Category Archives: Entrepreneurial Stories

Entrepreneurial Stories

Edward Kariuki Is Proof That Grass Is Greener Where You Water It

Eliud Kariuki Is Proof That Grass Is Greener Where You Water It

Have times ever been so hard that you considered going to another country to seek a better opportunity? It is highly likely that your answer is a yes. With the many job opportunities advertised in the Middle East and even adjacent countries such as South Sudan, many have packed up and left for these nations only to realize that grass is not always greener on the other side.

This is the story of Edward Kariuki a young man who started by selling Newspapers then left Kenya for South Sudan with big dreams. His plan was to sell his merchandise which included cosmetics and other beauty products until he could break even. Little did he know that the challenges would be too much to bear.

“There were so many hurdles in South Sudan that it no longer made sense for me to continue doing business there. From the insecurity to harassment from the authorities, not forgetting the language barrier so I decided to come back to my Country”

Upon arriving Edward continued with his business of hawking anything he could get his hands on in the streets. He would wake up very early in the morning to get his merchandise from Gikomba and sell them in the streets of Nairobi. Due to his dedication a good Samaritan spotted him and offered him a shop along Tom Mboya street at a small monthly fee. This relieved him of some challenges like the constant chase from county police and the weather conditions because he now had shelter for him and his merchandise. With time he learnt what products did well and where to source for them . It has been a struggle but he knows he made the right call by coming back.

“There are still challenges here but I wouldn’t compare it to how it was back in South sudan. Besides this is my passion so I wouldn’t let any hurdle get me down. I like being my own boss and cannot picture myself doing anything else. I keep pushing on because this is also my source of livelihood and I even plan to open bigger shops in the near future”

The three skills that the entrepreneur believes one needs to be successful is resilience, people’s skills and discipline, especially for young people he encourages them not to live beyond their means instead they should invest back into their business.


Entrepreneurial Stories

Shadepro’s journey to ensuring you are covered and your car is protected from the Sun

alex_kinyua

A little vitamin D is good for the body but what about a lot of it? Sunlight can cause your dashboard, seats and paint to fade over a long period of time. It is important to protect your car as you spent a lot to buy it, so why spend more on unnecessary fixes when you can avoid it. Shadepro Solutions ensures you never have to experience how that feels like. They provide car shades and tents to ensure your comfort and even trampolines for some entertainment for the kids.

Alex Kinyua, one of the founders of Shadepro Solutions came up with the idea after seeing that there was a great need for shades from the county governments, relatives and other private institutions. He decided to join forces with a partner who had already started venturing into the shades business. This partnership has been going so well that they are also investing in other different businesses.

They make the shades and upon placing an order they install them for you. The business that was started using their savings and a loan did not have a smooth start Alex says,but working with a friend has its perks such as understanding each other’s strength and leveraging on them.

“The first challenge we encountered was delay in payment and high capital requirements. We did not let that deter us we found a way around it and forged ahead. If the river can bypass an obstacle, why not us?”

Shadepro uses social media and referrals to market their business. This are great platforms since they are relatively free but Alex emphasizes the only way to make them work for you is if you provide great products as well as services.

A sample of Shadepro shade

A sample of Shadepro shade

“Social media has created a global village and you wouldn’t want to be known as the worst service provider in the village because once the damage is done it takes a lot of time and resources to do damage control so to be on the safe side we make sure to provide quality shades and give timely services at reasonable charges. “

As most entrepreneurs will agree the path to self-employment is not easy it takes a lot of effort and sacrifices. Nevertheless it has its good moments. Alex and his partner for instance have been able to build strong bonds with great clientele and meet people from all walks of life.

When asked what advice he would give to college students who want to become entrepreneurs Alex had this to say,

“They should not only leave campus with the vision of being employed but also save up and aim at starting a business despite the size of the business.”


Entrepreneurial Stories

Francis Ochieng The young Entrepreneur Using what he has to get where he wants to be.

francis_ocheing

Most students when in college take up an activity that helps them make an extra coin. Most of these activities stem from their passion in the various fields, it could be drama club, participating in beauty pageants or sports. These activities come in handy after graduation since it is a well-known fact that getting a job after school can be a bit hectic and so having some form of income generating activity as you wait for that dream job can be very helpful. Sometimes the part time activity ends up becoming the full time career path for some.

