The highlight of my trip was the week that I spent in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to help run and facilitate Sote Tunaweza Initiative’s 2015 Entrepreneurship and Leadership Institute. I am on their Advisory Board, and through SH International, provide consulting and coaching services designed to enable the initiative's success. In Dar es Salaam, this meant one of my privileges was teaching thirty-two bright young women in sessions on entrepreneurial finance, negotiations, and leadership.
The Sote Tunaweza experience was transformative for the students, but also transformative for me. I was incredibly inspired by these brave and bright young women, some taking multiple buses and waking up at the crack of dawn to travel several hours each and every day to the week-long institute to become better leaders and entrepreneurs for tomorrow.
These ladies awed us with their audacious dreams, and the concrete steps they were taking towards living them. Some wanted to found their own private sector companies. Others aspired to be national-level government ministers to bring about sweeping change across Tanzania. Others wanted to create organizations to tackle pressing societal issues like environmental degradation and deficiencies in the health care system affecting young mothers.
The week-long full days of classes were jam-packed with great speakers, exercises, and learning. The culminating event was the Sote Tunaweza 2015 Pitching Contest, where the participants had a chance to show off their newly-honed skills. SH International proudly sponsored the first place cash prize, which I had the honor of presenting to Justina Ndalichako.
This past Wednesday, I had a chance to catch up with Justina on WhatsApp and learn more about her and her progress.
Sara- When did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
Justina- I took a course in entrepreneurship during my senior year at the University of Dar es Salaam, where I was doing a bachelor’s in accounting. I really enjoyed it, and decided to put being an accountant on hold so that I can be an entrepreneur!
Sara - Have you made any first steps towards launching your new project? You don’t have to tell me anything confidential- your project is so exciting, and I know that you don’t want some details to be public until you are ready.
Justina - So far I have managed to make a mock-up of the mobile application. I have three programmers working with me. I started this team through Buni Hub [an entrepreneurial hub in Dar es Salaam]. I found out about Buni Hub and met Maryam Mgonja, Partnerships Lead of Buni Hub, through the Sote Tunaweza Institute.
Sara - What has been your biggest challenge so far as an entrepreneur?
Justina - I would say the biggest challenge has been getting capital to make the app and to meet with potential customers. Some are in Arusha, some are in Morogoro, they are scattered and we have to travel far. We need around 1.5 million Tanzanian Shillings to meet these capital needs.
Sara - Besides the financing, what are your biggest needs for support in the near future?
Justina - I need more people on my team. We have a lot of work to do!
Sara - Let’s talk a little bit about Sote Tunaweza. What was the best part about the Institute that we put together in Dar es Salaam?
Justina - I learned so much about being a leader. I have been able to organize my team well, and am applying the skills that I learned through the Institute.
Sara - Do you still keep in touch with the other women that you met through the Institute?
Justina - Yes, we still keep in touch. We have a WhatsApp group where we chat and share different opportunities with each other.
Sara - How did you feel about winning the first place prize in the pitching contest?
Justina - I felt good. First of all I did not expect it, so I was very overwhelmed. It taught me to have faith in myself, and that I can do anything.
Sara - That’s wonderful, we really loved your idea! Has anything else changed since the Institute?
Justina - I go to Buni Hub every day for approximately eight hours– Monday through Friday. Besides the interns, Buni Hub is helping me with mentoring, guidance on the app, ideas, and help with challenges and difficulties. Plus it is nice to work in Buni Hub instead of working at home with no mentors to direct you.
Congratulations, Justina! We wish you, and all of the participants, much success in accomplishing your dreams!