Entrepreneurs one-stop shop: Firm assembles experts to solve start-up problems – Business Daily

Entrepreneurs one-stop shop: Firm assembles experts to solve start-up problems

Sndbx CEO Joram Mwinamo during an interview on September 30, 2022, at his office in Nairobi. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NMG

The rest of the world has always had the wrong idea of Africa. Joram Mwinamo is fully convinced of this. Mr Mwinamo is the CEO of Sndbx where he has brought together over 30 professional disciplines to help entrepreneurs achieve their dreams – and all this under one roof.

From his office, Mr Mwinamo relates how it was always his vision to work with people to achieve their business goals. His passion had not always been people but Information Technology. He first got his hands on a computer when his father, an economist with the Ministry of Trade brought one home from his travels. The spark led him to study Computer Science at Egerton University.

“My first choice was medicine but I’m glad I didn’t make the cut. I would have been a miserable doctor,” he says.

Two years into his undergraduate degree, Mr Mwinamo realised that his passion was more inclined towards problem-solving than the hardware and coding end of tech. He would straddle both however and credits his years at Nairobi School, for ingraining in him the ability to handle more than one thing at a time. In high school, he was required to not only focus on academics. Sports and the arts were given a keen eye as well. He excelled in swimming but when the pool broke down and was not repaired, his attention turned to the drama club.

“Nairobi School was one of the transformational experiences of my life. You always had to be disciplined. You always had to dress smart,” Mr. Mwinamo says. Both traits have carried on to date although he prefers African-themed shirts to a suit and tie these days.

A second transformational moment came in the form of AISEC, an institution formed in the post-World War II era, geared towards encouraging young people to experience different the different cultures of the world, change their mindset. Mr Mwinamo joined the AISEC chapter at Egerton University and quickly rose into leadership there, a precursor to his later career.

“Without AISEC, I don’t think I would have finished the four years,” he says. He was disillusioned by how IT was taught and found the mode of teaching one of regurgitating knowledge as opposed to deliberately finding solutions to problems. With AISEC however, the fire in his belly was renewed and soon after completing his studies, they set him up with a job, first in Uganda, then Norway.

In the Nordic country, his conviction that Africans are not second-class when it comes to tech was cemented. He found himself to be just as smart, if not smarter, in any room and was offended when his counterparts were surprised by this fact. To them, he was smart despite of him being African. “They thought it a complement but I found it very offensive,” he says. He could only bear a year and a half of the figurative and literal cold up North before he decided it was time to come back home.

“My partner David Kamau had been running Wylde International while I was away,” Mr. Mwinamo says of the business managing consultancy he had helped set up. He threw the experience from his travels fully into it. Theirs was a business set up “to change mindsets, to believe we can generate our solutions.”

Part of their job was to guide companies to solve the problems of the future – a vision. He gives the example of a doomed taxi driver who didn’t adapt his business to the advent of Uber.

Wylde International midwifed the birth of Sndbx, where all the solutions they had been offering their customers were now under one roof – a one-stop-shop. A client could consult a legal expert in one room and walk out of the door and into a financial advisor’s office. His work has helped a reputable cleaning company grow its business fivefold. His team also oversaw the growth of that company from not only handling one niche but embracing diversity – they are now in several African countries and have increased their portfolio to handle repairs as well as facility management.

At the start, Sndbx had 19 experts but has now grown the number of professional services under the Sndbx roof to over 30. Today, they serve over 2,400 businesses. Mr Mwinamo says, “We’ve created a new industry here, the first of its kind in the world!” He would like to see more businesses offering different flavours of what Sndbx does.

His job has evolved. These days, he does not work directly with the clients but is in charge of the big picture – coordinating how the system works, pricing, developing products and managing the customer journey. He is just back from the US where plans to open a Sndbx in Virginia are in the late stages. He hopes to see the brand spread out over Africa as well and a franchise model in the future is one of the things going through his mind. “I’m also constantly educating myself,” Mr Mwinamo says. Once his children have turned in, he takes a walk around his neighbourhood listening to podcasts – his latest one is called All In where “the conversations there are the most intelligent I’ve ever heard.” He also has to catch himself from spending too much off his credit card on Kindle.

Asked about his successes, and they are many, he says, “When we have Kenyan companies operating globally on an equal footing when Africa is on the same table at the World Economic Forum, when the Head of the South American division of a multi-national that’s headquartered in Nairobi is a Kenyan, that’ll be our measure of success.”

Away from the hustle and bustle of the corporate world, Mr. Mwinamo is a family man. His weekends are spent with his family and he also fancies himself a DJ.

To budding entrepreneurs, he says, “Be comfortable and happy to start small. Look to building solutions and be comfortable with failing and then improving. Finally, be passionate, committed, and consistent. It will always take time.”

His parting shot is the biggest lesson he has learnt in both life and business. “I have the humility to accept that I don’t know everything. Be quick to get help from whoever has more knowledge. If you want to achieve great things, you have to work with people.”