Nurture. Grow. Glorify.
Our mission is to empower aspiring entrepreneurs in the developing world with innovative, scalable business ideas by providing them with a rigorous, Christ-centered business education, world-class consulting and mentoring services and access to seed capital. Through these means, we strive to create ethical business leaders, sustainable employment and an improved quality of life for many that we may glorify God in service of His people.
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.
Courtney Rountree Mills graduated from the Master in Public Policy program at Harvard Kennedy School with a concentration in Political and Economic…Read More
Courtney Rountree Mills graduated from the Master in Public Policy program at Harvard Kennedy School 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. Courtney has spent significant time volunteering her consulting services to several non-profit organizations in Texas including the American Red Cross and United Way. 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 Matt Stolhandske and Karibu Nyaggah to perform a feasibility study and launch the organization. Sinapis was launched on the ground in Nairobi, Kenya in November 2010, and Courtney has been leading the organization since this time. Courtney enjoys horseback riding, reading, traveling, being outdoors and spending time with her family and two German Shepherds.
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 (Distinction)…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.
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. Prior to joining Sinapis, he served as Director of Spiritual Integration at HOPE International, a Christ-centered microenterprise development network. During his time at HOPE 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. Previous to his time at HOPE, he 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.
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