Growing up in Kenya in a family of four, Brian was inspired to pursue a business education because of his mother. During his primary school years, his parents were both retrenched one after the other, and, as a result, Brian’s father gave his mother a small office to set up a shop and pursue her dream of interior design. Without a formal education, she started her company from scratch making curtains and reupholstering furniture. Her business took off eventually to become his family’s primary source of income. The business has since grown and recently relocated to a shop twice its original size. After witnessing his mother’s success, Brian decided that developing a practical set of business skills was essential in today’s world.
In 2009 Brian was awarded a scholarship to attend the African Leadership Academy in South Africa. Though hesitant to leave Kenya, the school offered the types of entrepreneurship and leadership courses he was looking for, so he took the risk and was welcomed into a close-knit community of African students. During high school Brian was involved in a number of extra-curricular activities such as administering the student run bank on campus. The service originally began as a cash disbursement service for the students and functioned as an internal cashless system where students could exchange goods and services. During the summer of 2010, Brian interned with the Kenyan investment bank Dyer & Blair in their fixed income department. The internship sparked his interest in finance, and he learned a lot about what investment banking entails and the type of skill sets required.
In South Africa Brian founded a partnership between NBA Africa and his school. Brian and his team created a youth basketball network in South Africa. They organized a basketball tournament that incorporated leadership and entrepreneurship workshops in the hope of sharing the lessons learned in the Academy with other students around South Africa. The experience gave him a chance to reach out to other youth in South Africa to promote basketball and the opportunities it offered beyond playing professionally.
It was a former classmate in South Africa, who first introduced Brian to the Huntsman Program. “I thought it seemed like a really good way to replicate my academic experience on a much more global scale,” he says. “I also wanted to meet students from around the world with similar and different interests as me and I was excited about the prospect of living with them in the same year.” For Brian, one of the Huntsman Program’s biggest draws was the mutual exchange of resources, support, and ideas the close-knit community in the program offered.
In March 2011 Brian visited the United States for the first time to attend a conference hosted by the We Are Family Foundation in New York. The conference was supporting one of the projects he had worked on in Kenya to empower orphans through sports at Children’s Garden Home & School. It was on this same trip that he visited Penn for a week and met the Program’s academic advisor. “She was the first person that encouraged me to try sushi, and that’s when I realized that I was in a really international place,” he remembers. When it comes to tea, however, “I still think that Kenya has the best tea in the world.”
At Penn, Brian was helped by his classmates to set up an official foundation in Kenya that can capture the sports and social impact initiatives they began in 2007. “The diversity of perspectives offered by Huntsman students has really helped me to think about the long term structure of the initiative. It’s also been fun because I’m doing this with my peers.”
The Huntsman Experience
Brian chose to study French as his target language and studied abroad in France and Senegal. French was also appealing because it is one of the major languages spoken in Africa, where he plans to return after his experiences in the States. “Since I already speak Swahili, I felt that French would give me a good command of the francophone culture in West Africa when it comes time to do business there.” Brian has worked as a research assistant in the Lauder Institute to help MBAs with a variety of research projects including “Chinese retail investments in francophone West Africa”, “Middle Eastern Private Equity in Africa” and “Impact Sourcing”.
Overall Brian really wants to prepare himself to go back to Africa and put into practice what he’s learned at Huntsman to help make Kenya and Africa a better place. “I always ask myself how can I change that one person’s life or how can I use my education for the benefit of my community? And I believe the Huntsman Program has already begun to equip me with the skills to do these things.”
An avid basketball fan since his years at Strathmore School in Kenya, Brian also worked as a co-teaching assistant for Wharton’s sports and social impact professor and represented the school in Qatar at the first annual Doha Goals. After graduation Brian will be joining a leading private equity firm which is also investing in Africa’s infrastructure and energy sector. He hope that this will be a start to unlocking the potential of African economies.