Sinapis is the scientific name for the mustard plant. Jesus speaks of the mustard seed three separate times in the New Testament. (Matt. 13:31-32; Mark 4:31-32; Luke 13:18-19). In each instance He relates the Kingdom of God to this seed, which though very small grows to be a surprisingly large tree-like plant. Similarly, Sinapis hopes to glorify God by giving entrepreneurs the opportunity to grow small seeds of ideas into strong businesses, which can in turn provide for many.
“He told them another parable: The kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.”
The roots of Sinapis date back to December of 2008 when two Harvard graduate students, Courtney Rountree Mills and Karibu Nyaggah, met during a student trip to East Africa. Courtney was a graduate student at Harvard Kennedy School and Karibu was a graduate student at Harvard Business School. Karibu was leading the student trip to his home country of Kenya. Courtney and Karibu became fast friends during the trip, and soon Courtney revealed her vision of setting up an accelerator program for start-up stage entrepreneurs in Kenya. Later that year, Courtney embarked upon her thesis where she received the opportunity to work with the Ministry of Finance in Kenya to help them look at bottlenecks in the private sector, particularly with regards to entrepreneurship. Courtney received funds from Harvard to do research on the subject the summer of 2009 and travelled to Kenya with fellow Harvard graduate, Matt Stolhandske, to diligence the viability of an early stage accelerator program in Nairobi. Interviewing over 100 professionals from the for-profit, non-profit and government sectors on the entrepreneurship space laid the groundwork for the first version of the business plan for the accelerator program. Increasingly, there was a call to think about how this accelerator program could directly glorify God’s kingdom and increase His presence in Kenya in a practical way. Thus, they decided to make the Sinapis program centered on Kingdom business principles that help entrepreneurs integrate their faith with their business. They named the organization Sinapis, the Latin name for the mustard seed found in the mustard seed parable of the New Testament, to reflect this vision.
You may be thinking, “Isn’t Sinapis just the next micro-finance institution?” Or perhaps, “I know of another organization that does the same thing Sinapis is trying to do.” We beg to differ. First and foremost, Sinapis does not work with micro-enterprises. Period. We are focused on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), which are generally more formalized businesses and, by definition, have higher annual turnover. This isn’t because we don’t like micro-enterprises but rather because we seek to fill a gap not currently being met by the micro-finance industry and the traditional banking sector. Furthermore, unlike other non-profits who focus on mature SMEs, Sinapis focuses exclusively on SMEs in their earliest stages, typically when they are still just an idea. Additionally, we believe that the entrepreneur’s abilities are often of more consequence than the business idea itself. Thus, while most organizations provide only financial capital with very little business training and support, Sinapis provides a holistic training program specifically designed for early stage entrepreneurs.
Sinapis supports entrepreneurs with innovative, scalable business ideas by providing intensive business training, access to financing and exposure to Christ-centered business principles that equip them to triumph over ethical challenges. As these entrepreneurs become successful in business, they create sustainable jobs and help alleviate poverty. With this success comes greater societal influence to transform the business culture for the glory of God and the opportunity to disciple others to do the same.
Matthew Rohrs has a diverse background that combines international economic development, investment management, and spiritual leadership…Read More
Matthew Rohrs has a diverse background that combines international economic development, investment management, and spiritual leadership. He joined the Sinapis team as COO in 2015 before moving into the CEO role. Prior to joining Sinapis, he served as Director of Spiritual Integration at HOPE International, a Christ-centered microenterprise development network. During his time there, he led a global team of spiritual integration staff to practically integrate the gospel and discipleship into microlending and savings and credits association programs in seven countries. He also served as Associate Vice President of Investment Strategies at Lincoln Financial. Matthew is a CFA charter holder and graduated with honors from Taylor University (BS in Business Systems) and from the University of Notre Dame (MBA). Matthew has served as an elder in the local church and is passionate about Jesus Christ, his family, and sustainable solutions to poverty.
