“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”
Our long-term teammate, Silvya Kananu, who has been serving as the Director of East Africa Programs, is transitioning from Sinapis and moving on to new adventures. We wanted to get her final thoughts about her time with Sinapis – tidbits and insights that would be interesting for you to know. Happy reading!
You’ve been working at Sinapis for close to 5 years now. What are some of the highlights for you from your time at Sinapis?
That’s a good question…I think one of my biggest highlights every year is the annual Graduation and Business Plan Competition. We put in a lot of sweat to make the event a success. While it is a rigorous process to select the finalists, seeing the result of their hard work in the final pitches is so rewarding. Selecting the grant winners is always a highlight for me. I love seeing who the judges select to win the money and watching their businesses take off afterward.
Another highlight for me was when we received a generous donation for a staff retreat. Our whole team went to Watamu in August 2019. It was such a wonderful opportunity to bond and have fun with all the Sinapis staff members. We were able to strategize and have meaningful personal reflections and devotions together surrounded by God’s beauty. I will truly miss the team!
In your time at Sinapis you’ve trained, interacted and worked with a lot of entrepreneurs. What are some of the things you’ve noticed about the entrepreneurs who have really excelled?
There’s no magic formula! Successful entrepreneurship is not a one-time stroke of genius; it’s a disciplined effort of consistent hard work. If I could limit it to four things, I would say passion, grit/staying power, market knowledge and a valid business opportunity.
You have also grown as a leader in your time at Sinapis, what tips would you give to entrepreneurs who are learning the ropes in leading teams?
This is an area I am passionate about. I have learnt that the kind of leader you are sets the pace for the kind of culture your business will have, and the tone is set from the top. So you have to ask yourself, “What kind of culture do I want to have in my business?” Is it collaborative, transparent, respectful…? Then you have to model this. You can’t expect your team to be respectful if you are disrespectful yourself. Model what you want your business to be like.
Also, don’t underestimate the potential of the people you have hired. Micromanaging and disempowering people will only lead to having a team of people who only do what they are told to do. You don’t need that. You need people who can think independently, innovatively and try different things to help your business grow. Give people the space to bring their best selves to work. Sometimes experiments/new ways of doing things don’t work but have room for this. Fail fast and learn from it. A culture of innovation is critical for any business.
Lastly, as a leader, it’s not just about getting things done and achieving goals – it’s about getting things done and achieving goals while authentically caring for the team. Appreciate your team often. Encourage them and mentor them so they too can grow and become better versions of themselves. If you do this, even when times are hard, they will be empowered to work joyfully.
You’ve taught lots of classes over the years…what have been your favorite to teach?
Hmmm… I always liked the orientation classes because it’s fun to meet new people, play silly games and I enjoy getting to know the entrepreneurs better. I also liked the orientation class because I got to share the heart of Sinapis and the keys to achieving business transformation through our programs.
However, I think one of the most eye-opening courses is Unit Economics. A lot of times we do business without really understanding comprehensively the hidden costs in the business. Entrepreneurs far too often learn the hard way that the sales they are making are not really translating to profit. I know that for many alumni this is a life-changing course, and I am happy I have been part of training this piece in our programs.
Last words as you leave Sinapis?
You know, you never really leave Sinapis! You may just find me being a part-time weekend trainer. 🙂
But on a more serious note, Sinapis Alumni, I would encourage you to stay connected to the Sinapis family. Sinapis is not just a training organization, but a family where you can find like-minded entrepreneurs, mentors, inspiration, discipleship and so much more. Over the last few months, a lot of new support services for alumni have been designed, and without giving too much away, I believe you will all benefit from the Alumni Services 2.0 which will be revealed soon!
And for the final, final words (you know how we do it in Kenya!), my time in Sinapis has been a time of joy, laughter, sometimes tears, growth and lots of learning. I will miss a lot about Sinapis, but we move regardless.
What’s next for you?
I am joining IREX as the Project Lead for Youth Excel, a USAID-funded project that focuses on using implementation research to support young leaders, youth-led and youth-serving organizations to improve the outcome of youth programs. I am excited to work with diverse team members from across the globe while also working with the youth to help them develop better programs, influence policy and to help support sustainable local development. You can read more about the project here.