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George Wachiuri – A Story of True Resilience

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He is the founder of a top-notch real estate firm that has been scooping awards, right left and center. He is also the founder and trustee of a charitable foundation that is quietly transforming numerous lives, especially the young ones, across the country. He is an astute entrepreneur, a motivational speaker, a lecturer and a family man all wrapped in the soul of one very energetic man.

Meet George Wachiuri, one of the most charismatic yet compassionate and down-to-earth Chief Executive Officers of our times. This father of three is also a renowned published author of two bestselling books: ‘Soaring like an Eagle’ and ‘Unleash your full Potential’, both of these books are available on Amazon with all their proceeds going to Optiven Foundation, a soft arm of Optiven Group, which is a company that is living up to its tag-line, making its customers and all its other stakeholders experience real, positive difference in their lives.

“Before establishing Optiven, I had 15 other successive businesses that I started but unfortunately they all ended up folding. The epitome of these sequential failures was when I lost a solid Kshs5 million to some crooks who had passed for genuine salesmen, only for me to realize later that I had been conned,” says Wachiuri.

These racketeers had offered to sell him a piece of land. But after making the requisite payments, he went back to their office only to find that they had since vacated – into thin air. “I have never heard from them since then!” he narrates.

He points out that this was the turning point in his life. He recounts: “After this incident, I was financially down. I would walk to town and after my morning engagements; I would retreat to Uhuru Park, a public park in Nairobi’s central business district, which had become my default ‘office’. Every time that I was at this park, I would always make sure that I had a bible where I would draw divine inspiration plus a notebook and a pen which I would use to map out the ideas that I had.”

Wachiuri says that during this very tough time, there were only two pillars that kept holding him up – his wife, Mary Wacuka and God. “These were the only two beings that kept me moving. Were it not for them, I could have probably sunk into an awful depression,” he reveals.

Wachiuri, who now sits as a board member at the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) and who is also part of the board directors at the Kenya Private Developers Association (KPDA), where he serves as an advisor at the land sector board, says that he has always looked back at those low moments of his life to fire him up to become an even more successful person.

“I always believe that we are shaped by the experiences that we go through in life. It is therefore prudent to make sure that whatever you go through, you learn the lessons so that you do not go back there,” he says. The experience of being conned, for example, later gave me the kick that I needed, to establish a property selling company that is genuine and that can be trusted by Kenyans.

He notes that having been born in a family that experienced abject poverty, he just had this inner drive in him ever since he was a young boy that one day; he would make it big and help uplift his family’s standards of living, especially his mother. He also believes that it is this paucity-soaked background that always nudges him to assist the less fortunate in the society, hence the birth of Optiven Foundation.

“My father passed away when I was still a small boy and soon after, we had to seek manual labour in our village in order to survive. We would wake up very early in the morning, accompany our mother to till our rich neighbours’ land for a small pay, then dash to school,” he says.

Perhaps these early experiences are the ones that also taught this Certified Public Accountant – CPA (K) holder, to be both resilient and be a go-getter, especially on matters entrepreneurship.

“Even when I went to the University of Nairobi, where I was pursuing an undergraduate degree in commerce – marketing option – I had to provide my own school fees. This means that I didn’t enjoy the life pleasures that were common with my university colleagues. I had to come up with a way of earning as much money as possible, while at the same time, creating time to study so that I am able to balance both ends,” he says.

As a result, Wachiuri would do laundry work for his comrades at a fee. He also acquired a Yashica camera, which he would use to take photos of fellow students at a fee in order to make an extra coin.

“On top of this, I also converted my cubicle into a little library where I would stock many old but relevant magazines and books and lend them out to fellow students for a small charge,” he says.

And with all these entrepreneurial engagements, the University of Nairobi noted this young man’s efforts, and bestowed him an award: The 1997 Entrepreneur of the Year, University of Nairobi (UoN). This award was to later become the magnet that starting attracting numerous other awards, towards the way of this man who was born and brought up in Labura, one of the driest places in Nyeri County.

Fast-forward a few decades later. Under his stewardship, Optiven Group has won many coveted awards amongst them: Winner, best in use of Digital Solutions by Land Agents – 2ND Annual Digital Inclusion Awards (2018), The Most Outstanding Innovation in Top 100 Mid-Sized Companies (2017/2018), Exceptional Human Resource (HR) Practices in Top 100 Mid-Sized Companies (2017/2018), Number One Real Estate Firm in Land Selling- SuperBrands (2017/2018).

