According to Leahanne Kuria, the qualities necessary for a successful young entrepreneur are a tough personality, passion, and strong communication skills. Getting into business with the money mindset is bound to fail. Leahanne is the founder of Excellence, a 6 week program for youths and young adults that help them excel beyond academics. She started the company when aged only 18. Excellence helps 14-23 year old youth make clear and focused goals, make an impact around them and learn how to make more money for themselves. Leahanne left Kenya when she was very young and has been in England for 15 years. She currently resides in London and was mentored by James Karundu while in Kenya a while back.
What inspired you to start-up Excellence?
I come from a teaching background. My mum is a teacher. My grandfather was also a teacher. I actually thought I would do media or fashion and never thought of teaching. In June 2013, I came to Kenya. While there, I went to many speaking engagements. Parents would come to me and say I should mentor their children. It did not click at the moment that I could make this a business until a year later. So one night I was sleeping and thinking what am I good at? I could start a mentorship company! The next day I woke up and told my current business partner that I had an idea of mentoring kids between the ages of 14 and 19. We started off with 4 students which when I look back was a good thing because if I started with more we probably would have been stuck. They taught me how to run Excellence.
Did you face any skepticism from parents because of your young age at the time?
One of my biggest issues was talking to people older than me but my mentor at the time known as Janet said that people will look at you according to how you see yourself. If I saw myself as unable to do something, I would not have been able to do it. When I came to Kenya, this was a fear I had already conquered.Years ago I had a television show that was called POV. I worked with a lot of teenagers so I already had a clue of what was expected of me when working with younger people.
What other challenges did you face when starting up Excellence?
I was working with young people in a market I had not grown up in (Kenya). However, my business partner is Kenyan and this helped. We also had quiet seasons with no clients. We would spend a lot of money on promotions and not always see results. Some family and friends spoke negatively. Nonetheless, I saw the challenges as stretching grounds. I have conditioned my mind to see them as that. My mind gets excited for it when I get challenges because I see it as an opportunity to grow. I believe in living for purpose and Excellence is my purpose.
How do you manage Excellence in Kenya whereas you live in London?
I have done a crash degree so that I do it in 2 years instead of 4. I travel back to Kenya often. I was in Kenya from October 2015 to January 2016 and also visited last year in January and June. We also have teachers we are training to maintain good standards. My business partner and I hold Skype meetings once a week and frequently send each other e-mails. I am studying and running a business in another country so this for me shows women are capable of doing anything.
How many young people have you taught since 2014?
We have been to churches, schools and also done one to one sessions so I do not have an exact number of students we have taught.
How many cities is the program run in currently?
It is currently only in Nairobi. We will move to other cities like Nakuru, Mombasa, Kisumu and Eldoret around September 2016.
What are the future plans for Excellence Kenya
Our aim is to have 70,000 children doing Excellence in the next 5 years in Africa. We hope to expand to other countries as well once successful in other Kenyan cities.
How has James Karundu’s mentorship impacted your life?
I met James two weeks prior to the launch of Excellence. James is an amazing guy. I have seen James mentor many people, been to his free workshops and people I met there were doing amazing things. He changed my perspective of Kenya. I am Kenyan but a foreign Kenyan. I love Kenya but sometimes it is hard to understand a market I have not grown up in. He gave me a game plan and helped us set up a system of 6 week learning for children. He got me to understand how Kenyans think and work.
My business partner is also mentored by James. After every class my partner would ring me and tell me what he learnt. After putting what he learnt from James into practice, it always worked.
What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. The reason I say this is because along the way, there are things you have to learn such as communicating in a way that people may understand and knowing how to be able to relate with your customers. I would just tell the person to toughen up because it is going to be hard.
Also, don’t start something for money. Everyone can make money but always follow your passion and eventually the money will come. If you start a business with the money mindset you will get disappointed and give up or quit. Start something because it is going to make a difference. I have had a coffee shop, done multilevel marketing and many other things. In those things I would not say that I quit but I would say they were teaching me how to really start Excellence. Now that I am doing my God-given purpose I will not quit.
To learn more about what Excellence does, you can check out their website here. Excellence will have a free workshop on 23rd July at Nairobi Club from 10a.m-1p.m. It is for entrepreneurs, parents and youths aged 14-23years. James Karundu will speak about entrepreneurship. Feel free to register on their website to attend.