Enternships connects Graduates with African Startups

We aim to become the world leading site for start-up and SME work
placements and full-time roles in the graduate market

That's ambitious and rightly so. Rajeeb Dey, 23, who graduated last year from the University of Oxford and was President of student society - Oxford Entrepreneurs, launched Enternships in May 2009, the first online platform to successfully recruit graduates for roles in start-ups and the UK’s leading small businesses. The focus may be on small businesses, the ambition is however big.ENTERNSHIPS

From the start it has developed an international management team to cover the UK, US, Egypt, Emirates and India.  Leah Magoye, is the Africa Representative & Business Development Manager.

Enternships and African Startups! Tell us more about that?

Growing up in Kenya, wherever I went I noticed that nothing is wasted! The people are incredibly innovative and creative with what they have, old rubber wheels become shoes and broken bicycle spokes become toys - I have always known that with the right attitude of investment (rather than aid), and business education these minds can create great companies. It is important to me to find and showcase companies in Africa that will inspire the students and graduates within African countries to do similar things, and to show potential Enterns outside of Africa that it is a place of great entrepreneurial spirit.

Over 60% of the population of Africa is under the age of 24, so the focus must be on job creation. This can only be achieved in a sustainable way via entrepreneurship. Initiatives such as Enternships that increase the visibility of African start-ups to African students and graduates may encourage them to either stay in their home countries and build these companies - or to start their own. I have tried to increase the profile of Enternships to start-ups in Africa by building relationships with bloggers in Africa

What can you do to exchange entrepreneurial ideas between the UK and Africa?

To further build my networks, I attend conferences, such as the Africa Day held by the London Business School a few weeks ago. I was very fortunate to meet there people like James Wanjohi, head of the Branson School for Entrepreneurship in South Africa and Ebe Essoka, CEO of Standard Chartered South Africa - as well as several other people from organisations such as the Africa Legal Network (ALN). Also, I met some Private Equity and Venture Capital funds that are very excited about the growth prospects in Africa and particularly in investing in SMEs that have huge growth potential.

Leah and Waren Buffet

Which African Startups need enterns?

We are slowly building up the numbers of companies either based in Africa, or focussed on Africa as a market. Currently the majority are from South Africa, but we would like to branch out to countries like Botswana, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Namibia and Nigeria where I have strong networks. They need Enterns for the same reason as start-ups and SMEs based anywhere else in the world - to have talented, young, creative minds helping them to remain innovative and to succeed.

These are some of those companies:

African Enterprise Partners
Akvo
Awamu
LemonGrass Lab
We just did a placement for a fashion company called Lalesso
The fact that I grew up in Kenya and Namibia has been very useful in terms of spotting new African start-ups who think globally but act locally. Lalesso, a clothing company, started by one of my school friends from Pembroke House in Kenya is the perfect example of this. I was only made aware of this inspirational company due to my strong links with the country.

Lalesso was launched in Cape Town 2005. The inspiration behind the brand came from the remote island of Lamu off the coast of Kenya. The Lalesso founders, Olivia Kennaway & Alice Heusser, felt it was necessary to involve a socially responsible method of manufacturing and so set up their own workshop in Diani Beach, Kenya. Starting out with just two seamstresses they now have a team of 22. All tailors are paid over three times the average manufacturers wage and provide very generous benefits such as creche facilities and personal loans.

Lalesso also tries to involve the community - The Crochet Sisters are a group of nuns who make all the crochet by hand. Local Masaai tradesmen make the beaded bracelets used on the swing tags and unemployed beach boys are commissioned to hand carve buttons from decaying coconuts.

In March 2008, Lalesso launched in all JOY and by May 2008 they were stocked in Topshop's flagship Oxford Circus store, London. Both Sienna Miller and Estelle have been spotted wearing Lalesso.

What are the challenges to grow Enternships?

The main challenge is time! Enternships is still in it's infancy so we are working hard to make sure that the core product is running smoothly. However, as my passion lies with changing the perception of Africa as a place to start and do business, I find the time. So this involves things like writing blogs and growing my networks as I mentioned above:

Another challenge on the student side is that they are not as centralised as, say start-ups, when it comes to looking for work experience. That is the gap that Enternships is going to fill, but it will take time to build brand awareness. However due to my networks, many students in Africa became aware of Enternships and are interested in using the site to do virtual placements with companies based all over the world.

What does it mean: General business development?

During the day-to-day running of Enternships I focus primarily on Entern outreach. This will involve building relationships with Entrepreneur Societies in universities and Careers Services. We are very committed to maintaining a high calibre of Entern on our site and we've discovered the best way to do this is to make sure our marketing is targeted to the types of students and graduates that have some understanding of what it means to work in a start-up environment. As a start-up ourselves we know that we need to attract individuals with a strong work ethic, willingness to learn and a spark of innovation/creativity that leads them to think outside the box.

The launch of Enternships will be welcomed by students, as research published last month by the National Union of Students (NUS) found that 80 per cent of current undergraduates were "concerned" or "very concerned" about their job prospects. Not only has the site a focus on small businesses and thus a challenge to the stereotypical ‘graduate milkround job’ and traditional internships in large corporations, Enternships also focuses on startups and graduates in developing countries, such as Africa. Enternships has partnered with mayor world players such as Younoodle, and received support from entrepreneurial societies such as Oxbridge, London School of Economics and Stanford University. Also, it was endorsed by many serial entrepreneurs, such as Martha Lane Fox, lastminute.com co-founder and CEO of Lucky Voice:
"One of the greatest luxuries of being a student is having the time to think about ideas. One of the best things about being in a start-up is that it is all about ideas. An Enternship will give you a great opportunity to experience life in an entrepreneurial environment."

every step in providing information and skills to africa is incredibly wonderful

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