Other awards include: The Fourth Best Real Estate Company in East Africa, SuperBrands East Africa (2017/2018); Number 68 out of the top 1000 Leading Super Brands across all industries in East Africa, SuperBrands East Africa (2017/2018); and Number One in Top 100 Mid-Sized Companies Survey (2014/2015).

As a Person, Wachiuri has over the years, scooped many awards and appreciations include: 1st Runners Up – National Diversity & Inclusion Awards (DIAR Awards) (2014/2015); Best Entrepreneur – Africa – Diaspora Entertainment Awards & Recognition (D.E.A.R) awards (2017); Executive Leadership Network Appreciation – Business Leaders Forum (2016); Mashujaa Awards (USA) – Best & Most Innovative Entrepreneur, Business & Entrepreneurship (2015); and KEPSA & Ministry of Devolution and Planning honorary recognition for invaluable contribution as a mentor to Kenya Youth Empowerment Project (KYEP) Training and internship Program (2014).

In order to steer his Optiven ship towards the safe routes of the deep blue ocean, Wachiuri understands the need for a Chief Executive Officer who is well versed with matters business, and it is in this vain that he had to make sure that he has pursued a Masters of Business Administration from University of Nairobi. He is currently Pursuing PhD Degree at Jomo Kenyatta University of Technology (JKUAT).

Send your feedback to this writer: muchiriwamuchoki@gmail.com

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  • George K. Wachiuri, Founder and CEO for Optiven Group

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Business

Eddy Njoroge Elected The First African Boss Of The International Organization For Standardization

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Eddy Njoroge has become the first Africa’s president of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) after inauguration ceremony held on 21st Sept 2019 at International conference centre in Cape Town, South Africa. Eddy Njoroge was elected as president during ISO‘s general assembly in October 2018 held in Geneva, Switzerland.

ISO is an international standard setting body composed of representatives from various national standards organizations. It was founded on 23rd February 1947 and it seeks to promote worldwide proprietary, industrial and commercial standards.

Eddy Njoroge has served as Chief executive of Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KENGEN) and a board chair for Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE). Eddy Njoroge took over from Canadian John Walker.

“I am fully prepared to champion use of standards in our everyday lives.” Eddy Njoroge affirmed. Eddy Njoroge has promised to spearhead participation  of developing economies on global trade by championing standards formulation.

“Standard formulation should no longer be a preserve of a developed countries that are later forced in developing countries denying them global market access. We will adopt a participatory approach that ensures developing nations are involved in standard formulation activities ” Eddy Njoroge added.

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Entrepreneurs

24-Year-Old Hannie Maye Takes Fashion Design by Storm in Somalia

Kimani Patrick

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Born in the United Arab Emirates about 24 years ago, Hannie Maye moved to Kenya at an early age to pursue her studies.

“Fashion Design runs in my blood since young age,” she says. “I had an obsession with fashion, particularly when I saw Tom Ford and Sally Karago on tv I was inspired and I believe they are major part of me becoming fashion and designer during my upbringing before I started this business.”

The global citizen is now the founder, lead designer and namesake of the Somalia-based fashion design company – Hannie Maye (HM).

For Hannie, she never dived right from the beginning. After high school in 2011, she moved to Malaysia to further her studies where she studied Accounting and later flew to Mogadishu, Somalia to start her business in 2015.

Her entrepreneurial journey started out 4 years ago in Mogadishu. It was a bold move, she says, “a very tough time for a Somali youth to even think of designing clothes because of the war.” But this could not deter Hannie from stepping into her passion and turning it into a business, “and right there I made up my mind and decided to move to Somalia and took up on its development, changing the mindset of the youth, changing some young girls lifestyle while educating them the importance of the fashion world.

Becoming the first fashion designer in Somalia wasn’t just a road to success but it was truly tough journey for Hannie. However, she sees it as a dream come true and she is proud to inspire many youths in Somalia who are becoming more involved in fashion industry.

Her company which now dresses top Somali women business and political leaders is poised for the international market. Her vision is to go global and dress men and women from all walks of life. “I just want to reach my dreams and expand my company and my clothing line to compete with international fashion designing companies.” With this, she assures me that it will have to come from her hard word and dedication. “the future more is yet to come,” she expresses her faith.

It has not been a smooth ride though for Hannie, “One of my challenging moments was when I conceptualized the first fashion show in Somalia. I got rejected each time I approached to book a conference hall. Everyone feared extremism because in our community when someone hears the word “fashion show” they think of bikini or women getting naked. But that is not what I was up to, and no one could agree with me.”

