your dream matters

Your dream matters: Thoughts and Advice from Founder of MaasaiDuka, a Kenyan social enterprise brand

The right community is the crucial foundation for all types of growth, and Saitoti’s story is a testament of that. We reached out to Saitoti to get his insights on his motivation behind becoming an entrepreneur, the importance of investing in a supportive community, and the outlook that founders need to have. 

Saitoti is an enpact fellow who participated in our 2017/2018 international mentoring programme East Africa & Europe.

Please introduce yourself: What is your background? What is your career path?

My name is Kaloi Duncan Saitoti. I’m a computer scientist and economist, born and raised in the Maasai community. I’m the founder of www.maasaiduka.org and the Mama2mama coding programme. I’ve dreamt of becoming an innovator since my childhood. I’ve focused my career path on social innovation and I’m looking forward to adding to my skill sets by going to graduate school in the future.

“Other values I learned early on are empathy and doing things without expecting anything in return. I do not see those values reflected often enough in the business and entrepreneurial world, but I think they are an element that is direly needed.”

How did your upbringing shape your path as an entrepreneur?

I was brought up living a nomadic lifestyle. That has given me many cultural values, which all shape my journey as a social entrepreneur. For one, my culture has taught me discipline and patience, and being part of the startup world, that is really essential. Other values I learned early on are empathy and doing things without expecting anything in return. I do not see those values reflected often enough in the business and entrepreneurial world, but I think they are an element that is direly needed.

What inspired you to start your own company? Tell us about your motivation

My journey of building my social enterprise was inspired by 11 mamas from my village; they came together and raised funds to help my parents afford my college tuition. As a matter of fact, these mamas’ contributions were taken from the small amount they earned from selling artisanal products. After my first year in school, I decided I wanted to give more empowerment to these mamas and help them realise more dreams in the community. Thus, the initiative of Maasaiduka was born.

What challenges do entrepreneurs face in your country? Which challenges did you have to overcome?

In a third-world country like Kenya, where I was born, there are a lot of challenges that innovators and inventors face. To begin with, there is no mature startup ecosystem, which is a big challenge for entrepreneurs. You need such an ecosystem to grow and learn through co-creation and support. I had to overcome this through a search of mentorship and communities such as enpact. I’m happy that it opened up opportunities and helped me as an entrepreneur. I discovered so many different aspects of what entrepreneurs handle and deal with on their journey.  

“Just do it, your dream matters.”

What is your most valuable advice for entrepreneurs or aspiring founders?

The most valuable advice I could give is that your dream matters. That founders should follow their hearts. It’s not an easy road to build that which does not exist; because it is yet a dream. Founders should keep acting, do more than just pondering. They should find such communities of like-minded people like the enpact mentorship programme. Because the energy of those you surround yourself with plays a big role. Just do it, your dream matters.

What’s the best advice you’ve received from a mentor or a founder as you built your startup?

There is a lot of good advice that I got from my peers and mentors. The most incredible one is to follow your dreams. Amazing mentors and dream developers have touched my heart in an impactful way. The profound effect of their advice really made me rethink and had a great impact not only on myself but also on others. During a founder’s journey, most of the time we get lost in making more and more profits or in the betterment of ourselves. This is not a bad thing, but it’s often good to regard our success in different perspectives through helping others.

“For now, I have set myself the goal that my own venture is not only about me, but about my community and that it would continue without me being there.”

What does the future of your company look like? 

There are many uncertainties that surround any ventures. For now, I have set myself the goal that my own venture is not only about me, but about my community and that it would continue without me being there. Hence the future of my company is bright. I have the support of my whole community to achieve its mission of making an impact.

How has enpact’s mentoring programme helped you on your journey as an entrepreneur? 

I often say that the impact and help that I received from enpact would not only fill this paragraph but it would fill a book. To me, enpact is not just an organisation but a family that has helped me grow to see the world and my journey in a good perspective. enpact has shown me what an impact innovation can have on communities and how that can be achieved.

What drove you to come to Berlin and what have you learned? 

My journey to Berlin was upon an invitation by my dear friend and mentor, Malte Prien, the founder of Conquer the Fog. My main objective was to conduct market research on products and to learn through networking. I have learned so much in Berlin and the whole of Europe but the most amazing part remains the people that I have met. They have really given me profound lessons and advice. For instance, paying a visit to the enpact office, seeing the founders and having a conversation with them about the vision of enpact and their impact.

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Though this interview was recorded prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Saitoti’s outlook towards the motivations of an entrepreneur and the effect of cultivating the right community are now more relevant than ever. During these times, focus on the human dimension of your venture. Reach out to those in your network; listen to your customers’ challenges, involve your team in your thought process, and check in with both your mentors and mentees. The only way for us to move forward as a global community is to lean on each other’s expertise and strength for growth and guidance. 

If you’re interested in joining our community, you can learn more about a special edition of our mentoring programme that is dedicated to supporting the growth of high potential technology businesses. Applications are open until the 26th of April.