13 Oct Reflections of a Sinapis Entrepreneur
Thinking of joining the Sinapis Entrepreneurship Program? Sinapis entrepreneur Henry Muuthia shares some insights from his journey, and tells us a little more about running his current business.
Henry Muuthia is a trained agricultural economist who has a passion for travelling and sees the web as his story-telling canvas. After working for 10 years in the NGO world, he ventured into entrepreneurship by starting Enchanted Landscapes, an online travel resource for different Kenyan destinations. The inspiration behind his business? Telling the world about Kenya, sharing his love for travel and – hopefully – generating an income from his passion.
A brief introduction to your business?
Enchanted Landscapes is an online travel site that was born from the need for more quality online travel information about Kenya. Because the majority of news reflects the negatives – famine, disease & civil unrest – I wanted to tell the positive stories about our scenic landscapes, and just how enchanted they were. This is how the name Enchanted Landscapes was born. I began writing about unique spots as a hobby, but soon moved into the commercial industry. With that came an increase in content beyond landscapes to local recipes, food, music & movie options.
What are some of the major challenges you’ve faced in trying to build Enchanted Landscapes?
One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced, and continue to face, is financial in nature. It’s difficult to create high quality content while on a limited budget.
Another major challenge we face is cultural in nature, and has to do with the fact that online marketing is a relatively young concept in this part of the world. Because traditional advertising takes up the lion’s share of the cake, monetizing the enterprise has proved to be quite the task. However, this is changing as more people – particularly the young – continue to embrace technology.
On the flip side, what are some major accomplishments you’ve experienced so far?
In 2013, Enchanted Landscapes was nominated for the best travel blog in the Kenya BAKE Awards. We came in 2nd, which increased our visibility tremendously. We’ve also been able to create some strong partnerships, including one with South African company Travel Start.
How did you get involved with the Sinapis Entrepreneurship Program?
I fellowship at Nairobi Chapel, where church members connect and share business opportunities during an event called ‘The Soko’. My first encounter with Sinapis was at the event last year. What attracted me to the program was the opportunity to undergo a rigorous hands-on training for my business and compete for the $10,000 seed funding. As a businessperson, I was also attracted by the possibility to access a strong network of mentors, consultants, advisors and investors.
What was the actual experience of participating in the program?
I initially thought that the program would be a simple one – like what you typically see with a lot of business courses in Nairobi. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the intensity & thoroughness of the program. It turned out to be a lot less theoretical than I had anticipated, and the field component added an extra layer of practicality to the program. Writing out a business plan during the course allowed me to understand my business to a much greater degree. In the end, I was very impressed by the fact that Sinapis has been able to subsidize the program (Kshs. 16,000 for 4 months) but still maintain such a high level of quality throughout the program!
How has the program influenced the way you run your business?
The program reaffirmed some things we knew about managing a business, but it also revealed some things we were doing wrongly. One of the most insightful lessons I learned on customer development was the importance of researching market needs before creating a product.
For a born-again Christian like myself, the Kingdom Business message of the course also struck home immensely. It was encouraging to learn that serving God is not something that needs to end in church on Sunday. Instead, serving God through my business is something that I can do daily.
What would you say to someone who’s considering joining the Sinapis Entrepreneurship Program?
Having done a BA in Economics & Masters in MIS, I know first-hand what is available in many institutions of higher learning. What makes Sinapis different is that it gives one the hands-on tools that can be immediately integrated into the business. As opposed to speaking about the theoretical value of stocks or assessing blue-chip companies, Sinapis pushed me to invest a considerable amount of time and energy into my business proposal. That turned out to be one of the best ways for me to learn and grow my business. Sinapis is a clinic where your business issues are diagnosed, and you receive practical & technical medical assistance.
What can we expect from Enchanted Landscapes going forward?
The goal is to reach National Geographic status! Going forward, I see us producing more travel content for TV, and hope to have our own show in which we carry out live expeditions around Kenya. We also want to move into integrating travel & adventure with science & research in order to make our content more educational. For this, I see an increased collaboration with experts such as geologists & conservationists.
Interested in joining our program/inviting us to your church? See here for more details, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.