The weeks between the completion of my Frontier Market Scout (FMS) training at Monterey International Institute and my arrival at the Eco Fuels Kenya factory in Naro Moru, Kenya were filled with anxiousness, anticipation, and excitement. Being reinvigorated about social enterprise and impact investing having met a number of like-minded individuals and learning from industry leaders through the FMS courses was just what I needed to reaffirm my decision to take a leave from Mobile Heartbeat, the startup that has played a large role in my life over the past two years and the position I credit with nearly all of my professional development and successes to date. It was time to take a break from the iPhone-induced, western lifestyle I took for granted every day and embrace the challenge of assisting a developing country-based startup to scale its operations from pilot to production, putting my social enterprise education, passion, and ambition to the test. After all, the only way to get an experience like this is to go out and do it.
After a brief stay in Nairobi, where I was able to meet a number of interesting individuals working in Africa’s startup, tech, and social enterprise hub, I boarded a matatu to Nanyuki. As my head pressed against the ceiling of the back row attempting to get comfortable for my 3 hour journey, I took in the breathtaking views of central Kenya. Because of the nomadic schedule I had during the months leading up to this moment it was the first time I had a chance to truly reflect on the transition I was making and the opportunity that lay ahead, and I couldn’t help myself from smiling a few times as I looked out the window at Mt. Kenya standing tall in the bright Kenyan sun. After a smooth arrival, I spent the evening getting acquainted with my new home and admiring the stars that lit up the night sky like brighter than I had ever seen before.
It was straight to work the next morning where I was able to meet the Eco Fuels Kenya team for the first time at the weekly company meeting; all of whom have been working together for years on a similar project that failed to see its potential due to the unsuccessful leadership of a local NGO. As I observed the meeting I appreciated the trust demonstrated between the Eco Fuels Kenya team and founder Alan Paul, the social entrepreneur who took ownership of all operations and staff last year to turn it into the thriving social enterprise he saw it could be. The team fielded all of my questions, showed me the factory, and gave me an introduction to the manufacturing process for their biofuel and Organic Fertilizer products; all of which have sold at a rate faster than they can produce.
Over the course of the week I went on a number of trips in an effort to dive as deep into the business as quickly as possible. From traveling into the mountains to help pick-up Croton, the primary ingredient in nearly all of Eco Fuels Kenya’s products, at local collection centers to visiting a local potato farm that recently demonstrated the benefits of our Organic Fertilizer as part of a larger fertilizer test, I radiated off the team’s energy and the business’ opportunity that has presented itself all within a 2 hour drive of the Naro Moru-based factory. Day-by-day I began to see why Eco Fuels Kenya had recently been awarded an investment of $50,000 USD from Village Capital and Growth Africa and the vision for scale that Alan has painted with his team.
Recognizing all the momentum that Eco Fuels Kenya has going for it and the milestones that need to be accomplished in the next six months during my placement, I am excited and ready to be a part of the team for the road ahead.