Building Africa’s Largest Social Commerce Platform, Mastercard Foundation Alumnus, Primerose Katena, shares her journey
“Growing up, my mother owned a shop and I used to help her sell her stuff during vacations. I believe my love for entrepreneurship and business developed from that young age. I thus saw the university as an environment to further develop my business acumen and start a business after graduating” Primerose Katena, stated. In 2015, when Primerose Katena was admitted to Ashesi University, Ghana as a Mastercard Foundation Scholar, she intended to study Business Administration to achieve her lifelong goal of becoming an entrepreneur.
However, upon her sister’s advice, who argued that the world is in the 4th Industrial Revolution and studying Computer Science would be beneficial, she changed her course of study from Business Administration to Computer Science. At Ashesi University, first-year students are required to take the Foundation of Design and Entrepreneurship (FDE) course; a yearlong course in design and entrepreneurship aimed at training students to use design thinking to solve problems around them, and potentially create businesses out of those solutions. After taking this course, Primerose saw an opportunity to combine her love for business with tech.
Journey Into Entrepreneurship
“I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, so I planned to work for 5 years in the corporate world to build my network and develop some business competencies. However, after doing a couple of internships whilst in school, I realized that I wasn’t cut out for the routine nature of the corporate world. Then again, I felt entrepreneurship can be best learnt by jumping in and getting your hands dirty instead of gaining some professional experience first.”
In her final year at Ashesi University, Primerose stumbled across the call for applications from The Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST Africa); a 12-month program in which the cohort – known as Entrepreneurs-in-Training (EITs) – complete a graduate-level entrepreneurship course in software development, business, and communications with a focus on practical implementation. The course at MEST Africa culminates with an investor pitch, that provides EIT’s with the chance to receive seed funding and grow their business ideas.
“Everything I read on the school’s website resonated with my dream of becoming an entrepreneur, so I applied and luckily, I was accepted into MEST Africa as an Entrepreneur-in-Training.”
It was at MEST Africa that Primerose met her co-founders and they started building Tendo.
Tendo is a social commerce startup with its headquarters in Accra, Ghana. By meeting their backend needs for logistics, financing, and marketing, Tendo helps social commerce entrepreneurs by easing the setup and operating costs. Tendo compiles a selection of popular products in various categories for entrepreneurs, business owners and resellers. Once the resellers have decided on the products they like, Tendo gives them the digital marketing support they need so they may set their own prices for the products. Once the reseller or entrepreneur secures a sale, Tendo handles payment processing and product delivery, deducts the cost of the product and transfers the proceeds/profit into their account.
By removing the need to invest in inventory, Tendo enables individuals who are traditionally shut out of the ever-growing social commerce and influencer market to make money or start a side gig by selling products on Twitter, Instagram, and WhatsApp.
At Tendo, Primerose works as the Operations Lead overseeing the company’s operations in Ghana by designing and structuring business processes to ensure everything runs smoothly. She manages the customer support division of the business where she ensures the Tendo team relates to its customers(resellers) well and addresses any grievances that come up. Primerose also ensures Tendo gets the best suppliers, importers, and wholesalers to partner with to provide the best quality and price for its customers
“I think the favourite part of the work that we do at Tendo for me is building partnerships and interacting with suppliers. I’m happiest when I close a good partnership that brings in excellent products that generate good revenue or we are able to bring on board amazing suppliers. Just hearing our customers give raving reviews about our business and meeting their demands undoubtedly makes me so happy.” Primerose said
“One other thing that I love about Tendo is the impact it makes. Some of our clients are university students and before joining us had issues with their school fees. By joining and selling on Tendo, they were able to make enough to pay their school fees and other expenses. Hearing and seeing stories like this really make me happy. We have a scoreboard of our top sellers where they share testimonies on how Tendo is affecting their lives and that makes me so excited.” She, added.
Early this year, Primerose and the Tendo were accepted into the prestigious YCombinator; the world’s leading startup accelerator that invests in a wide range of startups. YCombinator provides seed funding for early-stage startups. The goal for Y Combinator is to get startups through the first phase so they can build something impressive enough to raise money on a larger scale. Getting into Y Combinator is the “stamp of approval” for startups as it gives startups a level of credibility.
“Getting into YCombinator is a big deal for us as it exposes us to a network of entrepreneurs, investors, startup advisors and early founders that ordinarily we couldn’t have gotten access to on our own accord. As Tendo is a growing business, we have a lot to learn from experienced startup operators and the YCombinator community is ever ready to respond when we reach out to any YC founder for advice and to explore avenue for partnerships.”
“During our 3 months program with YC, we met the CEO of Meesho who runs a similar business to us in India. What we do at Tendo is actually inspired by Meesho, so it was a good opportunity to learn from him and his company’s journey. This was an exciting opportunity we will not have gotten if not for YCombinator.”
Building on their admission into YCombinator, the team at Tendo recently expanded into Nigeria and in the next decade will seek to add Kenya and South Africa to the list of markets that they operate in.
The possibilities for social commerce startups like Tendo in Africa, especially Ghana, are limitless. According to a 2017 GeoPoll Survey, 32% of all e-commerce in Africa is conducted through social media like WhatsApp or Instagram, a percentage that continues to grow. In Ghana, for instance, as at January 2021, there were 8.20 million social media users which present an opportunity for social commerce startups like Tendo to leverage on and grow.
There are a lot of Mastercard Foundation alumni and young people who want to follow in the footsteps of Primerose and the young team at Tendo. On that Primerose advised, “The most important piece of advice is to find great co-founders. Your co-founders should be people who have complementary skills, share the vision and pursue the business with the same drive as you.”
“It is also important to build a community around the problem that you’re solving so that people and your customers can openly give you feedback on your business. Inevitably you will make mistakes and the community will give you valuable feedback that you can use to improve your business and its operations.”