News & Insights

How Borderless Mentorship Helped South Lake Medical Centre Bloom

The partnership with SLMC shines light on another aspect of J&J Impact Ventures’ offerings: J&J employees as mentors, who engage directly with staff on strategy and other aspects of the work to accelerate progress.
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South Lake Medical Centre leaders Liza Kimbo and Grace Kamero meet virtually with J&J mentors, Joep Lambrichts and  Federica Mazzotti

The South Lake region of Naivasha, Kenya is not only home to a robust flower farm, but also home to a community hospital that has proudly served patients for over 15 years. Originally operated by the flower farm for its workers and their families, South Lake Medical Centre (SLMC) became an independent entity in 2017. In its new state of ownership, SLMC needed a leader who understood the complexities of healthcare provision to best meet the needs of the communities in Naivasha.

Passionate about social enterprises and accessible healthcare, Liza Kimbo knew it was the job for her. “I had been, by that time, involved in what is my singular passion: making healthcare available, affordable and accessible to individuals who have been economically marginalized,” says Kimbo. “This was a great opportunity to take what we had been doing, running clinics in urban and rural areas, and take it up to another level where we could have an inpatient facility and help serve a population in need.”

Kimbo is a seasoned health entrepreneur who, prior to joining SLMC, established an urban-based pharmacy and a nonprofit organization running franchised health outlets providing low-cost medication to rural communities in Kenya.

When Kimbo started as SLMC’s executive director, the hospital was serving a community of 50,000 people through a hub-and-spoke primary care model with a 27-bed hospital and low-cost satellite primary clinic partners. In 2019, Johnson & Johnson Impact Ventures (J&J Impact Ventures) invested in SLMC to help the hospital scale its services and, ultimately, its impact on the community. In 2020, SLMC completed the construction of a brand new surgical wing, equipped with a full delivery unit.

But the partnership with SLMC goes beyond capital that helped to enable SLMC to expand its facility. It shines light on another aspect of J&J Impact Ventures’ offerings: mentorship.

“Through J&J Impact Ventures, I jumped at the opportunity to further support my management team and gain senior level input that would give me the chance to forge a path of sustainable development for SLMC,” Kimbo shares.

Through a mentorship program, J&J employees were able to work directly with SLMC staff and community members, accelerating the work being done at the medical center in a strategic, efficient way. Ultimately, three J&J mentors were paired with the team to offer support in different areas.

Among the mentors selected by Kimbo were Joep Lambrichts, Senior Director Global Supply Chain Planning Excellence at J&J; Federica Mazzotti, Business Unit Lead (PAH) at Janssen; and Ingrid Marti, Senior Director, Head of Global Congresses, Meetings & Events at Janssen. For six months, these advisors worked remotely due to travel restrictions in light of the COVID-19 pandemic from their home bases—Lambrichts and Marti in Switzerland and Mazzotti in Italy—to combine their respective areas of expertise with those of the SLMC team members on the ground in Kenya to create a comprehensive, sustainable improvement plan.

They worked with Lambrichts and Mazzotti initially on their strategic plan. "It was wonderful," says Kimbo. "We spent time getting to know each other, learning about the facility, and then, in the process of understanding what the real issues were, we came up with a plan. Toward the end of the program, Federica [Mazzotti] met with our board to discuss the strategic proposal and provide inputs and insights into the overall plan. I thought it was absolutely brilliant.”

Marti’s role was in one-on-one mentorship. “I have a chief nurse who is excellent as a nursing officer, and I thought it would be great for him to have mentorship in growing his managerial skills. So our third mentor, Ingrid [Marti], worked directly with him to enhance his leadership skills,” Kimbo adds.

In reflecting on her time collaborating with Lambrichts, Mazzotti and Marti, Kimbo shared the following insights on why mentorship is a critical component for helping social enterprises scale their impact:

  1. Strategic thinking. “With J&J Impact Ventures’ counsel, we changed the way we hold our meetings and the way we have discussions in our meetings. Now, we have a strategic outlook, and that percolates. We are still a small team, but we've moved from a daily focus that was very operational, making sure that we do the best that we can on that day, to one where we can think about the bigger picture and SLMC’s strategy.”
  2. Leadership. “Once you've taken a management team through a process like this, you can't undo it. People start thinking differently, and that was amazing to see. We really did a deep dive into a lot of the issues that we were facing and, together, thought about solutions and ways that we could get around them together.”
  3. Transfer of expertise. “When you're a small team involved in a hugely challenging endeavor, you need marketing, strategic planning and strong supply chains. All of these are things larger corporations have already figured out. To me, the expertise that J&J mentors provided was of immense value. This kind of corporate know-how is essential. I think most social enterprises could benefit from corporate guidance to truly thrive.”
  4. Common goals and mission alignment. “There's an element of trust in these partnerships. At SLMC, we trust the teams at J&J Impact Ventures to provide relevant insight for us because its mission and purpose aligns with our own.”

At J&J Impact Ventures, investments mean more than capital—the team invests in the work as well. No one company can solve complex public health challenges alone. That's why J&J Impact Ventures seeks opportunities and engagements where the broader team across J&J can offer its knowledge, expertise and mentorship to help social enterprises as they grow their impact—because together, progress toward a more equitable future where health is within the reach of everyone, everywhere becomes achievable.