2020 was a year of new beginnings at Mkono. From building our first pilots, expanding our loans and mentorship offerings to entrepreneurs, to tackling challenges from COVID-19, we set out to pursue our mission of empowering young entrepreneurs in developing countries.
We reflect on our first year as we continuously look to improve our services to better help entrepreneurs and continue to maximize their impact in 2021.
To comprehensively assess our impact in Kenya, we conducted interviews 3, 6 and 12 months after an entrepreneur has either repaid their loan or completed a mentorship session.
Through the conversations, the entrepreneurs answered the following questions:
Our Key Findings
From our interviews, we've identified 4 key themes in terms of impact:
1. Improved cash flow and pricing
Mkono's services were useful in helping entrepreneurs better manage their cash flows and think more strategically about down payment.
"Before, I was reinvesting into the business and didn't pay myself a monthly salary. We've implemented measures and feel more at ease with our finances."
2. Vertical integration
Mkono's loans helped entrepreneurs purchase equipment, unlocking vertical integration. Through reduced production costs, higher volume and improving output quality, entrepreneurs were able to increase their profits.
"[The loan] has helped us do everything in house. We are able to check the quality of the job. Before, 50% of the time, we had issues with material, finishing, lost shipment, and issues with timelines. Now we have a dedicated contractor doing this."
3. Business pivot
During the pandemic, as several entrepreneurs experienced a decline in sales, Mkono helped them find ways to pivot their business and leverage their skills.
From helping an entrepreneur make use of photography to document the impact of COVID-19 to assisting others implement an online store, as attested by an entrepreneur, “Mkono did not jump to conclusions and unsolicited advice”.
4. Marketing and branding
During mentorship sessions, Mkono helped entrepreneurs who did not have dedicated customer acquisition strategies find ways to reach existing and new customers online more effectively.
"We've fully increased our online presence [through a new website]. We started getting clients [...] This is really helping us out."
Our Year in Numbers
Our assessment revealed that Mkono’s services - loans and mentorship sessions - are truly empowering promising young entrepreneurs in ensuring the health and growth of their businesses.
While 2020 has been a year of successes, it has also been a year of learning. Building on the entrepreneurs’ feedback, we launched towards the end of the year a number of initiatives to improve our services.
Longer and more localized support
Following the suggestions of entrepreneurs and Mkono allies for additional mentorship sessions, we have now increased the number of mentorship sessions from 1 to 3. Additionally, we expanded our Mkono Allies network to include partners from the East African region to provide more localized support.
Expansion to alumni
Previously, entrepreneurs who had completed programs with one of our communities -mainly incubators, accelerators or mentorship programs- were not able to benefit from our services. By reviewing our due diligence process, we are now able to cater to Alumni of these communities.
Better service delivery
We modified our team structure to ensure each entrepreneur has a solid and single point of contact with a member of the Mkono team. This allows us to ensure continuity and relationship building.
Larger loan amounts
We have increased the loan limit from 100,000 (~$1,000 USD) to 200,000 KSH (~$2,000 USD) for entrepreneurs who have successfully repaid their first loan with Mkono.