To overcome this and many other hurdles, Hannie says loving what she does, holding herself accountable and constantly learning from her mistakes keeps her going.

Her passion is also a great motivation. “I’m on a mission and nothing is going to stop me.”

“Fear is what holds many entrepreneurs back,” she says, “and if you don’t learn to overcome your own fears then nothing will succeed. I don’t let my fears come my way because am promoting my passion  in a developing country where by extremist do not allow women to work let alone dressing stylish, so am taking huge risk for my business and I believe I can overcome all my fears as long as I believe in myself and with God beside me.”

To win the game of business, Hannie advises other entrepreneurs to have a strategic mindset, be creative and engage into constant learning while embracing failure in the process. For her, she engages in meeting new people through networking events, traveling, socializing outside her normal circles, and going online to see what’s new. Having a strong vision to where you want to go and what you want to achieve is something that she also advises as a must have for entrepreneurs.

To get in touch with Hannie Maye kindly send her a whatsApp message or follow her on Facebook.

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From the Village to the World, There’s Not Stopping for Wanjuhi Njoroge

Kimani Patrick

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Being brought up in a small village at the foot of Mount Kenya didn’t prevent the 29 year old Wanjuhi Njoroge from being a successful entrepreneur. Today, Wanjuhi is the CEO of The Web Tekies LTD and RootEd Africa (both which have now been rebranded to Nelig Group).

Her father nurtured her entrepreneurial and leadership skills. She sold eggs and plums mostly after her KCPE. “It was my dad who discovered and nurtured leadership and the entrepreneurial skills in me. I was only 12 and without prior business experience, but my father’s great wisdom guided me through it all.” Says Wanjuhi.

Wanjuhi vividly remembers her first mistake in business while she was still young, “A kilo of sukumawiki (kales) was KES 7 by then, but this woman came and requested that I sell to her a kilo at KES 5 instead. She was poor and said that her children had been sent home for school fees. I knew she had been struggling and so I decided to sell the kales at KES 5. My father wasn’t amused when I narrated the story later that evening but he made me understand why I had to be firm in business.”

Wanjuhi says this early exposure is what motivated her to going into business and her father remains one of her greatest support.

Wanjuhi went into employment at 19 while she was still in college. “I didn’t like it, it was too rigid and constraining. I didn’t have the freedom to spread my wings,” says Wanjuhi.

This dissatisfaction in employment experience saw her go through a series of jobs in different companies. “The longest I stayed in a job was 6 months.” She says.

Her life changed when she went to work in a startup, founded by a young man in his 20’s. “At first I thought his parents were rich. But surprisingly his parents were not rich. This was my very first experience with a young person who was running their own business. I realized that it was very possible for one to quit and run their own business.”

“In 2011 I went to my parents and told them that I was quitting employment to start my own business. My mother didn’t take it lightly. She demanded to see my bank statements. She meant well. I decided to start my business as a side hustle while I worked full-time and took part time classes. My parents   eventually approved of my resignation and my    company opened its doors in January 2013.”

Today, the University of Nairobi graduate who pursued a double major in Sociology and  Communication is a full time entrepreneur. Wanjuhi, together her with her business partner, Eva Njoki, have founded two companies; The Web Tekies Ltd, which is a media conglomerate that assists startups, organizations, individuals as well as groups tell their stories online and offline while RootEd Africa is a social enterprise she founded out of her passion for ICT, mentorship and education.

RootEd Africa seeks to transform lives in rural and remote parts of Africa through ICT and non-curriculum activities such as sports and mentorship. RootEd Africa works with primary schools and the local communities around these schools with an aim of eradicating school dropout cases especially among teenage and adolescent girls who often dropout due to teenage pregnancies and early marriages.

Wanjuhi is also a Vital Voices Fellow 2015, a Global Shaper with the World Economic Forum and the youngest member of the Nyeri County Affirmative Action Social Development Fund (AASDF) Committee. Ann is also a Board Member & School Patron at Kabaru Primary School.

Her advice to young people who want to venture into business is to have a passion, patience and be ready to invest time in learning that thing they want to do. “Start from where you are, from zero and learn your way up.” She advises.

When not courting her clients, Wanjuhi is on the road for adventure, reading a book, watching a documentary or writing on her blog  .

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Article first appeared at Inversk Magazine on June 20 2016

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