, healthier environment for Kenyan democracy. Read more.
Njeri Rionge - serial East African ICT and business consulting entrepreneur
Njeri Rionge is passionate about growing businesses and igniting potential, and believes in Africa as the next economic frontier. With over 26 years of leadership and change-management experience, she has worked throughout her career within companies and also as an external management consultant, scaling businesses for corporate and start up initiatives both in Kenya and internationally. She uses her entrepreneurial skill set to ignite passion to deliver organizational development and deliver bottom line results, and has a track record that demonstrates effective leadership in high-growth start-ups and corporate turnaround scenarios. Today, she splits her time between strategy consulting, speaking engagements, and investment work, either personally or through one of her portfolio businesses, Ignite Consulting Ltd or Insite Ltd. Over 16 years ago, she co-founded East Africa’s first mass market oriented ISP, Wananchi Online which made Internet connectivity affordable for the average household for the first time. With her business partner, she grew the business from a typical start-up to become the largest ISP in East Africa, with a network of five regional offices, and a recognized brand in a particularly challenging regulatory and economic environment. Read more.
Dorcas Muthoni - founder of OpenWorld
Dorcas Muthoni is founder and Chief Executive Officer of Openworld Ltd, a specialist computer software company she established in Kenya when she was just 24 years old. Today, Openworld is a leading e-Government and business software services firm involved in the delivery of some of the most widely used Web and Cloud applications in Africa, such as ARIS, an African Union reporting application used by all 54 member states; and the Performance Management System for the Government of Kenya, automating performance contracting in the public sector. Dorcas is passionate about using technology to positively transform African society through the lives of its ordinary people, businesses and governments and is a co-founder of the regional organization LinuxChix Africa. She also serves as a Director at Ushahidi; is a Member of the council of the Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa - FOSSFA. Through her day to day work as an entrepreneur and Computer Scientist, Dorcas seeks to see technology positively transforming the lives of the African society, governments and enterprises. In 2012 Dorcas was inducted by the Internet Society into the Internet Hall of Fame. Read more.
Lorna Rutto, founder of EcoPosts
Lorna Rutto is a Kenyan eco-preneur, and the inspiring founder of EcoPost, a social enterprise created in response to the need to find alternative waste management solutions to Kenya's huge plastic waste problem. In 2009 she founded her company, which collects plastic waste and manufactures commercially viable, highly durable, and importantly environmentally friendly fencing posts, used widely across Kenya. In 2011, Lorna was recognised by the prestigious Cartier Women's Initiative Awards as their laureate for sub-Saharan Africa. Lorna has not only provided Kenya with a commercial alternative to timber, but has in the process created over 300 jobs, generated much needed revenues, saved over 250 acres of forests and taken over 1 million kilogrammes of plastic waste out of the environment. Her efforts have won her numerous plaudits and awards, both at home and abroad. Read more.
Juliana Rotich, technologist, strategic advisor and entrepreneur
Juliana Rotich is a technologist, strategic advisor, entrepreneur, and keynote speaker. She is Executive Director of BRCK.org, a not for profit affiliate of BRCK Inc. for deploying reliable technology for the edges of society, and advocating for internet access and literacy. She drives partnerships for tackling social problems through connectivity and appropriate technology. She is a Venture Partner in Africa Technology Ventures (ATV) which is raising a $50m fund to invest in and support the growth of tech enabled start-ups in key sectors in East and West Africa. Juliana serves as an advisor to the councils of BASF, Microsoft 4Afrika, Risk Cooperative, Waabeh Ltd. and the Lemelson Foundation. She is also a trustee of the iHub in Kenya and Bankinter Foundation for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Spain. Juliana co-founded Ushahidi Inc., a non-profit tech company, born in Africa, which specializes in developing free and open source software for changing how information flows in the world. She was Executive Director from Jan 2011 toSeptember 2015, strategically spearheading Ushahidi to be translated into over 30 languages, over 90,000 deployments and a 20 million populations reach. She is fascinated by technology ecosystems globally and works to support entrepreneurs to scale their work and impact. Read more.
