Jeremy Riro is a strategy consultant and investment analyst, whose firm Fie-Consult, is supporting entrepreneurs to create sustainable solutions and overcome the various challenges they face across Sub-Saharan Africa.
Based in Nairobi, Kenya, Fie-Consult was founded in 2014 to support Micro-, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and help them grow sustainably. They hope to tap into the entrepreneurship development ecosystem across Sub-Saharan Africa, developing and implementing innovative growth strategies, so that the enterprises they work with can grow within the evolving business ecosystems they operate in.
Jeremy describes himself as a Village Boy who found the light through education, and he is now using it to illuminate communities across Sub-Saharan Africa through entrepreneurship development.
His background is in Finance, Entrepreneurship and Accounting, and he holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Nairobi; currently pursuing a graduate degree in Entrepreneurship & Innovations Management from the same institution. He is also a Certified Public Accountant.
Jeremy subscribes to the Africapitalism school of thought and believes that we have means to solve our own challenges, and that Africa will overcome the worst of these in the coming decade.
“The initial idea for Fie-Consult", he explains, "was born in my second year at the University of Nairobi in 2011 when I started blogging about financial markets, personal finance, entrepreneurship and other economic matters. In my final year at the university in 2013, I talked to a few friends about forming a business consulting firm under the brand Fie-Consult, and I managed to get a founding partner, Newton Otwori. Together, we set out with a goal to support MSMEs through business development support services such as business plan writing, tax consulting, accounting and strategic planning.”
Jeremy Riro on a World Bank panel discussing entrepreneurship opportunities
The project turned into a labour of love for Jeremy, who carried on with it after finishing University.
“I worked on Fie-Consult after leaving the university as I waited to join my first job in 6 months’ time", he adds. "Before joining formal employment, I used to work with small individual businesses helping them develop business plans and financial models. I later joined formal employment as a management consultant with an explicit goal of learning the skills for application in my firm afterwards. In December 2015 I transitioned from work, and in January 2016 I came back to continue pursuing my dream at Fie-Consult.”
Running a consulting firm at our young age comes with the challenge of credibility due to the naturally perceived lack of long-term industry experience. In some cases you find clients who look down upon you if you do not have a PhD or a master’s degree; some customers believe that those credentials make one a better professional. Jeremy Riro
“To overcome limitations and biases in the ecosystem", he continues, "we learned from our early days how to prioritise quality in our client work, pay keen attention to details, submission of our deliverables within the agreed upon timelines and developing customised relationships with different clients to earn their trust. Over time though we have been able to prove our expertise and are entrusted with projects where we have developed robust investment strategies and been appointed as the lead transaction advisors to support our clients in the investment processes.”
Jeremy feels that Fie-Consult's input is necessary for the Kenyan market, especially given the position that small businesses have in the country.
SMES are the pillars of our economic growth; contributing more than 80% in job creation in Kenya. Majority of these informal SMEs are owned by and employ young people. However, the entrepreneurs running them lack access to relevant skills and resources needed to grow their enterprises into sustainable formal ventures; up to 90% of startups die within three years, and when they die, jobs are lost, and unemployment rates spike, creating a vicious cycle of high dependency and poverty within our society.
Fie-Consult has worked with more than 40 clients from Kenya and three other African countries – South Africa and Ghana, where they have made strategic partnerships, and Uganda, where they have ongoing client engagements. While most of their clients have been MSMEs, they have also worked on large-scale development projects, developing investment strategies and implementing local impact investment strategies.
Going forward, Fie-consult plans to build a Pan-African strategy consulting and investment advisory firm that will support the entrepreneurship and economic renaissance in Africa. In the past, Africa has relied on commodity exports to promote economic growth and fiscal stability. However, going forward, Africa’s economic growth model is shifting and focusing more on developing youth entrepreneurship and agribusiness; as the swift avenues to accelerate growth across the continent.
The growing businesses will need capacity building on growth strategy development & implementation; operations and business processes streamlining to increase efficiency. Corporate finance structuring to maintain optimum liquidity levels; investor processes help to access proper funding for growth; relevant up to date insights for effective decision making and go to market strategies to accessing new geographies & demographics. Fie-Consult is strategically aligned today within the entrepreneurship ecosystem in the region providing these business development support services, and our plan is to extend our wings to more countries across SSA within the next five years.
Jeremy’s advice for other young African entrepreneurs, “Africa is rising, and young African entrepreneurs are its biggest asset. We need to be proactive and take up the initiative to develop the solutions we need to see in our countries and the continent as a whole."
"The basic rule in entrepreneurship", he adds, "is identifying a problem and finding a competitive and sustainable solution that your target customers are willing to pay for. We should use our creativity, innovativeness, skills, knowledge and available networks to develop sustainable and competitive solutions to our problems so that we can create huge social impact within our communities using sustainable models.”
“I believe real power lies in your ability to negotiate and influence people to buy your ideas", Jeremy says in conclusion. "My favourite quote is ‘The strength to kill is not essential for self-defense; what matters is the strength to die!’. The willingness and readiness to lose that which you so much desire in a negotiation gives you the internal stimulus and power to go for it and get it without distractions from the fear of losing it all! Essentially, preparedness for the worst defeat is the best winning strategy.”