When a team of undergraduates created a socially conscious investment firm with the mission to build economic stability in Africa, little did they know that they would be serving those communities during a global health crisis. 

Kolanut Capital was founded in Keller Center’s eLab Accelerator program last summer. The team of student entrepreneurs launched their firm this fall intending to invest in simple and profitable businesses to grow the communities they operate within through vocational training of employees, relationships with suppliers, and providing essential goods and services to customers. Their initial investments centered on small dairy and poultry farms in Nakuru, Kenya the hometown of co-founder Hannington Omwanza’s ’19.

Omwanza has been on the ground in Kenya, working with farmers, training and employing local youth, and building relationships in the community and local government after completing the accelerator program last August. Co-founder Kevin Parker '20 was working on investment planning, model outcomes, and funding opportunities from Princeton while finishing up his senior year. Meanwhile, co-founder Alexander Asante ’19 was steering logistics, research, and new prospects from his base in California.

Just as Kolanut was gaining momentum the pandemic hit, and many African businesses shut down in early March. Since milk was deemed essential, the dairy businesses continued to thrive. Producers were able to pivot delivery methods to address health and safety concerns while increasing employment to meet the growing needs of the community. 

The poultry businesses were not so lucky and were forced to shut down. Nevertheless, in true innovative entrepreneurial fashion, the Kolanut team turned the setback into an opportunity. The firm donated 600 chickens to the local county hospital to feed sick people with COVID-19, their families, and those made financially vulnerable during this crisis. 

“We thought of the people in COVID-19 isolation and quarantine facilities as well as the general wards and saw fit to donate the birds for their dietary needs to help boost their immune systems,” stated Omwanza. This effort will help provide essential nutrition to the sick, and the donation also helps to strengthen the relationship between Kolanut, local government, and the community.

The Kolanut team was prepared to meet the challenges of this pandemic with agility and direction. This crisis has proven the importance of an entrepreneurial mindset, the value of creativity and innovation, and the power in community, skills the Kolanut Capital team possesses in spades.