Diana Opoti, founder of Diana Opoti PR
Diana Opoti, founder of leading Kenyan fashion consultancy, Diana Opoti PR, is a true champion of the continent’s fashion design market and one of Africa’s most formidable fashion connectors. Her company, Diana Opoti PR is based in Nairobi, Kenya, and focuses on brand strategy, publicity and campaign development and management for emerging fashion brands in Kenya, as well as for fashion brands looking to enter the country. The company’s services include a lot more than traditional publicity. One day it is doing product reviews for brands, another it is facilitating a production for a fashion campaign, and the next day could be recruiting on behalf of a fashion brand. Diana found a vacuum in the industry and founded Diana Opoti PR to fill the gap, and today it’s a constantly evolving journey for her and the amazingteam she has built around her. Read more.
Tetsi & Lynn Bugaari and Nuba Elamin, co-founders of Buqisi-Ruux
Beautiful shoes and women have long been synonymous with one another. In the case of the three talented women entrepreneurs behind the wonderfully creative Kenyan shoe design brand, Buqisi-Ruux, their design inspiration comes directly from the personal stories of the women around them. Nuba Elamin, Lynn Bugaari and Tetsi Bugaari are taking the art of African storytelling to new heights, creating wearable art for the feet, and individual shoe designs that are named after the African women whose stories inspire them. Their company and brand, Buqisi-Ruux, is a shoe line that designs and produces high-heeled shoes covered in bold and colourful African print material. The Buqisi-Ruux brand also celebrates the success of the African continent and its women, as each shoe is named after an inspirational African woman and her story is shared with the world. Read more.
Terryanne Chebet, founder of Keyara
Keyara Organics is a natural skincare company with a soul and a real passion for African ingredients, inspired by Africa and it's wealth of natural oils and scents of the continent. Founder and serial entrepreneur, Terryanne Chebet, has a vision to grow the company to be among the world’s leading Natural Skincare brands, understanding that everyone needs a natural skincare routine. Terryanne originally started the company after looking for natural skincare brands for her daughter, which were rare to find and not consistent on the shelves. She then saw a gap for a market that is keen on achieving beautiful skin the natural way, and developed a brand and products that are natural and safe to use. Her brand philosophy is based on her passion for Africa and the need to grow a brand and skincare product range that will change how the world looks at Africa, beautifully. Read more.
Judith Owigar, co-founder of Akirachix
Judith Owigar is a visionary Kenyan techpreneur on a mission to upskill generations of women who use technology to develop innovations and solutions for Africa, and has the energy to match. She is the co-founder of Akirachix - a real gamechanger for women innovators in Africa. AkiraChix is a non profit which gives women technology and entrepreneurial skills, empowering them technologically and financially, and enabling them to serve and lead their communities. Read more.
Megan MacDonald, founder of SASA Designs by the Deaf
Megan MacDonald is an inspirational social entrepreneur giving independence and a bright entrepreneurial future to deaf women artisans in Kenya through her enterprise Sasa Designs by the Deaf. For deaf women in Africa, life can be tough and the opportunities for employment and independence extremely limited. But this tenancious social entrepreneur is making real and lasting change happen for these women by providing meaningful employment, training and a sense of community, plus the ability to support their children and their education. Megan is an accidental entrepreneur who was originally hired to be the business manager of a small fundraising project for a larger missionary organization. Having focused her M.A. research in Development Studies on ethical and fair trade fashion artisans accessing e-commerce markets, she knew that the project had much greater potential. When looking at economic development and trying to help people take steps up the economic ladder, she realised that inconsistency in income is one of the biggest impediments to long-term, sustainable change. At Sasa Designs by the Deaf, Megan has made providing a full-time, consistent salary for the women artisans a primary focus in the organisation. Read more.
Jacqueline Kiage, founder of Innovation Eye Centre
Africa has some truly dedicated and inspirational social entrepreneurs who want to make a real and positive difference to the lives of others. Jacqueline Kiage is doing just that in rural Kenya by starting a world-class social enterprise eye clinic, Innovation Eye Centre, to provide life-enhancing eye surgery and specialist eye care to patients that is affordable and accessible. Jacqueline is an MBA Alumni of the Universita' Cattolica Del Sacro Cuore Altis Graduate School of Business and Society in Milan, Italy. In 2013, the Innovation Eye Centre opened for business and today, the hospital serves 70 patients each day, and has employed 20 clinical and non-clinical staff. It operates on a social enterprise model, which basically means using business principles and social action to meet the needs of the society in which the hospital operates. The Innovation Eye Centre has the capacity to provide specialized treatment and surgeries, and has already served more than 30,000 patients. Read more.
