Born in Uganda but raised mostly in Kenya, Patricia is probably one of the most vibrant top women you will ever meet! Her parents moved to Kenya when she was two and with the movement back and forth to Uganda, Patricia has remained very close with her parents and four brothers, a great character in them that has helped them push each other to the next level.
“Being the only girl, my mother had instructions for me in her diary for how my day should be and how I should take care of my brothers.” Out of this, from an early age Patricia became a leader who always set high standards of achievement for her and her siblings.
During her campus years, mobile phones started emerging in most African countries and Uganda was not left behind. “Because as a student you always need more money, I started trading in mobile phones. I’d get the mobile phones and sell them for a profit.” This is how Patricia started getting curious about business before she was introduced to the AIESEC student run organization that positively changed a lot of things about her student run organization that positively changed a lot of things about her experience.
She attended the Eastern and Southern Africa Leadership Development Seminar – ESALDS where the entry fee was quite high but where she met many other interesting people including her husband Johnni. “I also met some very confident Kenyans and all the networking made me think that I wanted to be like these people! They had gone and seen places.” a week later, she joined AIESEC and was later elected Vice President in charge of incoming and outgoing students for the exchange programs. By the time Patricia was in her second year, she had had a lot of opportunities that she asked her parents to stop paying her school fees as she could now afford to take care of it. “Some people would question my source of income but I had seen the opportunities and aggressively grabbed them.”
In the exchange programs, Patricia met a lot of students around her age from different countries and she quickly noticed a difference between them and the Ugandan students. “I started questioning myself about how they were able to communicate and express themselves so well. I started learning and from then, doors kept opening for me.”
Johnni moved to Uganda from Denmark to start an Internet – Web Development company, Net Guide, and he hired her to work with him. “He had gone to Nairobi to look for me but when he didn’t find me, he went to Kampala and started asking around for my family name. The informal addressing and naming system did not work in his favour.” She was posted to Kenya and Tanzania for the following few years, where she also got good knowledge of the region. Both the good and the bad.
“I had done a few summer internships abroad in my school years and when things were not going very well at work, I started contemplating moving abroad to work there. Most of my former school mates were there after all.” When the company was bought out by new investors, Patricia did not have much trouble finding something to turn to as she had already created a name for herself having good knowledge of the region.
In 2007, Patricia got an opportunity for a full scholarship to do her masters through a network she had made and this fulfilled her dream of wanting to take a year off by herself to figure things out. She was the first inaugural African to attend the program. After attaining her MBA, she knew she did not want to work abroad but wanted to return home, where she could make an impact. On arrival, Johnni and their business partner Ian called on her to run a new side of the business that they had established, Growth Africa Capital to help with the micro-finance module of the company. Between 2008 -2011, the company had more than 1500 clients and gave capital of more than 2.7 million euros. “I really enjoyed the job, just enabling the common citizen. The unfortunate thing was that the money was just staying in the family and nothing was changing, there was no impact to the rest of the community.” In 2011, the company made a decision to close down the microfinance module as Patricia could not bear to watch loan defaulters get auctioned. “This was like watching mother suffer, it was too much, I couldn’t do it!”
Out of her passion for helping people and people coming to her for help them start a business, she saw an opportunity in helping make the impact in an African building a business and changing it. She wanted to be the champion and good example of building impact in Africa, by Africans.
Being in a competitive business space, Patricia recalls a message from her parents to work hard and be the best. “I needed to stand out. To prove myself that despite the circumstances, I could be whatever I want to be, wherever I am.”
Starting the GrowthHub was a point of fulfilment for Patricia as she could easily resonate with the situations and challenges that the people were going through in setting up businesses.
Being a woman has been more of a blessing to Patricia and not much of a challenge as people could see it. combined with her confidence, she has been able to attract attention in the substance of her work. “A lot of people listen to me and say, ‘she must really know what she is talking about’.” At times, though, being a pillar in many spaces, she has had to be the stronghold of those around her.
“It all depends on who you know, the circles you hang out in, eventually doors open for you” Patricia insists that she wants her results to speak for themselves without her campaigning to get people to notice. She insists that women have to go out and create networks with the right people. One of the most Limiting things Patricia says is there aren’t enough people out there mentoring the young women to help them realize that they are on the right track of things. The other limitation is that of people being content with very little achievements especially focusing on acquiring assets and not really making a dent in society. There are very few structures to guide from high school through employment.
To negotiate salaries, as an employer, Patricia recommends that employees focus more on the kind of value they will bring to the company and not very much matters of inflation and external factors of the surrounding employees.
“My role model has been my mum; she comes from a background of tough women and is the kind of woman that does not take no for an answer.” Her father who likes to push her out of the comfort zone. Others on the list of Patricia, an Acumen Fund fellow include the Acumen Fund founder Jaqueline Novogratz, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome whose one message she is passionate about, “Every time you give excuses, they devalue you!” Strive Masiyiwa who is the founder and chairman, of global telecommunications group, Econet who has shown that if you really want something so badly, you will get it.
Patricia recommends that after a hard at work, one should be able to take some time off to relax and let go. “Just some time with yourself or family to do nothing. Stop focusing too much on the yesterday and start looking into the future.”
Patricia enjoys life wisdom books, watching movies , TV shows and playing board games as a way of relaxing.
This article first appeared on Women in Trade