It’s my business to help start-ups move up growth ladder


Jan Okonji. NMG PHOTO

Startups usually exprience a set of challenges at the beginning of their journey. Some of such businesses even fail before celebrating their first year anniversary.

Jan Okonji knows this too well as he has been in the business of helping "shape up" small and medium enterprises for more than seven years.

His journey began way back when he was young, after coming across a book titled Unlimited Potential by Zig Ziglar and Og Mandino which he says became his favourite read and eventually his guide into business.

“I did not understand what size, shape, or form my future would take but from that point onwards I knew that I wanted to use my mindset as a tool for good and to teach others on the same,” says Mr Okonji, who studied Bachelor of Commerce at Daystar University.

After his university studies in 2001, he got a job with oil marketing company, Shell.

“During my 13 years of employment in the oil industry at Shell I focused on operations, marketing, and business analysis,” he says.

“After a very fascinating time in the employment space, I decided to follow my passion for entrepreneurship and formed my own company.”

His firm, Business Growth Solutions has been operational for seven years and it offers consultancy, coaching, and mentorship for small and medium enterprises.

In consultancy, the firm helps businesses diagnose and address challenges in their structures, systems, and processes. He then guides them to scale their operations and grow their revenues.

He conducts coaching services through staff training, webinars, seminars, and workshops.

His mentorship services include accountability tracking, appraisal, and follow-up to ensure that the business or entrepreneur delivers on what they are trained on.

One of the products which he terms as his best is Startup R.O.A.D Map training programme. This is mainly for startups, mainly those which have just been set up.

“ It is something I developed with a team at the SNDBX Kenya (www.sndbx.ke), a business development hub comprising 30 resident business experts who provide the right support environment that helps young businesses get up, survive and grow,” he says.

“I’m also privileged to be a startup expert at the SNDBX,” he adds.

The Startup SNDBX R.O.A.D Map training programme is a two-month plan that is broken down into 16 sessions.

The programme runs twice a week— Mondays and Wednesdays — and it’s currently being conducted virtually due to the Covid -19 pandemic safety regulations.

“My training focuses not only on the technical, and the practical aspect of growing your business but further on how to adjust your mindset to become adaptive to change,” he tells Enterprise.

“I also have real networking solutions for an entrepreneur or business person serious about getting back on their feet.”

His company, he notes, actively works with up to 100 entrepreneurs a year.

According to Mr Okonji, although most of his clients seek his services in order to achieve financial stability, he has seen other aspects of success accompany that.

“What I did not expect is that as we healed businesses, people’s relationships, spiritual journeys, health, and the general outlook of life would change and improve as a result,” he says.

“I have seen many tears of happiness at the end of training and I never quite get used to it.”

His charges vary based on consultancy duration, project scope and size of the business but the training cost, specifically for the SNDBX Startup R.O.A.D Map training, is Sh40,000 per person for the two-month programme

Mr Okonji says his biggest challenge is coaching people with a negative mindset.

“This seems especially prevalent in Africa because we want the good things in life and deserve them but at the same time we list all the reasons preventing us from having them, for example culture, a devil, lack of money, government, location, education, and so on…” he says.

He notes that he thrives “on an attitude that challenges, failures, and losses are a training ground and a necessary path to growth”.