Bank Of America Merril Lynch investment banking analyst Peony Li spent two weeks in Nairobi with The Baobab Network advising Nawiri Nuts, an agricultural start-up that buys high quality macadamia nuts from small holder farmers and then exports them to Europe and the USA.

The 23-year-old led on the delivery of a new financial model for the company to help it progress.

She said: “I’m extremely interested in startups. I’d been working with another startup when I was at Bank Of America in any case and then my boyfriend, who shares my passion for firms starting out, introduced me to Tom and Toby and I thought what they were doing was great.

“I’d never been to Africa and I loved the idea of working with an agricultural startup.

“I also like to empower women and the company I worked with was actually founded by three female entrepreneur.

"During the trip we went out to the fields and to the factory and talked to farmers about how they get their nuts. We saw every step of the value chain, we were there and witnessed what was happening

“It’s not just about building a financial model like I do for the bank, but you actually get to understand the business and the people – that was something I was wowed by when I was in Nairobi.

"On the second day I used an hour to build their financial model, which they were so happy

about. I really felt I was bringing value to them in a way I never thought I could working for the bank.

Peony with The Baobab Network co-founder Tom Fairburn

“I took unpaid leave to do this but I think it brings a huge benefit to me to see how businesses really work.

“In a bank, everything is very specialised and maybe I spend two weeks doing just one part of a model or one part of a presentation.

“This experience really gave me confidence. I think it’s reinvigorated my interest in my own job. On a personal level people are interested in the work you’ve been doing and that’s beneficial.

“I would encourage firms to get involved formally with the network’s programmes.”

Follow The Wharf on Twitter and Instagram @thewharfnews

Keep up to date with all our articles on Facebook