To make real social change happen in Africa, you need people with the vision and passion to make a difference, and to find practical solutions to challenges faced each day. Mariam Mpaata is one such social entrepreneur on a mission to empower youth and women through the power of soccer, and started her Junior Stars Youth Development Programme to make a huge impact on young people’s lives in Kenya.
LoA found out more about this truly inspirational social entrepreneur and her vision for the future.
"Junior Stars Youth Development Programme is an organisation that uses football and mentorship to empower youth and women within and beyond Kenya."
What does your company do?
Junior Stars Youth Development Programme is an organisation that uses football and mentorship to empower youth and women within and beyond Kenya. We run the following programmes:
1. JUNIOR STARS FOOTBALL ACADEMY
A club that offers special training to youth between the ages of 4 years to 25 years. Currently with a senior team in the local league of Mombasa.
2. WATOTO AFRICA SOCCER AWARDS, (WASA)
An annual event in its 5th year revolves around a series of tournaments followed by an award ceremony during which outstanding players are recognised for their sporting achievements and rewarded. The participants of the tournaments are school teams and local community teams.
3. THE SOCCER DIVAS CLUB, MOMBASA
The football club is for amateur women who play football for fun, networking, exercise and use the platform to champion issues affecting women. Currently I play as the goal keeper and captain of the team of 30 women.
4. THE YOUTH MENTORSHIP SUMMIT
The annual summit brings together youth for the purposes of being mentored and inspired by outstanding women and men within society.
5. MMM's Women Series
Through a series of talks, my cause will be to create connecting conversations that allow women to openly share their experiences for the benefit of growth. These talks offer a non-judgmental platform for women to take on the benefits of learning from each other without fear. The beauty of sharing experiences is that it opens up your mindset and makes you realise two things: that the answers were right there all along, and that you are not alone. MMM’S Women Series will be hosted once every two months.
"My journey as an entrepreneur began 8 years ago, on a dusty football pitch with 15 boys."
What inspired you to start your company?
I was a house wife for 7 years and I found myself religiously following my then 5 year old son through his every passion. But the most prominent passion was his love for football, until one day when he was 7, he kicked his ball onto the windscreen of our neighbour’s Mercedes Benz. After paying for it, I had a turning point. I wanted him enrolled in a football programme, but since I could not find one within Mombasa I set out to start a small programme for him and other boys. Unfortunately, the post election violence erupted in Kenya and I encountered another turning point. At some point I wasn’t sure anyone would want their children out in the fields playing, but when the reconciliation process began I realised that football would be one of those very tools we could use to bring children back to the playing fields. So we opened our doors on 8 April 2008 to 15 boys from different religions, tribes, and economic backgrounds. Today, 8 years later, our organisation through its numerous activities has reached more than 50,000 youth and women.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
I believe that our products are awesome as we encourage all our clients to exercise their creativity and dialogue through fun sports and conversations, giving them a platform to be themselves. Our retention rate is very high, children look forward to our activities every year.
"Today, 8 years later, our organisation through its numerous activities has reached more than 50,000 youth and women."
Tell us a little about your team
My team is made up of equally hardworking football coaches, a technical director, an accountant, a driver and volunteer mentors. We are all dependent on each other and we all focus on each other’s strengths rather than our weaknesses, and in that way we bring the best to the organisation.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
I come from a very academic family, and my parents had high expectations of me in terms of academics. Unfortunately when my father who was a Mechanical Engineer died, I was aged 13 and I lost interest in academics, although I never also had interest in sports either. I sort of floated through life. My journey as an entrepreneur began 8 years ago, on a dusty football pitch with 15 boys. All the boys at the time were not paying members. I involved local boys as I realised that they too had no space to play, but also because I was not sure if paying boys would show up. Months later on, paying boys showed up, however it was still hard to break even for some time. But the fact that I saw something magical, the fact that the local boys (sponsored boys) felt a sense of belonging because we treated them the same as the paying boys, and most of the time we would go an extra mile to make them feel even more at home, this impact gave me reason to keep the programme going despite losses. Although we depend a lot on sponsorship, I have had to be creative in my ideas so as to generate extra income to support sponsored players. I found ways to combine both social entrepreneurship and business entrepreneurship. All our programmes strive to involve children from diverse economic and cultural backgrounds. I have seen tremendous growth in numbers and impact because of this value. Entrepreneurship for me is not always about making money, but about creating ideas that give the next generation equal opportunities to exercise their talent and be inspired and motivated by others.
Because of this work I have been recognised by different platforms, most prominently the Business Daily’s ‘Top 40 Under 40 Remarkable Women in 2014, and recently by Chase Bank’s ‘Top 30 Under 40 Muslim Women in Kenya.’
"Entrepreneurship for me is not always about making money, but about creating ideas that give the next generation equal opportunities to exercise their talent and be inspired and motivated by others."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
My future plans: Set up a modern sports centre for football that can be used to nurture more talent on a greater professional level. To have players in the international leagues. To take WASA to other African countries. To turn the MMM's Women Series into a talk show in the near future.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
I get most satisfaction from being able to be use my creativity to change lives.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
I have come to believe that entrepreneurship is harder than most people think. It requires extra, extra hard work and lots of patience. The greatest thing, however, is that entrepreneurship has overwhelming benefits including financial, psychological and social.
Contact or follow Junior Stars Youth Development Programme
Why LoA loves it….
There is something really special about social entrepreneurs who go out into the world and make a difference by finding solutions to key challenges or just wanting to make a difference to other people’s lives. Mariam Mpaata is one such social entrepreneur, inspired by her small son and his love of football to find a way of providing inspiration and facilities for the youth and women of Kenya to play the game and to unite communities at the same time. Mariam is a great example of ‘thinking big’ and making lasting, positive change happen. She is an inspiration not only in her own country but to all those women who want to take their passions and turn them into game-changing agents for change. Her forthcoming book, an uplifting memoir of her life and footballing journey, titled " BOOTS DON'T LIE" is due to be published in 2017. A ‘must-read’ book to look out for! --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa
Junior Stars Youth Development Programme Featured in the Media
"The Day my Son Kicked a Football into a Neighbour's Mercedes Benz Changed Everything for Me" -Mariam Mpaata
Mariam Mell'Osiime Mpaata, 38, is a mother of four and the Founder of Junior Stars Youth Development Programme based in Mombasa. Originally from Uganda, Mariam has been living in Kenya for 14 years now. She shares her motherhood journey with us, and also talks of how her love for football has enabled her make an impact in the lives of many youngsters.
Corporate News In Summary Like most women, Mpaata knew little about football. But lack of knowledge on the popular sport did not stop her from selling the idea to friends. Mariam Mpaata may not be known to many adults in Mombasa but her name is as popular as a hit song among youths.
Mariam mell'osiime is director, junior stars football club. She is also a published poet. Friday May 20 2016 Today, I run a soccer academy where I sometimes act as the captain or goal keeper. Eight years ago, I knew nothing about football. But this didn't stop me from trying.
Growing up, i believed that being a housewife was just about cooking and tucking kids to bed. Over the years i have learnt that it involves throwing away your inner most needs so your children can live their dream. That is where my story begins.