A group of 16 year olds at the Aga Khan Academy Mombasa is now three years into running their own business – launched following the students’ Year 10 Entrepreneurship Class – in the form of a locally sourced Tuck Shop that is donating its profits to environmental conservation.
The success of the business, which defies national and international trends on first business failures, is evidence that entrepreneurship training within schools can transform students’ capabilities to deliver financial success and a positive social impact.
“The idea began when students realized there was no shop in the school to cater to student needs and wrote a proposal to the school describing everything they needed for it to be set up. The Tuck Shop operates like a company, with the students managing sales, supplies, labour and all other activities, “said Jackson Ligaga, the teacher in charge of the Tuck Shop and Head of Department, Expressive Arts and Technology at Aga Khan Academy Mombasa.
The project’s business approach is equipping students for their own career launches, with majority of youth in Kenya, and globally, now moving towards starting their own businesses.
A University of Phoenix survey in 2013 found that of 1,600 adults surveyed, 63 per cent of those in their 20s either owned their own businesses or wanted to. Of those who were not already entrepreneurs, 55 per cent hoped to be in future. Yet evidence shows that 80 per cent of startup businesses collapse within the first 18 months, with the failure caused by a lack of knowledge about the business world.
“The Year 10 Entrepreneurship Course has enabled students to be innovative, think critically, and understand the concepts that go into operating a successful business, showing the importance of having such related courses in schools,” said Mr Ligaga.
The Tuck Shop now runs during the school’s break times, from 10.40am, 1.00pm and 3pm, selling snacks that include milkshakes, fruit juices, and ice creams.
“Wednesday morning break is the craziest day for us, when we sell ice cream. Unfortunately, it runs out quickly, frustrating so many students who want to cool themselves off from the fierce Mombasa heat, but the local “Roys” cake is also very popular, because of its delicious chocolate topping,” said Alykhan Jiwa, 16, an International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma student and CEO of the Tuck Shop Committee.
“We also have a passion for community service, and that is why we identified a student-run club in AKA Mombasa involved in environmental conservation and funded it from the profits we make from the Tuck Shop,” said Jiwa.
Promoting Small Businesses
The business has also taken a unique approach to sourcing its products. Many businesses opt to source from large and known supplier brands to ensure credible and reliable supplies. But the Aga Khan Academy Mombasa students have opted to promote small business owners as their suppliers.
“We are aware of the struggle small businesses go through and our goal in the Tuck Shop is to help them grow by buying their products. However, we ensure they meet the right legal, hygiene and sanitation standards,” said Jiwa. The team of young entrepreneurs has, however, had to handle some tough confrontational situations in running the business.
“Last year, a local supplier delivered brownies that we sell for Sh 60, but they were small in size. Students complained and said they felt exploited by the management of the Tuck Shop. It took us a lot of back and forth communication assuring them this was not a trend, and warning the supplier that if this wasn’t rectified, we would drop them and get someone else,” said Jiwa.
The young management team has also had to understand the laws that apply to a company and its goods, and achieve prompt payments to suppliers and the timely delivery of goods. Jiwa recalls a time last year when the ice cream that had been delivered fermented and could not be sold, causing a heavy loss for the business: she managed to convince the students to buy other snacks to balance out the loss.
“Being given the position at the Tuck Shop has made me a better thinker, more assertive and better at problem solving,” said Mariella Monyo, 16, an IB Diploma student and the Tuck Shop Human Resource Manager.
The team also continues to incorporate new ideas in the Tuck Shop. “We introduced sessions where students can watch football at the Tuck Shop. We created a mini stadium where students gather around the TV and watch popular matches while purchasing our products. We also conduct surveys to ensure we know whether the customers are satisfied,” said Jiwa.
The Tuck Shop management experience is also helping students with university entry. “The management of the Tuck Shop is an addition to the students’ academic portfolio, bearing in mind that the experience equips them with leadership, time management, critical thinking and community service skills, therefore giving the students better opportunities at top universities globally,” said Ligaga.
The students believe likewise: “The entrepreneurial and life skills the Tuck Shop has given me will make me better at managing my own business, by setting objectives and focusing on meeting them, than I would have been without this experience or training,” said Monyo.