Sylvie Somerville joined Sinapis in July 2018 with diverse experiences working for private, public, and non-profit organizations…Read More
Sylvie Somerville joined Sinapis in July 2018 with diverse experiences working for private, public, and non-profit organizations both on and off the field. She currently holds the position of Director of the Sinapis Academy. Her past experience includes launching the Malawi branch office for HOPE International, a network of microfinance banks and savings programs, and spearheading the development of several new products at HOPE, including the SME loan product. Most recently, Sylvie conducted several research projects for the UN, academia, and impact investors on topics around entrepreneurship, SME development, and sustainable finance. Sylvie received a Masters in Public Policy from Georgetown University and an MBA specializing in international organizations from the University of Geneva, following an undergraduate degree in Mathematical Economics from the University of Richmond. At Sinapis, Sylvie combines her passions for SME development, multi-stakeholder collaboration, impact measurement, discipleship, and an active and practical witness for Jesus Christ through her work.
Beatrice Jalala studied Business Management at Kenya Institute of Management. Before Sinapis, she worked with New Day Ltd and Keswick Books and…Read More
Beatrice Jalala studied Business Management at Kenya Institute of Management. Before Sinapis, she worked with New Day Ltd and Keswick Books and Gifts Ltd where she got a chance to implement systems and build key relationships which transformed a struggling department into a highly profitable business. Her time at Keswick also gave her the opportunity to work with entrepreneurs and she noticed how they were struggling to run their businesses. She desired and prayed for a program that would train them to run their businesses through Kingdom princples. “I believe Sinapis is the answer to my prayer and that’s why I am excited about working at Sinapis. I also enjoy the opportunity it gives me to disciple and encouraging people.”
Salome Ayugi is a driven go-getter with a passion for people. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Media Technology…Read More
Salome Ayugi is a driven go-getter with a passion for people. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Media Technology from Maseno University. Before joining Sinapis, she worked with entrepreneurs at PassionBiz Academy doing marketing.
“The Sinapis culture allows for me to put my faith and work together. Having worked with entrepreneurs previously, I saw that they faced numerous challenges and was filled with excitement when I saw them flourish. Sinapis helps entrepreneurs not only avert poverty but to become spiritually rich as well. This stood out for me because I love to see people better themselves holistically.”
Toby Kilgore is an experienced business leader with an extensive track record of over 25 years working with leading domestic and international institutions…Read More
Toby is an experienced business leader with an extensive track record of over 25 years working with leading domestic and international institutions. He has successfully addressed core issues of strategic focus and differentiation as well as operating model effectiveness and scalability. Toby joined Sinapis as COO in November 2017. Before this, Toby was a partner in the Strategy and Operations practice of Deloitte Consulting, providing leadership in client service, practice building and intellectual capital development. In addition to his work in the U.S., Toby served as Deloitte’s Australian banking consulting practice leader. Toby was also with A.T. Kearney, serving as co-head of the North America Financial Institutions Group and lead partner for key client accounts. He received an MBA from Harvard University and a BA in Economics from Vanderbilt University, graduating magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa.
In recent years Toby has been increasingly drawn into exploring effective pathways to poverty alleviation that tackle underlying core needs and are sustainable while also being holistic so as to foster both spiritual and economic growth. From his consulting work in the SME space, Toby has seen firsthand both the growth and job creation opportunities SMEs represent, but also the challenges they face obtaining the advisory and financial capital support needed to realize their potential.
“I knew when I first learned of Sinapis that this is where I needed to be; our distinctive mission – to make disciples and alleviate poverty through empowerment of entrepreneurs – is exactly where my head and heart were already going. I strongly believe that through the active cultivation and support of entrepreneurs, systemic momentum of economic and community transformation is created.”
Silvya Kananu graduated from Manchester Business School with a Master of Science in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship…Read More
Silvya Kananu graduated from Manchester Business School with a Master of Science in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship (Distinction). For her undergraduate degree, she pursued a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Strathmore University and graduated with 1st Class Honors. She has worked for companies such as WPP-Scangroup and Unilever Kenya Ltd in a brand management capacity. Following her passion for entrepreneurship, she founded a boutique business consultancy aimed at providing business advisory services to start-ups and MSME’s. She later worked in Equity Group Foundation as an Entrepreneurship Program Coordinator and successfully developed an entrepreneurship program for youth in Kenya. She holds a deep-rooted belief that entrepreneurship plays a fundamental role in poverty alleviation and economic development and views promoting and developing entrepreneurship in the region as her God-Given calling in life. Silvya brings on board a strong set of skills that include strategy, communication, entrepreneurial thinking and brand management. Silvya is a born-again Christian, and in her free time she enjoys traveling, cooking, and as an avid fan of animals, watching Nat Geo Wild documentaries.
