The one major challenge that every startup faces is a lack of resources. When entrepreneurs make the decision to start an enterprise, their access to capital and potential employees depends on the connections that the individual has, and their knowledge of how to access investors and partners.

I run an environmental non-profit organization in Kenya called Mazingira Safi Initiative. Our mission is to educate and inspire people to take daily action to create a clean, green and beautiful environment. One way we achieve this is through conducting monthly community-driven environmental cleanups. When we started, like so many new enterprises, we didn’t have the resources such as tools and trucks. Thus, we needed to seek out a resource provider. We had to consider who had the resources we were sharing, and who would be willing to support our cause. After much thought, we approached our local environmental department and they gave us what we needed. This initial exchange became the foundation of our current partnership.


Volunteers at a Mazingira cleanup

When I retell this story to other entrepreneurs, they want to know what the secret to initiating this partnership was. The answer lies in the fact that we knew what we wanted and we knew who to approach. Making a partnership with someone who has the resources you need begins with knowing what you want. There are a few things to consider when choosing this partner, and how to go about approaching them:

  • Their Objectives and Interests

Do their values align with yours? It is important to share what your priorities are, because it will make it easier to judge whether a specific organization is right for you. When we went to the environmental department, we knew that like us, they wanted to contribute to a cleaner environment and would therefore support people who did. This increased our chances for being successful.

  • Their Capacity

Can the potential partner you’re approaching actually give you want you want? Do some research beforehand about what they are able to afford, and construct your proposal accordingly. We knew that the environmental department had the trucks and the tools and would have no problems supplying us with them every third Saturday of the month for six hours, because the equipment was being used for other purposes during other times. This is why doing some research on who you’re approaching is so important!

  • Public Perception

It is extremely important to partner with people that have a positive image in the public eye because by partnering with them, you are affiliating yourself with their brand and values. You can even use partnerships to boost your own marketing: if you partner with a credible organization or business, the public may be more willing to trust your brand.

  • Organizational culture

You should also find out a bit about how your potential partner treats their employees, whether they pay off their debts and what their ethical standing is. If they treat their own badly, they might not treat partners well, either. Luckily for us, we knew that the environmental department genuinely valued and supported self-help groups, youth groups and community-based organizations and so we knew we were confident about their ethics.

  • The Cost vs Benefit Weigh-up

It is said that you often need to spend money to make money - but you always need to make sure that what you’re giving up will be worth it in the end. I remember a time when an organization wanted to partner with us for cleanups. They wanted to have two permanent members on the board who had decision-making power, yet at most we would only be able to get ten volunteers from their organization to attend the cleanups. Needless to say, we turned their offer down!

When starting out, the need for capital may seem so dire that you will be willing to take it from wherever you can get assistance. However, take some time to figure out who you’re approaching for partnership. Doing so will not only increase your chances of a successful proposal, but it will also save you time. The key to accessing partners for resources is as simple as finding your common interests, and being strategic about how you ask for assistance! With this, hopefully your next partnership will be as successful as our initiative’s partnership with the environmental department!

By: Purity Wanjohi

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