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When he decided to use all his Ksh, 5 Million lifetime savings to buy land, George Wachiuri did not know what was awaiting him.
It was the beginning of a traumatizing moment. He was sold fake land by a conman who had promised to sell him some good genuine land. After receiving the money, the sellers vanished into the thin air. Depression struck. Mr. Wachiuri had lost all his savings. He was with no income and no job at all. This was back in 2008. 9 year later, Mr. Wachiuri is now the CEO of Optiven Group, the leading real estate giant in East Africa.
His story is full of success, glamour, victory and triumph. A story comprising of a tough upbringing, hardships, the struggles through school, the ups and downs of his youthful startups and then his ultimate success.
Born in the dry parts of Laburra, Kieni Constituency in Nyeri in a family of 9, his growing up was not easy.
His father who was a primary school teacher passed away while he was still a young boy. The family had to depend on their uneducated mother who had been a house wife before the death of the elder Wachiuri.
This death saw the mother wake up to the hard reality of raising her children. She started cultivating & tilling neighbors’ lands to earn a livelihood for her family.
Early in the morning, together with his siblings, the young Wachiuri would till their land and in the evening go to till other people’s land, a measure of fifteen meters by fifteen meters, for a pay of just Ksh.5.
Whenever they did no go to this extra mile, they would have to sleep hungry. Having a daily bread for them was a real hustle and a miracle at the same time.
Until class eight, Wachiuri never knew the importance of education, he was always among the worst performers in his class. Nobody had told him that being educated would bring along some rewards. This was until one time when he saw his brother in a black stripped trouser after he passed well in school and got admitted at Kianyaga High School.
“My motivation to study harder came after I saw my elder brother with a pair of trousers for the first time. This made me realize that I needed to work very hard to get such.”
This changed Wachiuri’s mind; he realized that if he performed well in school he would for sure own a pair of trouser.
Since his mother could not afford kerosene in their house, the young Wachiuri would read during the day. This new reading habit, improved his performance.
He passed his KCPE exams and joined Chinga Boys High School after convincing his mother to sell their only dairy cow so that he could get the required school fees.
Birth of George the Entrepreneur
In high school, he was in and out of school due to lack of fees. It was during this time that his entrepreneurial spirit was born, nursed and tested. He had to get a way of raising his school fees. He began by venturing the business of selling onions.
Onion business did not work out well for the young entrepreneur. His neighborhood was not producing enough of this agricultural product.
For this reason, he would go to Endarasha; a very productive area to buy onions and later sell them in Mweiga town. This did not make him enough money and he was prompted to start selling potatoes.
From every bag of potatoes that Mr. Wachiuri sold, he could make about Ksh 50. The money he earned enabled him to hire a pickup that he would use to ferry the potatoes. The proceeds from this business enabled him to raise his school fees and help his mother buy some sugar and flour.
After High school, Mr. Wachiuri passed his exams so well that he was enrolled at The University of Nairobi, Kabete Campus to pursue Bachelor of Commerce (B.Com). He majored in Marketing.
While at the university, he ventured into many businesses such as laundry, photography and at one point a home library. With the library, he would hire out magazines and newspapers to his fellow students in his small cubicle for some few coins.
As an entrepreneur in the university, Mr. Wachiuri was so outstanding that he was bestowed the Entrepreneur of the Year award at the University of Nairobi in 1997.
Life after school for most people is not a walk in the park. He realized this as he began tarmacking after graduation for a while in search of a job.
It was due to this frustration as a result of lack of a job that Mr. Wachiuri and a few friends decided to make multiple job applications in organizations. Dropping as many job applications as possible. He recalls making three hundred applications.
After making these applications, the graduate Wachiuri was lucky to get his first job with Uchumi supermarkets at Industrial area as an accountant. He worked here for a while until one he was found talking to a colleague in the office. This alone got him fired.
One year after being sacked, he got another job and went to Kakuma refugee camp to do food distribution where he worked for four years.
It is during this time when Mr. Wachiuri got married. He was to later get another job at the International Organization for Migration (IOM) where he was mandated to take charge of logistics.
He also had a stint at the UNICEF and later worked for the World Vision Somali up until 2008, when he resigned and decided to venture into fulltime business.
