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From Concept to Creation: Entrepreneurship in Kenya

The second installment of our Voices from the Field entrepreneurship series, Aprelle Duany shares her experience (and struggle) as a female entrepreneur in Kenya.

The road of entrepreneurship is not an easy journey.  It takes passion, dedication, and sheer grit to wake up every morning with a dream in your heart to transform your pain points into a sustainable business.

There are many books, DVDs, and YouTube videos to provide a foundation and insight into the world of business, but it’s only experience that will prepare you for the tough road ahead.

As an entrepreneur based in Kenya, there have been many hurdles and challenges that I have faced.  This includes navigating cultural nuances, lack of transparency, and corruptive activities.  In 2017, The World Bank’s Doing Business, report ranked Kenya in a position of 92 of 190 countries.  Though this ranking reflects an opportunity for improvement, I believe that the next generation of wealth through entrepreneurship will come from the continent of Africa.  Africa is one of the only “frontier” markets left where you can develop a business, which can create generational impact as well as profitability.

Starting a business anywhere in the world can result in costly mistakes, yet when comparing Silicon Valley to the Savannah Valley, there are a few key ingredients that are missing which can make the difference between building a sustainable business positioned for an IPO and a start-up flop.  Many of these hurdles are centered on access.  Access to mentors who are willing and able to share their journey, access to supportive and knowledgeable networks for entrepreneurs, and access to capital.

We also see that access becomes an even greater challenge for female entrepreneurs.  Due to family responsibilities, cultural expectations, and male dominated industries, women at times can feel intimidated or lack confidence in their entrepreneurial endeavors.

But there is hope!  Increasingly, there are more financial programs, women’s networks, and capital initiatives focused on inclusion to level the playing field.  This includes access to capital, business development programs, mentorship opportunities and SME-focused banking solutions.  A few programs include United States International University’s, 10,000 Women Program, Stanford’s SEED Program, and FORTUNE’s Global Women’s Mentorship Program.  These programs specifically focus on developing business professionals from the continent of Africa to encourage success in entrepreneurship.

Through my journey of developing a luxury brand based on my experience in Africa, I have learned many tough lessons; take note of them below so that you can avoid the same pitfalls:

1. Do not work in isolation.

Join a network or create a network with like-minded individuals who you can brainstorm with and utilize as accountability partners.

2. Find a mentor or advisor.

Locate a seasoned professional who has had success in a related field or industry.  This person can be key in saving you time and resources while navigating business success.

3. Get to market with your MVP and sell, sell, sell!

Regardless if you are offering products or services, the sooner you get your MVP (minimal viable product) to market, the sooner you will learn if it is feasible or not.  The earlier you test and measure your concept the better. Many entrepreneurs, especially women, feel as though their product or service must be perfect before launching it to the market.  This will waste valuable time, resources, and momentum.

4. Set clear goals and write them down!

Goal setting is one of the most beneficial actives when developing a business.  Having clear targets written down can mean the difference between success and failure.  Clarify your vision and goals, write them down, and revisit them regularly.  I recommend starting with a Lean canvas.


From climbing the corporate ladder to surviving a civil war, Aprelle Duany’s life has been a series of hurdles and triumphs, forming the foundation of her eponymous accessories brand, APRELLEDUANY. Coupling her IT analyst experience and a Summa Cum Laude Accessories Design degree, Duany launched APRELLEDUANY in 2014, inspired by her experience in Africa, philanthropic journey, and a fascination with luxury.

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