Francis Ochieng discovered that there is an opportunity in the fashion industry after participating in the college beauty pageant and assisting his fellow contestants to dress up. He left the competition not only with a crown but also with a business idea to sell clothes since during the competition he was able to observe which clothes trends were most loved. With the money he had been awarded as the winner he was good to go.

“Having the capital and an idea were not enough. I had to find a suitable location that would guarantee me clients. So the search for the perfect location begun. I visited my brothers who were studying at Kenyatta University and lived near the university. I observed how the many students liked keeping up with the latest fashion. I knew that was the market I needed.”

Francis Ochieng at his shop

Francis Ochieng at his shop

The money was not enough to secure a shop and so Francis was off to a humble beginning of selling his merchandise alongside the road. Specializing in men’s wear most of his clients are the university students but still he gets clients from other areas other than the university. To get that many clients he has to rely on social Media.

“I mostly use whatsapp to market my business. I keep my clients coming back through communication. I make sure to update them on all the media platforms that is facebook, twitter and instagram about new stock and respond to their queries instantly.”

The business has its challenges just as it has benefits. Some challenges he has faced include petty theft at his shop and some clothes staying in the shop for too long without being bought. For the former he tries to be as vigilant as possible to avoid losing some of his clothes. As for the later, he gives out the overstayed clothes out to charity and for clients who buy clothes exceeding a stipulated amount of money he gives them the overstayed clothes as complementary goods.

Francis  hopes to open his designer shop in future “I went into the clothes business with the aim of one day  getting to design my own clothes and its because of that that I am undergoing some training in tailoring so I can be able to design and make the men’s suites. I anticipate a brighter future because am putting in the hard work, am committed and I trust in God.”  


Entrepreneurial Stories

Myths About Entrepreneurs

Myths About Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs are not always big shot millionaires with high end connections. Most times they face normal challenges like you and I. Here are some popular myths about entrepreneurs.

1. If you come from a family of successful entrepreneurs, you will be successful

This is a popular myth as many of us believe that children from entrepreneurship backgrounds will automatically grow to take over the business. Children can indeed pick up certain traits and qualities that can position them to become entrepreneurs but this is not always the case. Entrepreneurship is more about passion and an inner drive to make things happen.

2. You must innovate something to become an entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship is not really about coming up with something new and innovative but it’s more about identifying a problem in society and coming up with a sustainable solution. Your solution doesn’t have to be new, it should however be a solution that brings in a fresh perspective and adds value.

3. Having an innovative product = Business success

If you have this great idea that is cool and innovative, having only that is not enough. There are a couple of critical issues that you need to deal with like marketing, budgeting, networks, seeking investment, etc. A good place to start is finding your way into start up accelerator functions where you can meet potential investors and pitch your idea.

4. Entrepreneurship takes a lot of your time

Entrepreneurship is all about striking a balance and setting your priorities right. Yes, it takes a lot of commitment to run a business, but if you are able to balance your personal and business life, you will be just fine.

5. You need a clear business plan/strategy

Of course banks and certain investors will ask to see a business plan before lending you money, but this does not mean you need to have it all figured out with a plan before you take off. You can always start with your small savings to set up and start your operations and get customers before seeking the help of the bank or an investor.

6. You have to start young to be a successful entrepreneur

There is no age limit to being an entrepreneur! You can be 60 and still start a business and be successful. A good example is KFC founder, Colonel Sanders who started KFC at age 65.

7. Entrepreneurs are well connected

When you see a seemingly successful entrepreneur, it’s easy to assume that they have connections in high places. However, it takes work to go out, network and establish connections and even then, most connections do not even lead to anything.

8. Entrepreneurs Overwork

Entrepreneurs may work weekends and during personal time but they also have time to rest and nurture their relationships.

9. Entrepreneurs have a lot of money

When someone ventures out to start a business, we tend to think that they make more money that in reality they don’t make. On the flip side, most entrepreneurs have to wait a couple of months before profits start flowing in.

10. Entrepreneurs have no boss

The term ‘be your own boss’ is most times misunderstood as entrepreneurship relieving you from the stress of having a boss. However, starting a business makes all your client’s or customers your bosses.

Final Word

Do you have any myths we haven’t shared? Share them with us in the comment section…


Entrepreneurial Stories

Grab a Pillow and Snuggle!

Grab a Pillow and Snuggle!