The Birth of Optiven
Mr. Wachiuri started Optiven in the year 1999 together with his brother Charles, after graduating in 1997. At that time he did other small businesses like selling ladies’ beauty products, making hair shampoos and conditioners and selling clothes at Gikomba market.
While still in employment, Mr. Wachiuri had already established a company called Asai Safaris whose offices were at Cianda House.
He had five employees. This startup used to pick tourist from the airport to the renowned Maasai Mara. They could also hire vehicles.
The business was doing so well for some time until some of his cars got stolen. This led to the collapse of the company.
Later, Mr. Wachiuri borrowed money and bought beautiful vans to continue ferrying his tourists.
The Asai Safaris was doing well until 2007, when the number of tourists visiting Kenya drastically dropped due to the infamous post-election violence. Eventually all the cars were auctioned and he was left broke.
After the death of Asai Safaris, he hired a yard, named it Asai Motors and took cars which he sold for a commission until his manager started stealing from him.
It became tough such that he could not manage to pay his rent let alone his employees. Finally he advertised the yard in the newspaper and sold it for Ksh. 2M.
At that time, Optiven was still running but it majored in selling stationaries.
In 2008, Mr. Wachiuri left formal employment and decided to establish another company dealing in property as he sought to stabilize. It is at this time that he registered Darlex Investments, an agency which was involved in marketing property owned by various agencies.
Since he was good in marketing, the first deal he sold a property worth Ksh 70 million on a 10% commission agreement amounting to Ksh 7 million.
The customer paid for the property, but immediately after the payment, the man who had given George the contract switched off his phone and warned George to never call him. The Ksh 7 million commission was gone.
It was in the same year he lost the deal that he decided to use his lifetime saving of Ksh, 5 Million to buy land and venture back into real estate.
What he did not know was that this was the beginning of yet another traumatizing moment. He met a conman who promised to sell him some good genuine land.
After purchasing the said land, Mr.Wachiuri discovered that he had just been conned. The land was not clean. The land seller vanished into thin air. He tried searching their whereabouts but till date, he has never laid an eye on them.
Depression struck. It took the mercies of God, support from his immediate family and acceptance of the situation for him to get back to his feet.
2008 was Mr. Wachiuri’s most challenging year. This is now after having lost an accumulated Ksh 12 Million, no saving, no income and no job even after his huge work experience. He made Uhuru Park his office, where he would pitch camp with his Bible, pen and paper. He kept telling God to give him money. His promise to God was that if this happened, he would use this money by sharing it with the less fortunate.
One day when he was at the Uhuru Park, Mr. Wachiuri made up his mind, to fully embark on real estate.
Some days later, he went to Kitengela and found an agent who was selling a five acre piece of land near Acacia School. This piece of property was owned by some doctor.
He recalls meeting the doctor and his wife at the Silver Springs hotel. On arrival, the doctor got very furious because of Mr. Wachiuri’s peasant-like look, from his head to toe.
God works in miraculous ways. The same doctor who disparaged George later called him for a good business deal which turned out successful. Business went on well and within three months George had sold thirty five plots.
In 2009, George did another project by the name Silver Gardens. It was forty acres. He got an idea; to talk with the bank and ask them to circulate the property to their staff. They gave him a thumbs-up, asked him to do a presentation on the property which they would circulate to their seven thousand staff. Within three months the forty acres was sold out!
He recalls how at one point he gladly discovered a staggering credit of Kshs. 20 million in his bank account. This came about because the bank agreement was that once customers signed the offer letter, they would pay for their property through the bank.
In 2014, Optiven emerged number One on Kenya’s Top 100 mid-sized companies’ awards and the best firm in Real Estate. The same year, the company was also awarded as the best in customer service. In 2017, the company was voted as a leading super brand in East Africa.
The Optiven miracle had just materialized. Since then, it has been a story of success after success with many more awards coming the firm’s way. Now, the once small supplies enterprise is a respected leader in real estate industry across East Africa offering hustle free properties to local investors.
To Whom Does George attribute his success?
George attributes his success to the faith he has in God. That is why, as he notes, his firm is just but a custodian of the revenues that it generates
Given, this is why Optiven dedicates millions of shillings to their Optiven Foundation because of the many children they are supporting from all over Kenya. All this is in relation to the commitment that George made with God at Uhuru Park.
This is just a snippet of Mr. Wachiuri’s story. Get the whole feature for free. Download here.