Episode 002: Building Kenya's First Mass-Market E-Commerce Site With Daniel Maison

Daniel Maison profile pic.jpg

EPISODE 002 OF YOUNG AFRICAN ENTREPRENEUR FEATURES DANIEL MAISON, CO-FOUNDER AND CEO OF SKY.GARDEN.

Born and raised in Kenya, Daniel went to university in South Africa. After graduation, he landed a job at a local corporate incentives company, Uwin Iwin. This changed his life. He discovered a knack for sales and business development, not to mention a keen interest in consumer psychology. He returned to Kenya to set up the East Africa office.

A fateful Skype call changed his life yet again. After sharing the vision of 2 Danes for an e-commerce platform targeting informal merchants, he joined the team of Sky.Garden as co-founder and CEO. As you will hear, Daniel is a fervent believer in the core mission of Sky.Garden: increasing the productivity of its merchants and improving their livelihoods. This conviction has translated into outstanding growth figures and scalability in interesting and unpredicted ways.

I had a great time chatting with Daniel. We talked about his work in corporate incentives in South Africa, why Sky.Garden puts informal merchants at the center of everything it does, the secret to building a great co-founder team, the unconventional advice that shaped his life, and his take on the adage “time is money.”

Without further ado, here’s my conversation with Daniel Maison.

SHOW NOTES

  • When Daniel realized that he had the entrepreneurial bug. [00:07]
  • How did he use his background in consumer psychology and designing rewards programs at South African company Uwin Iwin for his future work at Sky.Garden. [1:27] 
  • The main differences between South African and Kenyan consumers. [03:26]   
  • A typical transaction on Sky.Garden, the Shopify or Amazon of East Africa. [07:02] 
  • How a friendly Skype call with 2 Danes led to Daniel joining Sky.Garden as a co-founder. [09:21] 
  • Daniel hired Isaac Hunja, ex-head of marketing at Jumia Food, as CMO. [11:52]
  • People buy people not skills. The Sky.Garden co-founders all share the same vision, allowing them to see the summit of their Mt. Everest. [13:30] 
  • Sky.Garden’s monetization model and how it compares with competitors. [15:18] 
  • How Sky.Garden’s fast and cheap shipping attracted the attention of local and multinational brands. [17:10] 
  • Merchants are the core customers for Sky.Garden. [18:27] 
  • The best compliment that Sky.Garden has received that was like “self-actualization for a startup.” [19:06] 
  • Leveraging the strengths of a decentralized distribution platform was key to success in logistics. [20:55] 
  • Merchants’ creative ways of marketing goods. [23:15] 
  • The exciting development of merchants acting as sales representatives for other vendors not on the Sky.Garden platform. [24:25] 
  • Which goods are in hot demand on Sky.Garden. [25:39] 
  • The most moving testimonial that Daniel has received about Sky.Garden. [26:25]     
  • What surprised Daniel most about the business. [27:45]   
  • The challenge of reconciling the online and physical stock of merchants. [29:25]   
  • What Sky.Garden has in store for its core customers, its merchants. [31:09] 
  • The hardest (and riskiest) decision that Daniel had to make as an entrepreneur. [33:20] 
  • The best unconventional advice that Daniel has ever received. [34:25]   
  • The two African countries that intrigue and fascinate Daniel. [37:31] 
  • Daniel’s one piece of actionable advice for aspiring African entrepreneurs. [40:38] 

RESOURCES MENTIONED

Victoria CrandallComment