Caroline Kagwiri is a trained CPA(K) with experience in a number of sectors including manufacturing, service and retail…Read More
Caroline Kagwiri is a trained CPA(K) with experience in a number of sectors including manufacturing, service and retail. An entrepreneur herself, she is a valuable member of the Sinapis team with great attention to detail as well as an ability to juggle a number of tasks at once. She enjoys working for Sinapis because it is a platform not just for integrating her own faith and passion for business, but enabling others do the same.
Trained as an immunocytochemist from the University of Medicine and Dentistry New Jersey, Lisa Allgood spent 36 years as an Executive…Read More
Trained as an immunocytochemist from the University of Medicine and Dentistry New Jersey, Lisa Allgood spent 36 years as an Executive in the pharmaceutical industry (Merck, Procter & Gamble, and Medpace). Lisa is a certified facilitator and a master trainer in organizational strategic design and leadership. She currently serves as Executive Director of MomsHope, an organization that surrounds single mothers with resources and mentors to break the cycle of generational poverty and create sustainable independence for her and her children, and is in service to the Presbytery of Cincinnati in a number of capacities as an ordained Ruling Elder.
“The mission and practice of Sinapis is unique, and so congruent with my beliefs and actions both in corporate and service roles. Bringing together the love and power of Jesus Christ with leadership and cutting-edge business training enables businesses to grow ethically, bringing Kingdom principles and workers together to witness the power of God and His leadership. In the areas we serve, this has the proven ability to create
real cultural change. The passion and commitment of the people of Sinapis is outstanding, and I am honored to be a part of the journey.”
John Goodwin hails from York, England and currently serves as Chief Executive Officer of The LEGO Foundation…Read More
John Goodwin hails from York, England and currently serves as Chief Executive Officer of The LEGO Foundation. John has long had a passion to serve the poor and was a founding trustee of Retrak, a charity established to support street children in Africa in 1996. John is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants and began his career doing auditing and tax consulting at Ernst & Young. He then worked for Procter & Gamble for over two decades, serving as Vice President and President of various brands including Braun Global. John left P&G in 2012 to join the LEGO Group where he served as CFO while also overseeing IT, Legal, Procurement, Business Services, CSR and Corporate Affairs. He was a key driver in the development of the LEGO Group organization and culture until deciding to step down to focus on his charitable interests while serving as CEO of the LEGO Foundation.
John is passionate about the work Sinapis is doing because “one of the best ways for individuals to break out of the burden of poverty is to be given the gift of honest employment in a company led by a well-equipped leader that has the teachings of Jesus as their moral compass and guide. Sinapis provides an amazing framework to equip entrepreneurs to be those leaders, job creators and champions of a new business environment.”
Ian currently serves as Head of Sustainable Economic Development for the UK Department for International Development (DFID) in Kenya…Read More
Ian currently serves as Head of Sustainable Economic Development for the UK Department for International Development (DFID) in Kenya. In his current role he oversees a £200 million portfolio of programmes operating across a range of sectors in Kenya: trade, market access, financial access, urban economic development, extractives, climate change, investment climate and youth employment.
His background is in Economics (Durham University), Law (Oxford Institute of Legal Practice) and Public Administration (Harvard Kennedy School). He previously worked as an Economist for the World Bank Somalia team, as a Solicitor in England & Wales specializing in setting up private equity funds for one of London’s leading law firms, and as Head of Economic Growth for a private sector consultancy firm. He has carried out criminal justice research for Harvard University collecting data from within a maximum security prison in Sierra Leone, undertaken an internship with the UN in his country of birth (Botswana), and spent 4 months in Peru volunteering for Latin Link, a Christian mission agency.
