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.
Asha Mweru is a graduate from Strathmore University with a Bachelors in Business and Information technology. She has a proven track record of being bold…Read More
Asha Mweru is a graduate from Strathmore University with a Bachelor in Business and Information Technology. She has a proven track record of being bold enough to believe she can change the world and has sure enough taken the steps to try. She founded her own startup business while still in University with 3 other students and even received investment, after which she fell in-love with entrepreneurship. She believes in Africa and that entrepreneurship is a key element in bringing economic freedom, which she quotes Malik Fal. She is also part of a global network of startups, Startup Grind powered by Google for Entrepreneurs. She is a proven leader in the entrepreneurship field and brings to the table tons of practical knowledge on the entrepreneurship and innovation scene in Africa and the building and scaling of programs that add value to entrepreneurs. Having founded her own company, she understands in depth what it takes to build a successful company, key missing links in entrepreneurship in Kenya and perhaps even how to solve them. She was recently selected as one of 25 young Africans from a range of sectors to be a fellow for the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Development Policy and Practice, Building Bridges Program.
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.”
Brad Vanderford has a background that combines international economic development, social enterprise and management consulting to SMEs…Read More
Brad Vanderford has a background that combines international economic development, social enterprise, and management consulting to SMEs. Brad has advised SMEs and startups in the consumer packaged goods, food and beverage, and software industries on issues ranging from marketing strategy to business planning and development to early stage fundraising. He was a founding fellow with One Degree, an Echoing Green social enterprise tech startup that is revolutionizing the way low-income families connect to poverty-fighting resources. Prior to One Degree, Brad served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Paraguay where he worked as a technical advisor to a regional financial services and agricultural cooperative, established several entrepreneurship education and accelerator programs, and directed youth leadership and civic education initiatives. He is fluent in Spanish and speaks basic Guaraní. Brad is a summa cum laude graduate in International Business, Marketing, and Entrepreneurial Management of the University of South Carolina, where he earned a BS in Business Administration and graduated with honors from South Carolina Honors College. He is deeply motivated by his faith as well as his passion for market-based solutions to poverty, and he feels most alive when he’s exploring the world through adventure travel.
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.
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.
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.”
David was born into a Christian family in Adelaide, Australia. After graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the…Read More
David was born into a Christian family in Adelaide, Australia. After graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the Flinders University of South Australia, he embarked on a journey around the world working in Turkey, England, Germany and finally the US where he met his wife and settled in Boston, Massachusetts. He furthered his education by completing a graduate degree in Economics at Boston University. His faith and involvement in the Church increased as family grew to 4 children.
An entrepreneur himself, in1982 David established Administrative Claim Service Inc. (ACS), which serves the insurance industry and has grown to now employing over 200 employees.
He is passionate about Sinapis because “I know firsthand how an owner of a company can be an ambassador for Christ in the business world. Small businesses employ the largest segment of any country’s working population. Just imagine how a country would change if all these employees practiced Christ’s love, were true to His teaching, were honest and ethical in all their dealings, and worked with great skill and knowledge. Would not families experience a higher standard of living that would be truly satisfying? Would not more people be employed in companies that exercise Kingdom principles? Wouldn’t the Kingdom of God not only grow in numbers but in depth of knowledge and understanding of God’s love? Sinapis gives you tools to take advantage of these opportunities. Participants in the Sinapis program meet a truly talented network of people who are similar to themselves. Dedicated Christians seeking to grow their businesses by learning cutting edge business principles. Sinapis instructors help one understand how to apply these principles through Christ’s teaching in Scripture. Nothing is better than going to work each day to serve our Lord and Savior in an environment that is growing through prayer and faith.”
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