“I believe that we are one” is something that our beautiful Rwandese member Nathalie Maikere said multiple times during our interview. There she was looking at me with a smile, happy to share what makes her tick, and what inspired the founding of her company, e-Ensures. Approaching one of the founders in the space can sometimes be quite intimidating, but that wasn’t the case with her. From the moment you step into the Garage on Ngong Road, you’ll immediately take note of Nathalie’s warmth and inviting personality, and you’ll find yourself drawn to her, hoping that some of the positive energy she resonates will rub off on you.
When we sat down in one of the meeting rooms for our #ZoomIn interview, as she quickly sipped her tomato soup before running off to pick up her kids from school, I told myself to make the most of the time we had, and asked her about her upbringing right away.
I wanted to get the gist of what it was that shaped Nathalie into the woman that she is. “Well for starters I can tell you that I was raised in a very international setting. I was born in Kiev, Ukraine, and lived there until I was 6. My first language was actually Russian believe it or not, though I don’t really speak it anymore”. Being aware of the other languages Nathalie speaks, i.e. French, English, Portuguese, Kinyarwanda, Hindi, and Dutch, I figured that we could give her a free pass on not being up to date with her Russian.
Nathalie lived in six other countries after Ukraine, this upbringing would make someone quite adaptable as you might imagine, and open to new experiences. She reminisces; “As a family we could easily go from having all sorts of amenities to being without power for weeks, because we knew how to adjust our lifestyle depending on the situation.” This capacity to think outside the box and adapt is a trait that was instilled in Nathalie, and one that she’d like to reflect in the way she conducts her business.
e-Ensures is a pretty new company that conducts market research and puts together reports to then be sold to businesses and entrepreneurs so that they may understand the market they’re dealing with, gauge who their audience is, and strategize accordingly. “We create market reports about new trends that arise, and sell them at affordable rates so that the information can be accessible to everybody.”
Not only do they create these broader reports, but they also make tailored ones on-request. “We’re often asked by entrepreneurs with new and innovative business ideas to conduct research on how receptive the public would be to these concepts they come up with.”
Connecting her upbringing to her business, she explains that “often entrepreneurs have trouble thinking out of the box in terms of the way their business can prosper. There are times where we find that a Kenyan entrepreneur’s idea would meet more success in Kigali or Kampala compared to Nairobi, but they rarely look outwards simply because it doesn’t cross their minds, so we’re here to open their eyes.”
There are other entrepreneurs out there who are looking outwards, but are too afraid to leap forward, and Nathalie has them in mind as well. “We work with the African diaspora in Europe a lot, particularly in Belgium. These entrepreneurs of the diaspora are often very excited at the idea of returning to the motherland, but they’re afraid because they don’t know what to expect. With us to conduct some research for them, we can show them the immense amount of business and investment opportunities to be found on this continent, to encourage their ambition and calm their fear.”
I wondered how the idea of founding a market research business came into Nathalie’s mind, so that’s precisely what I asked her next. “Once I graduated I mostly worked for startups, from different NGOs to a bakery” she started answering, “what I found funny was that none of these companies really did any proper market research before their launch, which caused them a lot of complications.”
A thought comes to Nathalie’s mind that makes her giggle, she makes reference to her university days; “when I was doing projects for my degree in international business, my professors demanded that they see my market research before they could even consider looking at my business strategy, which is why I’m so puzzled that I haven’t seen more startups doing their research in real life before opening themselves up to the world.”
“Beyond the product we sell, I see my business as a chance to connect people.” Nathalie chirps this with enthusiasm after she’s finished giving me the low-down of what e-Ensures does. “My intention is to connect entrepreneurs with similar ideas to each other, crossing cultural boundaries, so that they may think beyond what their perspective and culture allows them to consider.” Having lived around the world, Nathalie knows that “between all of us [people] we have so many more similarities than differences”, that’s where her motto comes in, “we are one”, so we should all act like it!
Nathalie proceeds to tell me how inspired she is by the work that she does; “I believe that entrepreneurs are truly the people who will change the world for the better, because they are passionate about their work, and are driven to make their projects succeed.” Her face lights up, “I am just so happy because I have my two wonderful children to inspire me, a career that surrounds me with deeply motivated people, and a supportive team that’s helping the company soar. Every day I wake up telling myself that that day will be the best day of my life, and I am right about that each time.”
After I jotting down all the notes I needed, I realized the time had already come to let Nathalie go. At least I could comfort myself with the fact that I got my good dosage of positivity from my chat with her, enough to last me for the next few months to come! As a wrap-up to this month’s #ZoomIn, let’s all wish Nathalie a happy belated birthday, as she turned a year younger just yesterday! Joyeux anniversaire Nathalie! C Днём рождения!
And one final thing.. Are you wondering, just as most of us have, what the secret to her flawless skin is? Well, that’s the product of two things: the Rwandan culture that puts a lot of emphasis on good skin care, and some family secrets that Nathalie just won’t disclose.
Stay tuned to see who our #ZoomIn candidate for October will be!