Brigit Wasike and Sophie Umazi Mvurya, co-founders of House of Tahzi
Brigit Wasike and Sophie Umazi Mvurya are two dynamic fashionpreneurs who are creating affordable, trend-setting clothes for discerning Kenyans. They say that great minds think alike, and in the case of these two young women entrepreneurs, this is certainly a meeting of the minds. They have a dynamic vision, to not only capture the fashion market in Kenya, but also to take their unique House of Tahzi brand and transform it into a major global lifestyle name. House of Tahzi works to produce high quality and affordable clothing items for the wider Kenyan population and brings together two design forces, both of whom initially had their own individual fashion lines that they worked on before forming a partnership back in 2014. Their winning combination today combines both of these fashion talents under one banner to form House of Tahzi. Read more.
Damaris Nyabuti, founder of Dharkemmy Corporate Communications
If there is one word that could best describe PR entrepreneur, Damaris Nyabuti, the founder of Dharkemmy Corporate Communications in Nairobi, Kenya, it is tenacious. Despite all the challenges that have faced her throughout her career, she has remained true to her passion for PR and communications and been determined to realise her vision of starting her own company. She is a force to be reckoned with and understands the power of sheer hard work to make things happen. Dharkemmy Corporate Communications Ltd is a privately owned limited company with operations in Kenya. The company was incorporated in 2014 as a communications services company and expanded into providing specialised communications services to great companies across Kenya, Africa and the globe at large. Since its inception, Dharkemmy Corporate Communications Ltd has managed successful communications and strategic brand positioning transactions in various industries. Damaris is an MBA Alumni of the Universita' Cattolica Del Sacro Cuore Altis Graduate School of Business and Society in Milan, Italy. Learn more about this programme at www.e4impact.org. Read more.
Lucy Kapkirwok, founder of SanPad Products
Lucy Kapkirwok is a Kenyan woman socialpreneur who is providing an innovative, low-cost solution to menstrual management in poor communities. SANPAD is a sanitary pad-pant business, an innovative low cost initiative aimed at manufacturing affordable and accessible sanitary pads cum pants to address the needs of women and girls in resource poor settings. It aims at improving the access of women and girls to safe and hygienic menstrual management practices and simultaneously addressing women’s reproductive health needs. The pad-pant is a disposable, convenient two in one product that will be useful for women and girls in diverse development contexts. Unlike ordinary pants, the pad-pant is a one-time disposable product that does not require washing or re-use. It is safe and convenient and adds value. Read more.
Teresa Lubano, founder of The Nanjala Company
A common challenge for many artisans in Africa is getting access to markets and gaining the right kind of exposure for their work. The Nanjala Company in Kenya is one enterprise looking to provide a solution, thanks to the interest and commitment of its founder, Teresa Nanjala Lubano. Her online store creates and collaborates to deliver one stop solutions for design, customized gifts items and eye catching potted plants. All of Shop Nanjala’s work is locally sourced and made in Kenya. By buying Shop Nanjala's products, customers are guaranteed that they are supporting local artists to not only enhance their talents, but their livelihoods. Most of the designers and innovators in Kenya (Nairobi to be specific) are just not savvy enough to market their wares. Most work in warehouses or from their homes far away from where the real market is. Therefore, Shop Nanjala carefully selects the products based on certain criteria such as: contemporary designs, futuristic/ innovative parameters, eco-friendliness and sustainable design concepts, and showcases on their behalf their works online. Read more.
Helen Njoroge, founder of Tenders Kenya
One of the biggest challenges for many women entrepreneurs is finding new business opportunities. One women-led startup, Tenders Kenya, founded by Helen Njoroge, is looking to make a difference by connecting women entrepreneurs with new business opportunities by providing access to the tender environment in the country. Her companyadvertises all procurement opportunities in Kenya online through its website and social media sites. With many procurement systems online, Tenders Kenya offers a digital, cost effective and efficient channel where all entrepreneurs, and more so the youth in Kenya, can access all procurement opportunities, and not only government but also private sector opportunities. Read more.
