Maker Faire Africa: Lessons, day 2

NAIROBI – A few minutes before our stated start time of 10 a.m., our tent was empty. Well, except for a few chairs. The rain had just passed, and makers were still setting up. Some asked if they could use our chairs at their booths. They saw no signs of a workshop.

But this is Kenya, and things here run on Kenya time. Our workshop was no exception. We delayed our start time to 10:30, and then 11, and by 11:15 a handful of people had gathered – not as many as we hoped, but enough to start teaching. By 11:25, every seat was filled. By 11:30, people brought their own chairs. We were finally underway.

Like yesterday, we started with pairs of contrasting stories that are the core of the Barefoot MBA lessons. And like yesterday, participants caught on right away: Production is important because it adds value and allows sales at a higher price, leading to higher profits. Marketing is about understanding wants and needs; if a customer understands why he needs a product, he is more likely to buy it.

Also like yesterday, we illustrated the lessons with an activity adapted from our initial pilot in Thailand. This time, two teams made and sold bicycles to each of six buyers with specific demands. We limited the production capacity of each team, and at first each wanted to produce as many generic bicycles as possible. One team quickly shifted strategy, though, choosing instead to sell fewer high-quality, customized bicycles at a higher markup – and eventually outselling the other team. The different strategies led to a discussion afterward of specialization versus diversification. Ultimately, the conversation returned to marketing.

Participants applauded when the session concluded, and we thought we were done. Then came the best illustration yet of Kenya time: just as we wrapped up, a handful of our most engaged students from yesterday approached our tent and asked when today’s session would begin.

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