Mowgli Mentoring, an award winning organization was founded to support the people driving economic and social development through mentoring
By Amos Wachira
Globally, entrepreneurship plays a significant role in employment creation. A good example is Kenya where according to the 2017 Economic Survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, only 85,600 jobs were created by the formal sector and government, compared to the 747,300 jobs created by the informal sector (popularly known as the JuaKali sector). As the data shows, entrepreneurs present a formidable solution for the perennial unemployment challenges facing many African nations.
When entrepreneurs succeed, economies thrive. They therefore need a support system that nurtures their potential and an environment suitable for sustainable entrepreneurship to take place. One of the key components that entrepreneurs could benefit from is mentoring. However, the understanding around mentorship, its benefits and impact is still not widespread across most developing nations.
Mowgli Mentoring, an award winning organisation was founded to support the people driving economic and social development through mentoring. Based upon the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) accredited syllabus, Mowgli’s holistic approach to mentoring seeks to support both long-term professional and personal development.
Kathleen Bury, CEO of Mowgli Mentoring explains that when it comes to entrepreneurs, mentorship should ideally focus on their personal development, which in turn spurs business growth. Though different, this approach to mentoring has seen the organisation have great impact within the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), a region they predominantly served over the past 10 years, supporting over 1,800 mentors and entrepreneurs before setting out to expand into Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) this year. Their expansion into the region included an increased focus on women, youth and corporates in addition to entrepreneurs. So far, their move to SSA has kicked off in high gear as they are already running their first regional programme in Ethiopia, in partnership with blueMoon Ethiopia, the first youth agribusiness accelerator in the country. The organisation also recently spread its wings to the west with a mentoring programme co-developed and funded by the World Bank Group aimed at empowering climate innovators hosted by the Ghana Climate Innovation Centre (GCIC).
Statistics show that seventy percent of mentored businesses survive more than five years, double the rate of non-mentored small businesses over the same period and this ties in with why Mowgli is a passionate advocate for mentoring as well as their entry into this region. Speaking to Biashara Leo magazine, CEO Kathleen Bury shared: “We have come into the region to support the development of human capacity amongst the people driving economic and social change.”
Currently, entrepreneurship and mentorship are key buzzwords across the African region. However, the level of awareness about mentorship has remained low.
“There are many words which are often confused with mentorship including: coaching, consulting, therapy, training, advisory and others. Coaching for instance is a paid service, mentoring on the other hand, should not attract any transactional cost. It is not about somebody showing you what to do, it’s about empowerment. During the mentoring process; mentors ask mentees questions to help deepen their awareness and the agenda is mostly driven by the mentee,” explains Kathleen.
To address the mentorship gap, Mowgli has developed a mentorship curriculum with four key components which include: raising awareness about mentoring, mentor and entrepreneur recruitment, training of mentors, matching of mentors with mentees and a period of six to twelve months of on-going mentoring relationship building support, facilitation and supervision.
Speaking on lessons learnt over the years and the need to incorporate mentorship as an essential part of a balanced entrepreneurial support system; Kathleen shares: “We see that entrepreneurial ecosystems need investment to develop four pillars to truly serve entrepreneurs to grow successful and sustainable businesses and therefore support the creation of employment. The first pillar is the environment, and this encompasses peer to peer groups, parenting, role models and all levels of education. The second one is financial capital. Thirdly, infrastructure – this includes government regulations, internet access as well as access to incubators and accelerators. The fourth pillar is human capital development and this is where mentoring comes into play.”
Mowgli believes that while a lot more can be done, the ecosystem in Kenya supports entrepreneurship. “People here are very enterprising. We also have a number of very successful business people who can act as mentors, so the pipelines for entrepreneurial mentoring programmes are present, leading to higher chances of a positive return on investment being generated from them.”
With a strong focus on mentorship, the firm has created a fine niche in the fifteen countries it has served. “We stand out because we look at entrepreneurs holistically, as people as well as business leaders. Mowgli’s volunteer mentors are trained to listen, guide and inspire. Our matching process is also unique as we look beyond a good CV and accolades in a mentor, our matching process is based on chemistry as we are seeking to develop long-term trust based relationships. It doesn’t matter how well a potential mentor and mentee may fit on paper; real mentoring relationships are not only based on the mentor’s professional ability to impart knowledge, but on the rapport between the mentor and mentee,” states Kathleen.
Various estimates show that 80 per cent of start-ups die within the first five years of operation. In the few years that Mowgli has provided mentoring, it has managed to overturn this worrying trend, showing that with mentorship, start-ups can succeed. To put this into perspective, 89 percent of the enterprises led by Mowgli Entrepreneurs remained operational after their year of mentoring and managed to create an average of 3.3 jobs and have an employee retention rate of 91% during their Mowgli facilitated mentoring year.
”Jobs can only be created when there is economic growth at the macro level. Essentially, business growth can only be achieved when the leadership qualities of entrepreneurs are strengthened to build their resilience, motivation and confidence and this is why we believe mentoring should be invested in and solidified as a key component of the entrepreneurial ecosystem,” explains Kathleen.