Sinapis – A Mustard Seedling’s Legacy Continues To Grow

In 2020, we will be celebrating the beginnings of Sinapis as a start-up accelerator in Kenya a decade ago. From modest but committed dedication in 2010, focusing on small and growing businesses (SGBs) typically with 5 to 250 employees and promoting Kingdom business, Sinapis has grown into a global ecosystem of thousands of entrepreneurs worldwide.


How the Sinapis dream started

The Sinapis idea started when Karibu Nyaggah enrolled for an MBA at Harvard in 2008 and then coordinated a student trip to his home country of Kenya. He wanted to introduce his classmates to the innovative spirit of Kenya and the challenges that still exist in Africa. During the trip, he met Courtney Mills, a fellow Christian and Harvard grad student who was researching sustainable solutions to poverty. Her vision was to create an accelerator programme for start-up entrepreneurs in Kenya. Together they started dreaming of how the accelerator could advance God’s Kingdom practically while alleviating poverty.


The following year, Harvard funded Courtney Mills and a fellow-student to research the viability of launching an early-stage accelerator programme in Nairobi. They recommended the need for training entrepreneurs on how to grow successful businesses, how to navigate corrupt and unethical marketplaces, and how to integrate their faith with their businesses.


They called the organization Sinapis, derived from the Latin word used for the mustard seed that Jesus described to his disciples in Mark 4:31-32, symbolising the opportunity to accelerate early-stage businesses that could alleviate poverty and cultivate disciples of Jesus at the same time.


Gaining new momentum

Since 2017, an impactful footprint has been set in six more countries when Sinapis launched its first partnerships outside of Kenya with Innohub Foundation in Ghana and Bluefields Development in Brazil. The addition of Sinapis’s curriculum allowed these partners to deepen their training and serve a broader range of entrepreneurs. Then in 2018, Sinapis expanded to Uganda, and Innohub opened a programme in Liberia. In 2019 the demand continued to grow, with Sinapis courses now being offered in both Rwanda and Egypt too.


This initiative has grown into a movement of Kingdom entrepreneurs that is now gaining strong momentum. After doubling the Sinapis graduates during the past two years, a new impetus is visible as the organisation is growing towards its goal of training 10,000 entrepreneurs and further expanding into new countries and with new programmes in the years to come.

Sinapis has added programmes beyond its initial business accelerator to include an MBA-like academy, a start-up launchpad, community workshops, alumni events, and a global network of entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors. Sinapis graduates are also surveyed to track their collective business, social and spiritual impact annually.


How Sinapis Equips Entrepreneurs to Create a Kingdom Movement

Why focus on Entrepreneurs as the primary target group?

A quote by CEO Matthew Rohrs best summarises the viewpoint of Sinapis in this regard: “People who have a vision, the charisma to get others on board, and the tenacity to grow a company are a rare breed. We focus on supporting entrepreneurs who lead Small and Growing Businesses (SGBs) because these companies fuel the economy and account for up to 80% of new job growth worldwide. 


To achieve scale, entrepreneurs leading SGBs typically need more customised training and assistance in accessing capital. Their success goes far beyond the entrepreneur and brings employment and dignity to their community. As they grow their businesses, they create jobs and helpful products and services for others. And entrepreneurs are leaders. Their influence often grows alongside their companies.

When committed to Christ and integrating His ways in the marketplace, they are poised to have a tremendous long-term impact. They combat corruption, transform culture and stand as an example for people looking for answers.”


The socio-economic impact

Sinapis has been making a significant difference in the lives of participating entrepreneurs, their communities and the economies of countries in which they operate. We witness that what began as a seed has grown into a diverse and multi-national community of thousands of dedicated Kingdom-driven entrepreneurs with committed ongoing learning, discipleship and the connection to essential capital. In total, 3,941 entrepreneurs and 947 graduates have been trained by Sinapis through workshops and programmes.


The social impact that Sinapis entrepreneurs are making is meaningful, especially where the creation of sustainable jobs in areas of extreme poverty is extensive and has assisted in restoring dignity and promoting progress for all involved. In total, 2,467 new jobs have been created, and Sinapis graduates employed 4,863 people. Sinapis estimates that these jobs are impacting the lives of 24,315 dependents.


The Business Impact

Sinapis endorses the principle that as entrepreneurs build Kingdom businesses, they grow the economies of the countries in which they operate and transform the relevant societies. Consequently, they also spark spiritual renewal. According to the 2018 annual statistics, Sinapis graduates have collectively achieved 25.9 million US dollars in yearly revenue and raised a total of 24.1 million US dollars in capital. The annual revenue of their businesses increased by 53% per year on average, and 67% of the graduates were still in business three years after training.


The Spiritual Impact

The impact that Sinapis has made at a spiritual level on entrepreneurs since its inception in the countries mentioned has been far-reaching in terms of Kingdom building with widespread community significance. Diverse and expansive multi-discipline training and business modules have been developed and applied. The following figures indicate the success and impact of these modules:

  • 76% actively integrate faith into their businesses;
  • 50% launched spiritual or social impact programmes in their communities; and
  • 22% reported new followers of Christ through their businesses.


Mergon’s trust in Kingdom partnerships

The Mergon Foundation has regional strategies supporting over 100 ministry partners across South Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and North-Africa/Middle East. 

It is heartening to observe that the Kingdom partnership that Mergon formed with Sinapis in 2017 has evolved in a powerful testimony of Kingdom businesses that has subsequently blossomed. Sinapis work is blessed and has grown into a global entrepreneurial ecosystem of thousands of entrepreneurs around the world.

Neil Hart, Executive Head of the Foundation, recently wrote in a paper: “We strategically deploy our entrusted resources through well-chosen partnerships for the maximum expansion of God’s Kingdom. I can tell of entrepreneurs who work with other entrepreneurs across many African cities to disciple them to have a maximum impact through their business resources, bringing generosity and change. There are so many stories of hope in the nations.”


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