We all use pillows in our homes to lay our heads on or to support our backs when seated. Other than acting as support for our head, neck and spine, pillows act as our cuddling buddies when it gets cold and you snuggle up with a warm blanket and a cup of hot chocolate or beverage of your choice.

This was the case for Florence Kirai as she needed pillows for her house. Being a creative and also interested in learning new skills, she thought it best to buy herself a sewing machine and get to make the pillows herself. She used Youtube to learn how to sew, highlighting that we can learn quite a lot from the Youtube tutorials. The internet has a lot to offer for an individual looking to perfect a skill or even learn a new thing, which could improve their lives and even help them earn a living.

“I  got really good with time and was finally able to make my pillows. The good work I was doing really showed, since a few weeks later my friend came  to my house to visit and was really impressed by the pillows that she wanted to carry them. I then offered to make her some pillows of her own since I could not quite part with the batch I had made for myself.”

Her company Kuddly Pillows was born from the instant she made her friend those pillows. Her family members and friends came on board and placed orders for their pillows. This came as great support and show of confidence in her product. Florence used her savings as starting capital at the beginning but later, she would use the deposit amount paid by her clients to purchase supplies she needed to work on the pillows.

Samples from Florence Kirai’s Kuddly Pillows

Samples from Florence Kirai’s Kuddly Pillows

“Kuddly Pillows are not only fit  for households but are also custom made for the hospitality sector and  office set up to be used in lounge areas. The pillows are custom made throw or toss pillows which are beautiful and exquisite that you can even gift to friends, family or clients. The pillows are made from pure and soft fiber making them very comfy. The bed pillows are customized to the type of  sleeper the client is whether they sleep mostly on their side or on their back.”

For Florence, giving her clients the best service is her selling point. She makes sure to involve her clients in the process making of the final product, be it in ensuring the right fabric is picked, the print, pattern and size is correct. She then makes sure to personally deliver the pillows and put a smile on her clients’ face when they see the work done. As an entrepreneur Florence says she has learnt to be more patient, prayerful, persistent and flexible in her business.These values have also helped her grow the business to where it is today.

Asked what are some of the challenges she has faced running Kuddly Pillows, Florence says, “Consistency in getting orders for pillows as not everyone needs pillows as often, being able to get more clients other than my friends and family members to buy from me and also the fact that Kuddly Pillows is not very well known to some organizations and they are reluctant to place orders with me.”

Ways in which she markets Kuddly Pillows include use of Social media platforms that is Instagram and Facebook. She also gets referrals from clients she has worked with and social events that she attends where she gets to meet with fellow entrepreneurs and exchange contacts.

Word of advice Florence would like to give to the university students and anyone wanting to venture into entrepreneurship she says, “Entrepreneurship is not for the faint-hearted. It will test you before you get to enjoy the fruits of your labour. However, it is worth it.”


Entrepreneurial Stories

How This Entrepreneur’s Fascination with Natural Ingredients Can Help Your Skin

How This Entrepreneur’s Fascination with Natural Ingredients Can Help Your Skin

It is a well known fact that people like to look good and feel good and what better way to do that  than to take care of your skin? Bobotanics helps people do just that. Bobotanics is an organic skin care line that specializes in soaps, cleansers and body washes. Fresh from the farm to your doorstep, Bobotanics uses only natural ingredients in their products. As the CEO, Ms Talissa Moi believes that synthetic chemicals pollute the skin’s ecosystem, so her products contain absolutely no synthetic dyes, synthetic fragrances, parabens or sulphates.

“When I was travelling around the country last year I became awe-struck by our country’s wild and exotic plant species. Curiously, I dived deeper into the world of botanical research, only to discover the incredible bioactive compounds and properties present in our native plants.. By connecting with local farmers and communities, I gained a greater understanding of their ancient knowledge. This is in particular with how in the past, people used natural elements on their bodies to harness energy to heal and transform their skin. I started to create natural formulas for myself, family and friends. The response was so great I thought why not create a skincare line that would help improve our everyday beauty routines? This would be done by supplying our largest organ with kind and natural ingredients, instead of artificial and dangerous chemicals hidden in our everyday soaps, facial cleansers and body washes.”

Samples from Talissa’s Bobotanics products

Samples from Talissa’s Bobotanics products

To set up the business Talissa used the money she had been saving since her teenhood, mostly given to her by her family on special occasions such as her birthday, Christmas gifts and allowances, proving that cultivating saving habits in children early on can go a long way in impacting children’s lives later.

