Find your passion for problem-solving, and you will find your purpose
February 7, 2024
Adrian Ephraim
Ignite your passion for solving problems, and implement everything you’ve learned. Then it will be clear that you are indeed an entrepreneur.

These words of encouragement echoed in the bright, young minds of the FFA Academy graduates in Nairobi on 13 December 2023, originating from the inimitable Hilda Moraa, Founder & CEO of Pezesha.

The award-winning innovator and author from Nairobi delivered a stirring talk that captured the imagination of Africa’s future entrepreneurs enrolled in the first Cohort of the Founders Factory Africa (FFA) Academy, as they reached the climax of their journey with the Academy. She began by taking her audience back in time, to when she, as a young woman, approached her father for a business loan. It was a moment that would not only change the trajectory of her life but instill in her the lessons she has carried with her to this day.

Moraa’s Pezesha is a peer-to-peer micro-lending marketplace for Africa founded in 2016. She previously started WezaTele in 2015 before it became the first African tech startup to be acquired by another business. In 2016, Moraa was named one of the 30 Most Promising Young African Entrepreneurs by Forbes.

Hilda joined FFA Academy graduate Valentine Oberi in Nairobi on 13 December 2023

Solving a problem means identifying it in the first place

Moraa has earned a reputation for solving problems — a key principle of entrepreneurship in Africa. She had an eye for spotting problems from a young age, she shared. “I started writing code and building software at Strathmore University [in Nairobi]. I asked myself, ‘How can I solve problems around me?’ I remember I used to stay in a nearby hostel in Strathmore, and there were a lot of challenges with printing. People were walking outside the campus to find solutions,” Moraa explained. “I said, ‘I’m going to solve this problem.’”

It’s safe to say that Moraa knows a thing or two about the grit and ingenuity entrepreneurs need to fulfil their passion. Her audience recognised the window of opportunity that had been opened to them and hung on Moraa’s words. “So my journey started with a printing business … I provided printing services to university students. It became so big with just one printer that I needed to take a loan from my dad to buy a second one. He told me, you pay this back with interest of 10%,” Moraa explained. “Because that money was not going to be given for free.”

She repaid her father in week two of her printing business. A year later, Moraa’s printing business grew to such an extent that Strathmore University saw her as a threat and started a printing operation of its own. “I remember the head of services at Strathmore calling her and saying, ‘Now, it’s either you sell the printers to us, or we acquire them’.”

Moraa eventually sold the business to the university. “My first business was acquired when I was a student. Strathmore ended up acquiring those printers. They paid me. I think I made 60,000 [Kenyan shillings]. I was very rich back then,” she laughed.

Entrepreneurship is a calling where showing up is critical

The moral of that story, according to Moraa? “The journey doesn’t begin in a formal business. It starts with a passion to solve problems around you. Once you solve those problems, it becomes clear that you are an entrepreneur.” Moraa explained how her passion for solving problems saw her leave Coca-Cola, her employer at the time and try to solve a problem for retailers.

“I found a lot of information on why the product was not moving at the last mile because no one in the company wanted to empower these guys,” she said. “So we came up with solutions, we came up with ways to empower these guys, how to move the product, what products sell.” The answer from her boss was still? No. Months later, with the desire to implement her solution still burning, Moraa left Coca-Cola and started her own business: WezaTele — a solution she was actually building for Coca-Cola.

Moraa also stressed to the budding entrepreneurs the importance of showing up and never disappointing people. “Serendipity is everywhere. It can be in this room. So, show up. You’ve been told to show up in the Academy. There’s a networking event. You decide, ‘I am tired, let me just sleep’. But the day you show up, things start to happen.”

“Congratulations to all of you. You should be proud of yourself for being here today. I can see some familiar faces. Please, don’t take this for granted. I wish there was a Founders Factory Africa Academy programme when we started our journey,” Moraa added.

Moraa’s rousing speech didn’t end without her calling the graduates crazy. “

“You have to be crazy to build a business. That’s what I’m saying. So if you’re in this room, you are crazy. Right? Crazy in a good way. Because entrepreneurship is not for the faint-hearted… So make sure you implement everything that you’ve learned because that is one of the ways to actually succeed.”

You can learn more about the Founders Factory Africa Academy here.