Angela Nzioki is the Kenya CEO of Sokowatch, Kenyan based B2B E-commerce startup that connects shop merchants directly to local and multinational suppliers such as Unilever and Proctor and Gamble via SMS or mobile app and digitizes orders, payments, and delivery-logistics.
Her aspiration to empower small and medium enterprises in East Africa with simple business and financial solutions started right after graduating from Strathmore University in Kenya with a degree in business and I.T when she co-founded Pluspeople Kenya, a Fintech startup offering business and financial management tools to over 5000 customers.
Angela Nzioki was at the company for nine years as a Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer before receiving an offer to lead the Kenyan team at Sokowatch in 2019.
“I saw it as a fresh challenge. I’ve always been passionate about helping underserved SMEs and Sokowatch gave me the chance to do this in a completely different and larger field – the informal retail sector.” Nzioki tells Founder360°.
Since launching in 2016, Sokowatch has expanded within Kenya and into Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda raising approximately US$18 million and serving over 15,000 small retailers across its operating areas.
“Across the continent, there are over 10 million informal shops selling over US$180 billion worth of goods every year. Despite their importance to local economies, these shops routinely stock out of products, have limited access to financial services, and lack proper business management tools. At Sokowatch, we are transforming the livelihood of these businesses and their communities and I’m proud to be leading our operations in Kenya.”
Angela Nzioki was a Zambezi Prize finalist an award presented by the Legatum Center at MIT and the MasterCard Foundation for social entrepreneurs; She is also a Skoll World Forum Young Leader (2016), an initiative that recognizes global young leaders in the field of social entrepreneurship.
She was also one of the Mandela Washington Fellowship in 2016, a flagship program of the U.S. Government’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) for Young African Leaders.
For the 2021 International Women’s Day (IWD) we sit down with Angela Nzioki as she shares an exclusive with Founder360° on her journey and valuable nuggets of wisdom other young women can learn.
What do you think has contributed to getting you to where you are now, more so as a young African woman?
The influence of both my parents has been critical. They both had a limited education growing up and worked incredibly hard to overcome the odds. For my siblings and I, this meant we had no choice but to constantly push ourselves whether that’s in terms of our education or extracurricular activities.
I’ve also been privileged to have some great mentors throughout my career. There have been people who were willing to invest their time in me and expose me to opportunities that people from my background don’t usually have. Once those doors opened, I’ve always been determined to make the most of them.
As a leader with a team under you, what are some of the leadership blind spots you have faced and how do (did) you overcome them?
I’m definitely prone to not delegating enough of my responsibilities. Due to my upbringing, I’m always keen to get stuck on tasks but sometimes, I can get frustrated and go over and above myself rather than handing a piece of work to another member of the team.
However, it’s something that I’m gradually improving on and the more I delegate, the more time I have to think strategically or even reflect and recharge, which is equally as important.
Secondly, my personality type means I’m more analytical and numbers-oriented rather than interpersonal but again, it’s something that I pay close attention to. This means that rather than get frustrated with people who work differently from me, I take more time to understand how they work and find ways in which I can support them.
What are some of the actionable steps one can use to make their personal professional profile be heard/known?
Proactively circulate your CV within your network and if possible, spend money on ensuring it’s in the best possible condition. This is something I’ve done throughout my career and I’ve definitely seen the benefits. Also, it’s important to keep your professional background on LinkedIn up to date – it’s not just a platform to share good articles and you never know who might be looking at your profile.
Proactively circulate your CV within your network and if possible, spend money on ensuring it’s in the best possible condition.
What kind of strategies do you use to move forward when you experience a setback? How do you stay afloat?
A lot of setbacks often tend to happen as a result of your ego, which is why I make a conscious effort to leave mine at the door each day. Once you do this, you can take a step back to analyze situations with a more open mind and ultimately, avoid some of your blindspots.
When I’m really stuck, I’m lucky to have mentors with a lot of experience who I can always reach out to and be open with.
Are there any missed opportunities that you wish to have leveraged?
No immediate opportunities spring to mind – I tend to jump at most things that come my way and I live life with very few regrets.
What more do you think can be done on the current women-focused programs on the continent touching on education, careers and entrepreneurs to encourage more women into becoming proactive?
We need more women telling their stories in a relatable way that connects with other females in their industries. The more this happens, the more we can empower each other to transform our sectors but it’s vital that we’re in control of our own narratives.
Is there any special way you are planning to celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day? And what message would you have for young women who aspire to be like you someday?
I’ll be reaching out to the special women in my life and thanking them for their leadership and support over the years. I’m privileged to have such a strong network around me and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them.
In terms of my advice to young and upcoming women, I’d say you already have what it takes – you just need to be bold enough to believe this and grab hold of opportunities when they come your way.
We need more women telling their stories in a relatable way that connects with other females in their industries.
Top 3 websites/Apps that you can’t imagine your day without?
Google Hangouts, Zoom and Whatsapp have been vital. It’d be a lot more difficult to work during the pandemic without them and they’ve all been pretty reliable now that I need them the most.
If you were to write a book about yourself, how would you name it?
Tales of my Grandfather: Daniel Kitonga. I wouldn’t exactly focus on myself but it would be a collection of all of my grandfather’s WWII stories in a memoir. They’re usually pretty funny and he loves to tell them every time we have a get-together. I think he’s sitting on quite a page-turner!