The biggest challenge she has had is cutting wholesale supply costs with her non-indigenous imported products, such as the virgin olive oil used in our recipes. She had to constantly monitor these costs, looking for discounts and exploring alternate sources. For any business, getting the best deal on supplies can make a massive difference to the bottom line. And as they say, ‘every penny saved is a penny earned’.

So what sets her apart from other similar ventures?

“I see my customers as partners in my mission so I try my best to get to know them on a deeper level.” She tries to understand what works and doesn’t work on their skin, working in collaboration with them to create a perfect and personalized skin care routine for them. I also reach out to them on a regular basis, asking them for feedback on my products. This can feel daunting at times, but at the end of the day my most unhappy customers are my foremost source of learning.

As Sam Walton put it, “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his or her money somewhere else.

Talissa attributes her success to resilience. She tries to turn hard times into motivators for self-improvement and does her best not to let bumps, challenges and disappointments along her journey define who she is.

It is a journey that has taught her lot.

“Entrepreneurship has changed my life in many ways. In particular, it has made me accountable for both my time and actions. If I don’t get things done, no one else will. At the end of the day I am primarily in charge and responsible of my business destiny. This has helped me realize that I am responsible for my personal destiny too! I have to make lifestyle choices that are in line with this!”


Entrepreneurial Stories

Saru Organics; Giving Women the Confidence to Flaunt their Natural Hair

Saru Organics; Giving Women the Confidence to Flaunt their Natural Hair

This is the story of Mkamboi Mwakale a lady who is passionate about natural beauty and keeping it real. She is the founder of Saru Organics a company that aims at changing the Afrocentric narrative encouraging africans to embrace their nappy kinky hair unapologetically!

“What that means  is, we translate any hair related challenges be it hair loss, weak thinning hair, dry brittle hair, damaged or no hairline, super tangled ends, frizzy ends and offer a proven working solution. It’s not just about flossing our fluffy twist outs, but are your friends asking you how you got it going? That’s what Saru does for you.”

She got into the business by accident. Several events that she believes were well calculated by God led her to begin this venture. She is a mother to a 6 year old daughter and in 2015 her daughter had just started school when she kept on contacting serious flu viruses. Mkamboi tried antibiotics prescriptions but realized it was not working. Then a Nigerian friend introduced her to Moringa tea and her problem was solved. Her baby could now fight the virus and more importantly stay in school. This inspired her to look more into this moringa plant and that is when she discovered it could do more than just cure a flu virus

“My research into the plant led me to discover it’s potent abilities on beauty care and to cut a long story short I knew I had to come up with a hair product from the seeds. Using my savings from a previous business I bought a few Moringa seeds, looked for a machine to extract the oil, and booked an appointment with a chemical engineer.”

The mother of one says her venture is not yet profitable as It will take some time to break even because of high startup costs involved in a manufacturing but she states that they are in a positive trajectory.

When it comes to challenges Mkamboi says there are quite many!

“I think only the dedication to see lives impacted kept me going. We met hurdles such as very high minimum order quantity for everything we needed to purchase. Ingredients were being sold in very large quantities this would mean tying so much money in raw materials that would take time to be used up bearing in mind we were testing the market then and yet to carve a niche. But what won’t break you, makes you stronger. I must say I had to learn how to negotiate as much as I could with some suppliers and striking a balance.”


Saru organics keeps their clients coming back by taking time to treat a customer like the only customer they have and this builds a bond that not only sees them coming back for a refill but also let’s their circle know about their brand. Their growth is highly backed by customer oriented approach.

“We are not just a beauty care line but one that meets the very needs of our target clientele and surpassing their expectations. We answer the very questions that may make a customer think managing natural hair is hard work Truth is, it’s not you just have to find the right products that will make you go aha!  “

Mkamboi attributes her success to God, “He ordains my steps and equipped me. Anything that I am or will ever be I owe it to God, even the people I meet and get to work with, I believe He had that in His plans for my good.”

Advice to upcoming entrepreneurs she says is for them to not be afraid

“Make mistakes as early as in your twenties because you can afford them, then learn from the mistakes and no matter what keep going and focus on the vision it becomes clearer as you make those steps. Every new dawn is another chance!”


Entrepreneurial Stories

When Passion Meets Fashion

When Passion Meets Fashion

Meet Riba Wangare, the CEO of Petals Fashion a boutique that sells both men and ladies wear. She has always loved fashion but just needed a little push to take it seriously and transform her passion into a business. That nudge came but just not the way she was expecting it.

