The Business of Creativity

It’s good to talk to people and get ideas.
— Georgina Chapman

One of our goals at MNM Consulting is to initiate conversation between players in Kenya's creative economy. These conversations, we believe, are key to sharing knowledge and ideas, ultimately strengthening what is still a fledgling economic sector. To this end, we created the Business of Creativity , a series of themed round table discussions. We curate the guest list according to the theme and we chair the discussion. The first round table, held in May 2017, brought together seven creative entrepreneurs and representatives of the Nairobi-based investor community.

The theme was how can creative entrepreneurs access financing more easily. It was enlightening to hear the participants articulate the challenges in this area, possibly for the first time in a forum like this one. 

There is a "missing middle" in investment services, one that would serve medium-sized businesses. - Melissa Mbugua, Managing Partner, MNM Consulting

There is a "missing middle" in investment services, one that would serve medium-sized businesses. - Melissa Mbugua, Managing Partner, MNM Consulting

People who have money in Kenya such as insurance companies do not understand creative businesses. Creatives will eventually get to the point where they will support each other because they understand the unique risks ofdoing so.  - Kariuki Phares, founder, Node Africa 

People who have money in Kenya such as insurance companies do not understand creative businesses. Creatives will eventually get to the point where they will support each other because they understand the unique risks ofdoing so.  - Kariuki Phares, founder, Node Africa 

Creatives should consider formalizing the informal lending circles that exist currently. We focus on impact investing. We see the  challenges with that. We are learning how to diversify our offering. - Kendi Njuguna, Support and Compliance Manager, HEVA Fund, investor in startups.

Creatives should consider formalizing the informal lending circles that exist currently. We focus on impact investing. We see the  challenges with that. We are learning how to diversify our offering. - Kendi Njuguna, Support and Compliance Manager, HEVA Fund, investor in startups.

There is not enough creativity around financing models in this market, although it is beginning. The investor community is focused on impact investing rather than investing in ventures. I don't see as many angel investors as I did in Nigeria, for example. -  Lia Mayka, investment consultant

There is not enough creativity around financing models in this market, although it is beginning. The investor community is focused on impact investing rather than investing in ventures. I don't see as many angel investors as I did in Nigeria, for example. -  Lia Mayka, investment consultant

Investors are looking for a business they can exit within a relatively short time. That is not typically possible with creative businesses. Also, banking institutions in Kenya do not yet consider intellectual property or intangible assets as adequate collateral. - Karen Serem, Ertan Consulting, investment consultant

Investors are looking for a business they can exit within a relatively short time. That is not typically possible with creative businesses. Also, banking institutions in Kenya do not yet consider intellectual property or intangible assets as adequate collateral. - Karen Serem, Ertan Consulting, investment consultant

Other participants in the discussion were Olivia Munoru, founder of Spa Dreaming and Samantha McKenzie, founder of Maridadi & Co.

Unwitting saboteurs

Creative entrepreneurs are sometimes unwittingly responsible for their failure to pitch successfully for funding, it emerged. Kariuki  Phares shared that often creatives mistakenly make pitches that focus on content creation rather than their business model. Karen Serem said the investor community perceives creatives as fickle, capable of losing interest in the current business and moving on to another, leaving their investors high and dry. She added, "Sometimes creatives lose out on investment opportunities because they fail to sell their vision enough." As with other professional opportunities, Karen emphasized, often success hinges on whether or not the creative and the investor can strike up good chemistry, that intangible nothing that is everything.