To be an entrepreneur, no one will ask about your previous academic qualifications. All you need is a great idea, some capital and nerves of steel. Sounds simple, right? Wrong.
Any businessperson will tell you stories of bloody days in the trenches, and high ‘highs’ in the clouds. Others will consider sitting in a classroom and hearing from the experts what it really takes to be in this world.
But is there any value to an MBA? Or should one just take their chances in the messy field and dare to sink or swim?
Four business people who took the classroom route tell us if it was worth it.
Anthony Makau, MD of Gelian hotels and Almak Aqua drillers company
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More than anything, the MBA will open up your networks. The people you meet and interact with will change or expand your outlook. I am still in touch with those who were in my class. People share their experiences in business, which is more valuable than theoretical knowledge, because they have been through it all. Plus, when you share your experience or ask for guidance, you get what works or doesn’t work in the Kenyan business climate. Additionally, lecturers are very knowledgeable about entrepreneurship.
I would recommend an MBA to aspiring businesspeople. You get to learn a lot from the case studies that are a mix of local and international businesses. MBA has helped me get an insight of what people go through, how to overcome some of the things and even in my personal business, when I face some of these challenges such as financing, I am able to understand that through either a business plan or other things that we have done in the course, I can get the help I need.
I have also learnt how to react to certain situations. In class, every aspect of business is examined critically. If say it is marketing, you will critically assess your marketing plan, examine how and why companies failed with their marketing strategies and how yours compares. You also get to study local examples. All these have come in handy in my businesses. You get a Kenyan context and you are able to see and understand where the issues are. And that enables you to translate the lessons to your very own business.
Sahra Yasin Duale, a businesswoman and proprietor of Isiolo-based AL Munawar beauty and bridal shop
I got into business before I got my MBA. And now having completed my MBA, I must confess that I am totally a different person. I have mastered money management and can manage cash flows and ensure smooth running of the business. I am able to expertly monitor how money is being used no matter where I am. I run the business with the help of two sisters and I am able to mentor them on how to handle finances. I may consider moving the business to Nairobi or opening other branches and it is where I will apply fully all I learnt in the MBA programme.
Additionally, the networking you get in class is priceless. An MBA is not quite the same as doing a degree or a diploma. In that class you will meet managers, directors of different companies and CEOs, so it creates a very strong network and makes you understand businesses from different angles. Being in that class gave me a way forward and opened my eyes about what I want to do in future. My advice to other entrepreneurs is don’t sit with what you have. Go outside, study and get to know how people react to different problems, how they communicate and deal with different opinions.
Roy Akala, a businessman
The greatest skill I have learnt from my MBA is how to assess situations, decipher needs and figuring out the best way to provide a solution. It has also taught me the need to deploy resources effectively and efficiently, especially where there is need for returns on investments. At the moment I am in real estate developing houses for lease. This was an area I got into thanks to the course. I realised there was that need and I decided to find a solution for it, hence venturing into the Real Estate Industry.
I would recommend an MBA to entrepreneurs because the course is illuminating on so much. As an entrepreneur, you will find the course very useful as it helps an individual to know whether they are on the right track or not. There are high chances that you could actually be an entrepreneur but in the wrong area. Through some of the study units, one is able to detect whether they are struggling with the wrong thing or just doing things in an inefficient manner. You might be deploying resources but the returns are not efficient or might possibly lack value.
Lucy Kamau is a businesswoman and owner of Amida Entreprises
What I enjoyed most was getting lectures from business people like Manu Chandaria, Eva Muraya and PLO Lumumba. My favourite experience was the trip to Germany where we went to Mercedes Benz company and got a taste of how those cars are made from pre- to post-production and eventually to sales. I was amazed that they make close to 1,000 cars in a day. And that most of the taxis are Mercedes Benz.
We also got a chance to visit some few other small businesses and got to understand how businesses are done abroad. That experience alone gave me a wider picture of not just local exposure in business, but also international. In terms of management, when you look at how Manu Chandaria started his business to where he is now, through his lecture I’ve understood that it needs a lot of discipline, a lot of sacrifice and good investment.
I would recommend an MBA to entrepreneurs because it is very rich and broad; you will get to learn a lot about businesses. It will expand your thinking and the exposure you get is excellent.