“My former employer closed shop and with my love for fashion, I decided not to look for employment and instead venture into entrepreneurship and in the process at least create jobs.”

Riba used her savings to venture into entrepreneurship and deal with the challenges as they came.

“As a new business, it’s very hard to get clients because you are not known and there are other similar ventures that are established so you have to get creative. So I started with family and friends and sold them outfits on credit. Some were a bit slow in paying back but I didn’t let that discourage me as I was determined to see my business take off.”

Petals Fashion mostly does online sales and usually clients have to send cash before the items are dispatched. The challenge comes in when a new client finds it hard to trust them seeing that many people have been duped online where memes have even been created on what you order versus what you get. This is where social media came in handy for her. She always encourages her  potential clients to check for reviews on her online pages and when most see that there are no complaints it becomes a little easier for them to trust her.

Samples from Riba’s Petals Collection

Samples from Riba’s Petals Collection

“Social media that is facebook and instagram has not only helped us with building trust but also marketing. The other form of marketing I use is referrals.”

Riba builds a successful customer base by doing three things. The first thing is being honest with her customers. “I like to be honest on the exact specific item they inquire about or order in terms of the fabric and availability. I don’t promise to sell what I don’t have.  Secondly, I try to sell unique products. Third, I ensure that my prices are affordable.”

With similar businesses in the market what sets the young entrepreneur apart is she follows up with her customers to know how they liked the products. Often times she posts clients pictures on her facebook page and thanks them for shopping with Petals Fashion.

The young entrepreneur emphasizes the fact that being self-employed is so fulfilling. When asked what skill she thinks one needs to have in order to be a successful entrepreneur Riba adds, “Well,I am still young in this business so wouldn’t say am all that successful but I know patience and hardwork are key.”


Entrepreneurial Stories

Michael Kiwo Founder of Pollucare cleaners strives to keep Mombasa clean

Michael Kiwo Founder of Pollucare cleaners strives to keep Mombasa clean

Pollucare Cleaners provides access to a clean and healthy environment by offering innovative solid waste management solutions. Their services include proper garbage collection and disposal for families and businesses living in urban center in Mombasa, Kenya.

So how did its founder, Michael, start all this?

“I was born and raised in Mombasa. I have witnessed an increased number of health cases caused by poor garbage disposal in the region. This tends to get worse during the rainy season where we have the garbage blocking the drainage system and therefore exposing the residents to  diseases such as malaria and even cholera.”

Michael quit his job in freight and forwarding industry to bring a long-lasting solution to his town. In 2017, he started Pollucare Cleaners which offers door-to-door garbage collection services to help the county government of Mombasa to effectively deal with the menace. He collects the garbage while the government  provides them with transportation of the waste to Mwakirunge dumpsite.

Starting out, Michael used his savings as capital but along the way he realized it was not enough.

I had to turn to my family for financial support. Once I had some profit I used to plough it back to the business since it was young and not self-sustaining. It’s over one year since Pollucare Cleaners was born and I can say it is now profitable. We started with only five clients and now we have over 40 houses that we are offering our services to. In a day we are handling over 500kgs of waste in Ganjoni and Liwatoni areas.”

As new entrants in the industry, they faced stiff competition from existing businesses which were experienced and had built their brand. Pollucare Cleaners had to stick to their vision of providing quality services that are reliable and affordable to the local mwananchi. Unlike other businesses that are just into collecting and disposing, Pollucare Cleaners offer more than that.

“We provide our clients with free bins and we give them solutions like on how to handle different types of waste. Our charges are customized so that everyone enjoys a clean and healthy environment. We also partner with waste recycles like Takaz organization and Garb tech so that out of waste useful products like building materials and charcoal are manufactured and consumed locally at an affordable price.”

Michael Kiwo

Michael Kiwo

When it comes to marketing, Pollucare Cleaners base it on digital marketing. They have a website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn pages. They also do door-to-door marketing, attending a lot of networking events, as well as advertising in magazines and sharing fliers. Despite the variety in their marketing channels, most of their clients are derived from social media and referrals.

When asked how entrepreneurship has impacted his life Michael has only positive things to say.

