Interview: Access Afya (2013 – #1)

The WJF team always loves meeting up with our entrants! So it was no surprise that we had a great time talking with Access Afya’s founder Melissa Menke, a finalist for the Venture Phase Category in William James Foundation’s 2013 Business Plan Competition. Melissa shared with us a bit of the clinic’s journey and some great reads that made an impact on her path to becoming the social entrepreneur she is today.

It’s hard to believe that Melissa wasn’t always a social entrepreneur. In fact, the opportunity to start Access Afya came after she had been doing research on the viability of this type of health care system. She shared that, “The friend, who I was working and doing the research for told me one day that if I agreed to head up the project and could make it truly viable he would give me the seed money it needed. Right then and there.” After realizing that she had inadvertently created a viable social business venture she went right to work making it happen.

After months of planning Access Afya’s first clinic opened its doors in December of 2012. Prior to their launch, potential investors were hesitant that the low income people Access Afya is serving wouldn’t pay for healthcare but they did. Infact the clinic saw a steady two patients a day during that first month. January saw a slow in business but the number of patents picked up again in February. May continued to see growth as they signed up their first patients as a part of their membership program! May also saw greater sales of wellness products such as inhalers and family planning tools.This is particularly exciting because one goal of Access Afya is to increase preventive health care and increase healthy living. Moving forward, Access Afya is looking to partner with schools, employers, and savings groups across Nairobi. These partnerships will increase access to the affordable and reliable health care provided by Access Afya’s clinics.


This story of perseverance, determination and strength was fueled by Melissa’s great staff and some inspirational books that helped shape her own story. The Access Afya team seems like a stellar group and Melissa was excited to share the hard work they’re doing. She also told us of some books that both her and her team love. These include “Mountains Beyond Mountains: Healing the World: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer” by Tracy Kidder and  “How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas” by David Bornstein.

It was an honor to meet with Melissa and learn about all of the great work taking place with Access Afya. Congratulations once again to Access Afya, and all of our other finalists,  for their success in WJF’s 2013 Business Plan Competition!

By Madeline Parrish, Communications Intern