SOMO is boosting Entrepreneurs and Innovators in Urban slums

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If you think of a district in Nairobi with a vibrant startup scene, what are you thinking of? Kilimani, right? Or Westlands maybe? I´m pretty sure Kibera was not the first place, that came to your mind. But maybe that’s gonna change in the upcoming years, because Kibera and other informal settlements like Mathare and Korogocho are places where a lot of people have great ideas about a potential social business solution, that might transform their community into a better place. The problem: Transforming an idea into a sustainable business model is not very easy. Especially without help. But there is help. It´s called SOMO.

Not a Hub like all the others 

Co-Founder Amelia (r.) working with Mary, who produces reusable sanitary pads

“When we were starting, we realized that a lot of businesses where not able to reach the next level”, says Amelia, Co-Founder of SOMO. “We really wanted to support other entrepreneurs to be sustainable in a long term.” We are sitting in a yellow orange shipping container, that is redesigned into a Co-Working space in Kibera. Everything you´ll need is there: Desks, chair, power, light and, of course, WiFi!

Amelia is telling me, that scaling is a big problem for a lot of businesses here, as many people in a low income area can´t really pay for the products and services they are providing. SOMO is therefore helping businesses with training, mentorship and capital to help to get their businesses off the ground. SOMO is helping Entrepreneurs in a wide range: From basic business skills to a bigger mindset, where entrepreneurs are thinking beyond their communities. “We believe in the entrepreneurial power and entrepreneurial solutions coming out of the community”, says Amelia. “There are a lot of Startup Hubs in Nairobi, but they are focusing on a different group in the population.”

A big variety of “good” startups: Yoghurts, charcoal, Podcasts, Programming

More than 10 social startups, that target a need in their community, have been mentored in the pilot programme. They went through an entrepreneural bootcamp about their costumers and their markets. Some of them received investments from SOMO and have been paired with different mentors from the Nairobi area.

Taking part in the SOMO programme is free of charge.

And now get inspired by some of the startups, that went through the training.

How to apply, and whats next!

Amelia thinks, that everyone should try to do something that you really love and inspires you, than just doing something, that brings you income at the end of the day. “If you are that kind of person, who has a dream and can go through a lot of obstacles, then start your business and come to SOMO, when you are from Nairobi and around.”

You can apply here for the next program

 

The first step is to go through an online application process. It´s a one page very simple application. Describe your business, and tell how you feel it´s going to be sustainable. You can also work with an HR person of SOMO. When you are picked, you´ll go through the final round which is writing a business plan.

The entrepreneurs of Somo in Kibera
Some became proud entrepreneurs already

If you can proceed here as well, you can finally join the entrepreneurial bootcamp. There is no fee for any part of that.The only thing that requires payments is, when you want to use the Co-working space. You can pay here also on loans.

You can apply if you are from one of the following areas: Kibera, Githurai, Muirigo/ Ngumba, Korogocho, Mathare, Ruai, Kawangware, Riruta, Uthiru, Soweto

SOMO is looking for supporters and partners

One major goal of SOMO is the expand within Nairobi. They have a Coworking space in Kibera and want to have at least another Hub in Nairobi. Another one is to grow their capital base, so that they are able to support their loan programme and give larger loans to their entrepreneurs to scale. A long term equity partner that is able to make equity investments in the businesses would be an important step. A big vision is to extend to other East African cities and see how this model works in other places.

SOMO is also looking for different partnerships. “We already partner with Tunapanda, a webdesign school close to here. We are also trying to create new partnerships with institutions like Strathmore University, where our fellows are gaining more entrepreneurial skills through their mentorship programmes”.

So if you see a way in partnering with SOMO and/or their businesses, please contact: team@thesomoproject.org

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