Ian has been passionate about poverty reduction ever since growing up in Zimbabwe and Kenya as a child. “Seeing first-hand the stark contrast in lives between the rich and the poor, I am passionate about Sinapis as it puts at its focus both job creation and Kingdom impact – changing the lives of people both today, and for eternity.”
Steve Cesler is a 36-year veteran of Procter & Gamble, retiring in 2014. Steve grew up in Louisville, Kentucky and graduated from Western Kentucky University…Read More
Steve Cesler is a 36-year veteran of Procter & Gamble, retiring in 2014. Steve grew up in Louisville, Kentucky and graduated from Western Kentucky University. Steve has been married to Judi for 36 years, has 5 children and 5 grandchildren!
Steve spent most of his time at P&G working in the Sales area with a few assignments in General Management. Over his career he had a chance to work across several businesses, in diverse sales channels and a variety of geographies including Mexico, Argentina and Switzerland. His last assignments included leading the Global Sales organizations for the Household Care business, Global Beauty and the Global Health & Grooming Business.
Steve says, “I love the work of Sinapis as it matches so well the passions God has placed in my own heart. The mission of Sinapis to make disciples and alleviate poverty through the power of entrepreneurship is especially powerful as it is hard to hear the gospel if a person is without work and not able to care for their family. But a job without a relationship with God is meaningless. People need good jobs, but ultimately they need God. I am honored to work with Sinapis so that many may find important work while bringing the Good News to those in the marketplace who have not heard.”
Courtney Mills graduated from Harvard Kennedy School’s Master in Public Policy program with a concentration in Political and Economic Development…Read More
Courtney Mills graduated from Harvard Kennedy School’s Master in Public Policy program with a concentration in Political and Economic Development. Prior to graduate school, Courtney received her Bachelors in Business Administration from the University of Texas at Austin. Courtney has worked for McKinsey & Company where she advised Fortune 500 companies on strategic issues such as reducing costs in the supply chain for a large consumer package goods company and analyzing high potential investments at a large hedge fund firm. She also worked at Procter & Gamble and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation where she helped develop the foundation’s expansion strategy to South Africa.
Her passion for creating opportunities for those with less drove Courtney to spend significant time volunteering her consulting services to several non-profit organizations in Texas including the American Red Cross and United Way, eventually leading her to co-found Sinapis.
Courtney began developing the idea for Sinapis in graduate school while working on her thesis regarding angel investing in East Africa. She later teamed up with fellow Harvard students Matt Stolhandske and Karibu Nyaggah to perform a feasibility study and launch the organization in Nairobi, Kenya in November 2010. Courtney served as Executive Director until stepping down from the role in 2017 after the birth of her second child. She resides in Nairobi and is an active member of the Sinapis board while also enjoying horseback riding, reading, traveling, being outdoors and spending time with her family.
Karibu Nyaggah was born and raised in Kenya before moving to the US as a young child. After attending University of California at Berkeley,…Read More
Karibu Nyaggah was born and raised in Kenya before moving to the US as a young child. After attending University of California at Berkeley, Karibu worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers in their Advisory group focusing on Corporate Investigations and Dispute Analysis. After PwC, Karibu attended Harvard Business School where he received his MBA. Following HBS, Karibu served as an HBS Leadership Fellow and worked at Dillard University for a year as the Director of Strategic Initiatives. At Dillard, his role was to prepare the undergraduate business program for AACSB accreditation and explore the feasibility of a graduate business program.
While in college, Karibu visited Kenya after a long hiatus, and continued to do so more frequently through business school. With every visit, he developed stronger passion and heart for his native homeland. Each time, he continued to explore how he could put his business skills to use in Kenya while meaningfully applying his faith to address some of the most pressing challenges entrepreneurs were facing. During one of these visits, he met Courtney Rountree Mills and they both discovered a mutual interest, rooted in their shared love of Jesus, in leveraging entrepreneurship to catalyze economic growth across emerging markets.
Karibu is passionate about Sinapis because of his desire to see skilled followers of Jesus who will expand His kingdom and alleviate poverty around the world. “For me, Sinapis represents an opportunity to unpack human potential to restore trust, empower entrepreneurs, and transform society in Kenya and around the world.” Karibu is also an entrepreneur himself and runs a fintech company called Caytree.
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