“First of all, I am impacting the community around me in a positive way doing what I love and I have employed two youths. I was part of Governors startup challenge which was organised by Youth Empowerment Programme Initiative (YEPI) an organization in Mombasa which trains social entrepreneurs on how to start and run a business profitably. Apart from that, I have become a role model to many as I mentor young people who want to come into the industry and those who want to start their businesses.”

The founder of Pollucare Cleaners attributes his success to God and his family who have supported him in every move in his venture. Then to Youth Empowerment Programme Initiative (YEPI) team where he learnt businesses skills.

As a parting shot Michael urges follow entrepreneurs to always think positive. “Challenges in business never end. They are our daily bread so one should always be willing to solve one and expect another one very soon. Never give up no matter what because today will be hard tomorrow it will be harder but the day after tomorrow you will win.”


Entrepreneurial Stories

When Getting Fired Becomes a Blessing in Disguise

When Getting Fired Becomes a Blessing in Disguise

So what happens when you get pregnant and suddenly you can see the telltale signs that you will not be coming back to work after having your baby. Your boss knowing the uncertainties that come with getting pregnant tells you that you will need enough rest so you may only work up to the eighth month and thereafter take as much time as you need. It may come of as a long maternity leave but not always, sometimes it could mean it’s time to move on.

Those are the circumstances that pushed Sophy Osano to open her own shop. She had been doing the business for some time but only as a side hustle. She didn’t have a shop so most of the time she would run her business online and do deliveries on weekends or after working hours. The impending loss of her job meant that she had to take her side hustle seriously because soon it would be her main hustle.

“I knew I had to find a way to make my ends meet especially now that I was expecting a baby. Also as women we have very strong intuition and my intuition was telling me I was going to be a single parent to this baby so it was either I swim or drown bringing along my baby I just couldn’t see myself doing that so I swam.”

The mother of one found a shop in town along Moi Avenue and used her savings to set it up. She also hired someone to sell for her as she continued working awaiting the eighth month that her boss had given her. She sells a variety of female products from bags to womens clothes. This is a market she discovered when she was still in college selling clothes to students in hostels. She sells second hand clothes well known as mtumba because she feels they are affordable and unique making it easier for her to meet the needs of many clients.

In terms of a support system, her family members have been very supportive even though her mother up to date still asks her when she is going to get a job.

“I come from a place where they believe that for someone to be successful they need to be having a job and a corner office so they don’t understand how I can be content with what I do. I don’t let that get to me, I channel all my energy to my business and clients hopefully they will get on board eventually. They just might realize that business works and this is where am supposed to be and not at some corner office.”

The very talkative lady says that she may be doing well now but she has also faced her fair share of challenges. “There was a time things got so tough for me to an extent where I almost went into depression. The 2017 elections and repeat elections. They affected my business in that I had to close the shop during the most part of those days. I was not making money but then still had bills to pay. From the hospital bill since I gave birth at around that time to rent for the shop. All in all am greatful I got back on my feet and I forges on because of the passion I have for my business.

Sophy has the business to thank for some of the attributes she has gained over the years. She states that one of the impact entrepreneurship has had in her life is that she has grown. The maturity with which she handles her clients is something she could only get through experience. Another would be that she has always been a jovial and talkative person but with her business she has had to take it a notch higher.

“Customer care is my selling point. I have clients that I have never even met. Some are out of Nairobi. They order through our facebook page Sophy wa Mtumba Collections. I talk to my clients like they are my friends. You wouldn’t want your friend looking funny so I also make a point of advising clients on what looks best on them and I believe that this is what sets me apart.”

Her advice to people who want to be entrepreneurs and look up to other entrepreneurs who have already made it is that they should remember that their idols also started from scratch. They should be willing to put in the work and do something they are passionate about.It may seem so hard but it’s doable.

“Entrepreneurship is a very difficult journey but very fulfilling. I wake up every morning knowing I am building my own empire and I can pay my own bills, what could be better than that”


Entrepreneurial Stories

Sylvenus Semo is Proof that Talent Doesn’t have to be a Backup Plan, It Could be the Main Plan

Sylvenus-Semo

Are artists made or born? That is a question you may have asked yourself at some point. This amazing talent that some people have, is it innate or something they worked hard to achieve? The athletes, the footballers, the artists etc. Can anyone do all these things if they put their mind to it? Well one artist by the name Sylvenus Semo believes that artists are made.

“To be able to be good at what you do, you have to practice and work hard at it,” he says.

