HEVA Fund Kenya
Expert views

Creatively filling the gaps for financing young artists

1 July 2021
Wakiuru Njuguna, Partner and Investment Manager, HEVA Fund, Kenya

East Africa’s first fund that focuses on investing in creative businesses across the region

Creative industries are arguably the most dynamic sectors in African economies, marked by start-ups and mostly owned by (young) women artists. They play a huge part in growing the GDP of their respective countries, as well as providing employment along the relevant value chains.

These industries are largely excluded from private-sector investment as they are considered high risk or ‘too informal’.

Low public policy coverage makes the sector invisible from public-sector planning and expenditure. This systemic exclusion often exposes practitioners to unfavourable or unregulated business environments.

Back in 2013, HEVA’s parent company, the NEST Collective in Kenya supported creative entrepreneurs in leading sustainable lives and businesses. While participating in NEST, we led several studies to find the challenges faced by creative entrepreneurs so we could design solutions.

© Shutterstock
Heva Fund Kenya
© HEVA Fund
Heva Fund Kenya
© HEVA Fund

As young artists, how can we live sustainably?

In our numerous interviews with artists, we found several gaps that made it challenging for creative entrepreneurs to live off their art sustainably:

1) A gap in finance. Young and women artists do not have access to traditional financing institutions, such as banks. Their challenge to access collateral, such as loans, is huge.

2) Financial institutions do not understand the creative sector. The revenues are irregular which daunts banks. There are no products designed for the creative industries into which young people or women can tap.

3) A gap in technical and business skills for young artists.

4) Lack of data to inform stakeholders.

5) Unhelpful policies for establishing a business, such as high taxation or complicated licensing for start-ups.

This is how the idea for the HEVA Fund was born.

Given these findings, it made sense to set up a financial institution for East African small businesses and entrepreneurs in the creative sector. However, we quickly realized that innovative, financial solutions would not be enough.

We needed a holistic approach, and strategies to improve the ease of doing business, including research, business and technical skills training as well as policy interventions.

Heva Fund Kenya
© HEVA Fund
Any support is tailored to the business’ specific needs to create a ripple effect for growth


One important aspect we put in place is flexibility: the money we disburse, be it in the form of loans, grants or equity, is customizable. Customized products and responding to the needs of the sector ultimately benefits young people to not only grow their businesses but also employ other young people.

One of the main issues businesses face in this sector is working capital. If a small business gets a large order, it can be quite challenging to raise funds to meet some of the big orders.

For example, one of our facilities is a local purchase order facility that provides up to 70% of the total purchase order. This has allowed the businesses to continue operating and meeting the demands of suppliers.

Our processes make businesses successful


Our evaluation process is designed to increase the success rate of the businesses we invest in. To access finance, each business must pitch their request. Our panel experts evaluate the pitch to know each business’ context.

Once accepted, the entrepreneurs benefit from a detailed financial model we develop with them. Once the model is in place, we decide which financing facility is most suitable. We make sure that our decision to invest is based on the business’ ability to invest.

We lend responsibly to avoid drowning small businesses in credit facilities they cannot repay. Our solutions to finance are therefore set in context and adapted to the needs of each creative business.

Heva Fund Kenya
© HEVA Fund
The HEVA Fund


HEVA helps producers of cultural goods and services to build high-value, profitable businesses.

Since 2013, HEVA has invested in more than 60 creative businesses and provided training and support for over 8,000 creative practitioners in the fashion, digital content and television, home décor furnishings, live music and gaming value-chains, from Nairobi, Kampala, Kigali, Arusha to Dar es Salaam.

The Heva Fund is one of the impact investors collaborating with the International Trade Centre’s SheTrades Initiative.