In February, we had the opportunity to speak with one of our Mkono Allies: Nam Nguyen. He shared with us his journey as an ally and his learnings from the experience.
Allies play a crucial part in our community; interacting directly with the entrepreneurs, they provide mentorship, support and a friendly face to the Mkono business owners. Currently we have an amazing network of 14 Allies from 7 different countries, all on a mission to provide young entrepreneurs with the global insights they need.
But being an Ally is much more than attending consulting meetings. As Nam describes,
"[It's about] being an external pair of eyes, helping [the entrepreneurs] find new ideas to their problems. Because for an entrepreneur, any small change can spark a light in them."
The Profile of an Ally
Nam is based in Vietnam. After earning his B.A in Economics at NYU Abu Dhabi, he began working as a consultant for the Boston Consulting Group, advising and helping companies solve their business problems. Specializing in strategy and sales, his role within the Mkono community is similar: to support entrepreneurs in their business decisions.
"Consulting forces you to be versatile, to learn about the different industries quickly. [Similarly], as an Mkono Ally, you get to tackle interesting and much more fundamental problems that you don't usually encounter at work."
The Impact of an Ally
When Nam first joined us a year ago, he was attracted by Mkono's mission.
"Helping people far away from where I am and generating an impact is powerful," he told us during our call. And a year in, he's been doing just that.
Before his meetings with the entrepreneurs, he likes to take the time to study the specific company and explore relevant topics he can bring up during the conversion. Then, during the calls with the entrepreneurs, he listens to their problems, helps them assess business issues, and assists them in finding viable options. For instance, in a past call with an entrepreneur leading a daycare center, he helped brainstorm ways to pivot the business to an online platform in face of COVID.
But Nam also recognizes that a single meeting isn't enough to solve a problem; instead, he prefers to "validate [the entrepreneur's] ideas and thinking because it helps them be more confident." And he's right. Being an Ally isn't just about being an expert, it requires empathy and listening skills.
"Entrepreneurs come to you with their hearts open and with real worries, so bring in the empathy, and be understanding."
The Benefits of being an Ally
While Allies provide mentorship to entrepreneurs, it is also a position with great learning experiences. For Nam, he gets to consult with entrepreneurs from diverse industries, which allows him to gain knowledge on these business fields and on Kenya in general.
"It was refreshing to see that. The enthusiasm of the entrepreneurs really draws the enthusiasm in you. Seeing that they care and that you can help them execute their ideas is empowering."
Needless to say, Allies are essential to our mission. Like Nam, they form a group of young professionals who dedicate themselves to empower young entrepreneurs.
As the call came near to an end, we asked Nam a final question : "Do you have any tips for people interested in joining Mkono as an Ally?"
"Be professional," he said. "Take it seriously, be empathetic, and listen to the entrepreneurs. It may not be easy, but it's worth it."
About Mkono’s mentorship: In addition to offering affordable loans, Mkono offers promising entrepreneurs mentorship sessions, which are 45-minute calls spread over 3-4 months that give an entrepreneur and selected Allies the opportunity to connect and learn from one another. Because our Mkono Allies network is global, it encourages cross-cultural interactions and learnings from all stakeholders involved. Rather than telling the entrepreneur what to do, our Mkono Allies provide knowledge and support to the entrepreneurs.