Growing up Sylvenus always liked to draw. He would scribble on the floor and his book covers. He made sure to join a high school that offered art and design to better his talent. Becoming better with each year it was only natural that he would join an institution of higher learning and continue with a course in art. This is when things changed. Sylvenus had a light bulb moment and realized he didn’t want a career in arts and so after 3 years into it he finally dropped out.

“I loved drawing and was good at it but I just realized I had been doing this my whole life i needed to do something else. I needed to learn something new to sustain me and if it didn’t work out then art could be my back up plan, so I took up Media studies”

A content man at this point completed his course in media studies and started looking for a job. This is a part that is all too familiar with the Kenyan youth, the jobs were just not forthcoming. He ended up working in real estate something he had not studied. The hours were not flexible and as a creative person he found that to be confining and he just couldn’t do it anymore so he quit. It was time to go back to what he did best.

“I started drawing again mainly focusing on portraits. Getting my footing was a bit of a struggle. It is very hard to convince people that you are good at something without proof. I needed a better strategy. I started drawing my friends for free and they would refer me to their friends who referred me to their friends and that is how KymKym arts picked up. Besides referrals I also use social media to market my work and it has been equally good at bringing in clients.

Sylvenus making final touches on a potrait

Sylvenus making final touches on a portrait

The entrepreneur says although the entrepreneurship journey has been fair to him there is still a challenge of getting clients up to date.

“Art is a tertiary service when someone lets you do a portrait of them this month you can be sure it will take a while before they come back. Despite these challenges am just glad I get to do something am good at and enjoy. The hours are flexible and am able to manage my own time. Am also able to pay my bills from this work and this motivates me every time to pick up my pencil and get to work.”

Lastly I ask if the young artist has a favourite artwork, “I have done more than a thousand pieces as we speak and I believe that i’m defined by my latest work,art work gets better with time so my next portrait is my favourite.”


Entrepreneurial Stories

I Turned My Love For African Bags Into A Profitable Business – Drucilla Msinga

I Turned My Love For African Bags Into A Profitable Business - Drucilla Msinga

It is a well known fact that one’s appearance can tell quite a lot about the person. This is not just limited to their attire but also includes their accessories such as a handbag. Most ladies never leave the house without a handbag. They have so many things to carry ranging from phone, notebook, makeup kit, umbrella, snacks, keys, toiletries etc. A lady’s handbag has to match her outfit and most ladies have a variety of bags to go with their different outfits.

Drucilla Msinga is one such lady. The type of bags she carries can tell you she is a true African at heart as she carries Viondos – an African bag made out of sisal. She loves African bags and wherever she goes people seem to be in love with them so she decided to exploit this venture. At some point, she realized that she was getting multiple enquiries about her bags and an idea came to her,

“Why not buy these bags and sell them instead?”

That was the genesis of Drix Classic Viondos.

First, she had to figure out where she would get her merchandise from. African bags are quite expensive and if she bought them from the market, she would not be able to make substantial profit. She had to go to the source and that meant traveling to the rural parts of Kenya to find the women who specialised in making these bags. She did not want middlemen. Lucky for her, she found an older woman who made beautiful Viondos and a partnership developed.

“This lady makes the bags and I pick them once they are done. The bags come in different designs depending on the client’s preference.”

Sample Bags from the Drix Classic Viondos collection

Sample Bags from the Drix Classic Viondos collection

The partnership has been working well despite a few challenges that she faced at the beginning. For one, the lady who made the bags didn’t own a phone and so getting in touch with her used to be tricky. Drucilla would just visit her hoping the orders are ready but sometimes she would get there and the orders would not be ready and it became a waste of time and transport money. The woman, also being elderly didn’t understand the current trends and Drucilla did her best to explain the kind of designs she required her to make but sometimes it would get lost in translation. There has been improvement though and there is better communication in their partnership.

“I have come a long way even with the lady who makes the bags for me. I started with two bags but now as we speak I have sold so many. My greatest support is my friends and family. My sisters have all bought bags from me with one sister having bought up to eight bags! They have also done some marketing for me. I tell them for each bag they buy they should tell people about Drix classic viondos.’

Drucilla is very passionate about African bags among other artifacts. She says it fills her heart with pride to see ladies carrying them and that is what motivates her everyday to keep on doing what she does. “I thank God for my clients and the doors He has opened for me and for the other entrepreneurs out there, keep pressing on.”