From Lawyer to Start-Up Consultant: A Diaspora Story

Sheena Raikundalia never thought she would live in Kenya again.

Though born and raised here, she left at a young age for England. Most of her family had also relocated to Britain, and a fast-moving job at a top London law firm kept her sights in the U.K.

So when she visited Kenya years ago for a wedding, a chance meeting with her high school boyfriend completely changed the course of her life.

“If you asked me five years ago, where I’d see my life today, I’d be a partner [at a law firm] in London,” she says. “No single part of me ever thought I would come back to Kenya. I didn’t even want to get married!”

But she did marry her high school sweetheart. And though she was happily in love, she knew she had to quickly figure out how to translate her high-powered career in London to her new life in Nairobi.

After meeting with many top law firms and companies in Nairobi, she instead decided to start Kamandizi, an insurance comparison business. But she had to shut it down just over six months later after going separate ways with her business partner.

Sheena doesn’t consider shutting down the business a failure. Instead, she says that "failing fast" allowed her to quickly  figure out her next career chapter.
“I always celebrate it because I learned so much from that experience,” she says. “And although I say that it was a failure, I think I learned more in those 6 months than I did in my law career.” These are the indicators of a candidate with real Grit.  

She uses many of those lessons today as the senior advisor for Intellecap Kenya, an India-based company that offers innovative business solutions that help build and scale profitable and sustainable enterprises dedicated to social and environmental change. Kenyans Come Home helped place Sheena there almost three years ago as one of the company's first four employees. Today, Intellecap Kenya has grown to include 15 people.

Working in social entrepreneurship and impact investing was completely outside Sheena’s wheelhouse. But helping to grow the company not only feeds her entrepreneurship bug, but also offers a vision and purpose that melds well with this highly-motivated self-starter.

“I thought that you work hard, get paid well and give your bit to charity—but this is  completely different, “ she says. “Instead, you are working and you are getting paid, but you are actually doing good at the same time.”