Fuelling Entrepreneurship - UBC Sauder's SSE-Kenya program 2020 cohort

SSE Kenya group photo

Sauder Social Entrepreneurship-Kenya, or SSE-Kenya as it is widely known, is welcoming applications for the next year’s trip.

In May 2020, around 20 students from UBC Sauder School of Business will lead a four-week business skills training course in Nairobi, Kenya, for underprivileged youth and young adults.

Since its inception, SSE-Kenya has become UBC Sauder's flagship social enterprise training program that provides critical business tools and knowledge to improve lives and help reduce unemployment rates in Kibera and Mathare.

While the two densely populated areas of Nairobi face various socio-economic challenges, they also harbour a young populace that displays an entrepreneurial spirit and a commitment to advance knowledge.

"SSE Kenya combines the energy, aspirations and inspirations of our Kenyan participants with business skills to facilitate and develop their business idea. We are fueling entrepreneurship," explained Jeff Kroeker, Program Director of SSE-Kenya.

"It's like an executive education module where Kenyan students are introduced to cases and concepts that are contextualized to fit their environment and business framework. Some of the learning methods are new for both UBC Sauder and Kenyan students."

For the students, by students

Prior to embarking on the trip, UBC Sauder students are trained to use a curriculum designed to bring the class up to speed with fundamental business concepts and tools that will shape their individual projects. Finance, supply chain management, marketing and production ideation form the theoretical foundation to the practical solutions developed within classrooms.

The "mini-casework" model allows students to create a business idea using the new knowledge and present it to the class, entailing instant feedback and peer-reviewed consultation to sharpen their entrepreneurial venture.

SSE-Kenya 2.0: Guided mentorship

The success of new ideas coming out of the community centres of Kibera and Mathare, that double up as classrooms, has extended SSE Kenya beyond four weeks to provide mentorship opportunities.

Kenyan students with viable business propositions are now linked with established entrepreneurs to help them turn their ideas into a commercial, sustainable enterprise. UBC Sauder students, upon their return to Vancouver, can continue tracking the progress of their Kenyan counterparts through their mentor.

"We are building relationships with mentors in Kenya," said Kroeker, and collaborations within Kibera and Mathare are already having an impact.

"One of the members we partnered with said: 'I wish your students were trees. Because I could uproot them and plant them right here in my community,'" recounted Kroeker.

The ideal SSE-Kenya candidate

The most important question students must ask themselves is why they'd want to embark on this journey with SSE-Kenya, according to Kroeker. "Students are placed out of their comfort zone. They have to be dedicated towards achieving the goals of teaching new students in Kibera and Mathare. They should embrace any cultural differences and be open to learning from the students as much as they're prepared to teach them."

Theo Guevara, a fifth-year accounting student at UBC Sauder and a member of the 2018 SSE-Kenya cohort, echoes Kroeker's thoughts: "You should be open to accepting different points of views and working styles."

Guevara also wants future applicants to remember that context is everything in the unique teaching and learning opportunity. "We had to do a lot of readings to understand the culture and business environment to communicate ideas that resonate with them. So, students should be prepared with examples and cases that fit their surroundings. It’s more impactful when you put the audience at the forefront of your teaching plan.”

Rita He is a fifth-year student specializing in Global Supply Chain and Logistics Management. She too was part of SSE-Kenya last year and encourages the 2020 cohort to be open-minded: "There will be a lot of new experiences that could be overwhelming to process, but nothing you see is entirely positive or entirely negative. Everything you observe is a learning process that adds to your reservoir of knowledge on a new place, new people and aspirations that are in many ways similar to our own."