Who we are
Ongoza is a start up accelerator that scales ambitious and entrepreneurial youth-led ventures in Nairobi and Nakuru. We exist to provide the skills, capital, and connections that young entrepreneurs need to succeed. With 800,000 youth vying for 70-90,000 formal jobs in the Kenyan labour market, we believe that strategic entrepreneurship can create jobs and promote a more prosperous society. Our core 12-month accelerator provides entrepreneurs with individualized 1-on-1 professional advisory services, access to debt financing, and networking opportunities.
Ongoza takes an innovative approach to scaling high-potential, youth-led small and growing businesses in Kenya as a means of tackling the youth unemployment challenge and promoting a more prosperous and stable society.
The problem Ongoza is addressing
800,000 Kenyan youth enter the labor market every year competing for 80,000 new formal jobs. Without other opportunities (even college graduates take four years to find a job), many turn to starting their own businesses with bold and ambitious dreams. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, there are 7.3 million micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Kenya – roughly one for every six people. Often these young entrepreneurs don’t have the skills, capital, or connections to grow, so 46% fail within the first year. Youth business development support is thus one of Kenya’s most pressing needs.
Ongoza exists to fill this gap. By offering 1-on-1 business advising, access to debt financing, and strategic networking opportunities, we support entrepreneurs to scale their businesses and create job opportunities within their communities. In the past year, we have served 82 entrepreneurs and created 88 formal jobs.
Pre-existing approaches to creating economic opportunity in Kenya rely on the idea that business is easy. It’s not. We know because we tried business short-courses, then added financing, then added financing and monthly check-ins. We tried working with youth groups but intragroup conflict distracted from achieving scalable results. The conclusion we reached was that a 1-on-1, tailored approach to accelerating individual high-potential entrepreneurs is what works – something no other accelerator offers in Kenya. This is where we saw the jobs coming from
How we help entrepreneurs build their businesses
We help our entrepreneurs scale their businesses with weekly tailored business advising, access to debt financing, and exclusive networking opportunities. With 37 combined years of experience, our business development advisors work closely with each entrepreneur to identify and address their unique challenges. Their areas of expertise include sales and marketing, product development, financial management, business strategy, operations, and human resources. We also offer events and workshops that allow our entrepreneurs to connect with fellow innovators and potential investors.
On average, entrepreneurs in our program see a 266% increase in monthly revenue within a year. In addition to gaining clients and increasing monthly revenues, our entrepreneurs build strategic networks and gain the confidence to approach investors. These achievements combined ultimately increase the sustainability of their enterprises and continue to deliver value long after they complete our program.
Alexei came to Ongoza after time in South Africa, Brazil, and Mozambique supporting young entrepreneurs, coordinating the world pilot of a youth community advocacy project and conducting policy research. After several years as a philanthropy strategy consultant, he launched a social impact consultancy that participated in successful human rights trials, designed a youth-led community TB prevention initiative, and provided research for clients like the Council on Foreign Relations. Alexei is a Fulbright Scholar, part of the Global Social Benefit Institute (2018), and an MIT D-Lab Innovation Ecosystem Builder Fellow (2018). He has a B.A. (Honors) in International Relations from Stanford University
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