VENTURES AFRICA – Penda Health, a Kenyan health clinic offering women affordable health care services recently received nearly $100,000 from six US and local investors to expand its business. Penda Health co-founders, Nicholas Sowden and Stephanie Koczela tell Dinfin Mulupi, their expansion plans and what they seek to achieve in East Africa.
VA: Why did you start Penda Health ?
Stephanie: I had been living in Kenya on and off since 2006. I spent a lot of time in Mathare slums and attended dozens of funerals of people who were dying for totally unnecessary reasons. In most cases, no diagnosis would have been done. I wrote a thesis on maternal health and while I was working on this I met Beatrice Ngoche who had just graduated from college. We teamed up with Nicholas Sowden who had been involved in a number of start-ups and together we started Penda Health. We opened our first clinic in Kitengela, a location we chose because it is home to an Export Processing Zone which has about 10,000 employees. These employees work long hours and make money, but not enough to afford going to high end medical facilities. We opened our first clinic in February this year. So far, we have had 1,500 unique patients. We had very good response in the beginning. In-fact, in the first month we had a couple hundred patents. Our model is based on high quality health care at really affordable prices.
VA: What challenges have you faced?
Stephanie: I think there was a challenge in knowing exactly what you need to run a clinic. There is no checklist and nobody will tell you what you need. We had to think hard about what we needed to provide quality health-care but not just buy things at random.
Nicholas: Financing was also a challenge. The founders put in about 4 million capital and we just raised some more 8 million shillings from investors. We still need to raise more money. It takes about 2 million shillings to establish one clinic.
VA: What impact has Penda had in Kitengela?
Stephanie: We have seen 1,500 patients this year. We have also employed many people, in the construction and running of the clinic. We have focused on preventative health care, doing family planning services and cervical cancer screenings. Most people know they should do cancer screening but they don’t, because they cannot afford the expensive fees, but at Penda Health we offer affordable rates and this has seen more people in Kitengela undergo the tests. Disease like Cancer, are quite preventable but a lot of people in Kenya die from it because they never go for tests.
VA: Why the focus on women?
Jonathan: We treat everybody, but we specialize in women health care for a number of reasons. One, we feel that women are really important because they raise the family. It is also really hard for women to get quality health care because a lot of Kenya’s medical facilities are judgmental towards women. There is a lot of stigma associated with women issues. There is a real opportunity for us to be successful, but also help people who really have a tough time getting these services. We offer women education on these issues, and privacy.
VA: What are your expansion plans?
Jonathan: We are opening a branch in Nairobi later this year. There is demand for about 10 or 12 more Penda Health clinics in Nairobi. We also plan to go to the outskirts of Nairobi. There is a lot of demand everywhere, because it is difficult to get quality healthcare across Kenya at affordable prices. There is a massive gap that we intend to fill.
VA: Future plans?
Jonathan: We will open about two clinics this year and may be six next year. We are targeting to have closer to 250 clinics across East Africa. We plan to grow very aggressively. We are talking now to a group of 15 investors that are very active in East Africa and are open to invest in health care. They are watching our first clinic very closely, if we are able to prove that this is a profitable business they will be interested in supporting the business growth.