Ruth Mwanzia, founder of Koola Waters
The challenge of water scarcity and improving access to clean, safe drinking water in Africa is one that entrepreneur Ruth Mwanzia understood only too well growing up in Kenya. That experience was the inspiration behind her company, Koola Waters, a business venture which manufactures and distributes pure water to the country’s citizens. What Inspired her was her background, growing up in Kitui County, a region in Kenya that experiences a semi arid climate. Due to the nature of the climate, there werechallenges related to water scarcity and shortages. So, her company was born out of the challenges she experienced as she grew up and she wanted to address those challenges that her community was facing. Read more.
Angela Kamanzi, founder of Mkazi Magazine
One woman entrepreneur is bringing her wealth of expertise and experience in the field of publishing to create an online magazine that celebrates enterprising African women and provides a great resource of homegrown solutions to Africa’s unique challenges. Arkad World Limited, the holding company behind Mkazi Magazine in Kenya, is the brainchild of entrepreneur, Angela Kamanzi, and creates information to inspire, motivate and improve the lives of African women entrepreneurs. At Arkad World Limited Angela provides professional conference interpreting, translation and conference management services, as well as publishing. It's under the publishing arm that she launched Mkazi Magazine in 2014. Mkazi-The Enterprising African Woman magazine has a mission to be a resource of information that can inspire, motivate and improve the lives of African women entrepreneurs. It’s a platform for celebrating African women achievers and a resource of homegrown solutions to Africa’s unique challenges. Read more.
Linda Kimeu, founder of Kimmies Non Toxic
Kimmies Non Toxic Enterprises is the entrepreneurial brainchild of three women co-founders - Linda Kimeu, Faith Kimeu and Mel Ngao - who are committed to making a difference to the lives and health of Kenyan people, especially children and youth, by improving their personal hygiene knowledge and awareness. The company predominantly deals with hygiene and sanitation issues in the local environment through projects such as its school-based hand washing programme and its menstrual hygiene programme. The aim was to try addressing the above mentioned hygiene challenges through infrastructure development and rehabilitation, as well as behavioural change advocacy. Read more.
Anne Nduati, founder of Narcolepsy Awareness Kenya
Anne Nduati is a passionate and highly committed Kenyan social entrepreneur looking to raise greater awareness of the sleep disorder Narcolepsy, through the organisation she co-founded, Narcolepsy Awareness Kenya. She is a woman on a mission, working to make more people in her country, and indeed across the African continent, aware of the sleep disorder Narcolepsy, a condition that her daughter was diagnosed with when young. Through her organisation, Anne aims to empower those who suffer from the condition to live their lives to the fullest, but she also hopes to inform and support the families and teachers who look after those children. The work she is doing is making a real difference in raising greater social awareness of the condition, and in reducing the stigma that accompanies it as a result of lack of knowledge and acceptance on the part of the public. Read more.
Fidelis Wanjiku, co-founder of Round Square Marketing
Any successful business knows the importance of strong marketing campaigns to get key messages to customers and connect them to brands and services. One Kenyan company, Round Square Marketing Limited, co-founded by entrepreneur Fidelis Wanjiku, is demonstrating a powerful track record in creating campaigns and solutions that deliver to its clients. The company offers marketing solutions for businesses focused on three areas: Strategy, Campaigns and Creative solutions. In strategy, the team works with clients to create winning solutions for their businesses and develop concepts for implementation, together with providing business analytics to help in decision making. Campaigns are coordinated that mobilise people and resources on behalf of clients. And, on the creative front, a range of creative solutions for promotions and corporate communications are generated. Read more.
Lionesses of Africa founder and ceo, Melanie Hawken, will be heading to Kenya in August to speak at the Global Women’s Summit taking place in the country on 8th and 9th of that month. Look out for more details on the event over the coming weeks. If you are a woman entrepreneur from Kenya and you would like us to share your startup story on Lionesses of Africa this month as part of our special focus on the country, then click the link below.