2016 Startup Internship Award Winner Supported by The Jeff Sutton (W’81) Entrepreneurship Internship Fund
“What’s the most efficient way to deliver a pizza?” is a question that has been answered many times before. First you receive the order. Then you make the pizza. Last you deliver it to the customer. In America, at least, the process is straightforward and easily replicable. Establishing a pizza delivery program in Kenya, however, is an altogether different proposition.
I spent this summer working with Liberty Eagle Africa Holdings, an investment firm that owns and operates franchises in Kenya and strives to be the franchisee of choice for Western brands entering East Africa. Liberty Eagle owns the franchise rights to Pizza Hut in Kenya and had opened two outlets by the time I arrived in June. They had also recently purchased the assets of the Kenya franchise of Naked Pizza, a now-defunct pizza chain. Over the course of a ten-week internship, my objective was to build out the Pizza Hut delivery function using what remained of the Naked Pizza delivery system.
The unique challenges of working for a startup combined with the unique challenges of working in Africa made for a challenging experience. The organizational structure was flat and manpower limited, so I worked with everyone from the CEO of Liberty Eagle to our delivery drivers and mechanics Developing the communication skills necessary to effectively work with all types of stakeholders was critical to my success.
By far the most interesting aspect of my job was figuring out how to solve delivery challenges that didn’t exist at Pizza Hut locations elsewhere in the world. Few Kenyans have addresses, for instance, so I had to figure out how to deliver to customers whose best available address might be “the fourth gate on the right past the Oil Libya station on Muthaiga Road.”
I had a tremendous experience this summer and learned a lot about a lifelong interest and career goal: how to start and operate a business in Africa. I’ve done my best to distill it down to three key takeaways:
- Get creative. What works in developed markets (or even another emerging market) may not work here. Rather than looking elsewhere for a solution, think creatively and use all the tools available to you to solve business problems.
- Expect the worst. Hope for the best, but prepare as if anything could go wrong. In emerging markets, it often does. Build contingency plans to keep things going even under the worst-case scenario.
- Keep it positive. Every day is different when you’re working for a startup in Africa. Some are amazing, some are brutally difficult. I found the best way to maintain my energy was to focus on keeping my attitude geared toward the long-term. The future’s bright on the continent!