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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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Aug - Sep 2019

Kyalo, Gathii and Their Koncepts

Kimani Patrick

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There are many articles and books that pop up on a simple online search on how to critically choose a business partner.

While it is obvious teaming up with unemployed fresh college graduate is not a consideration, the risk is even bigger when the starting capital is a borrowed Ksh 1,500 and the first dive into a mega corporate agreement delivers a Ksh 400,000 loss.

This is exactly how Cephas Gathii and David Kyalo started. Their story featured on Inversk Magazine cover of the August – September 2019 edition. Head on to this link here to start reading the magazine now.

A mutual call to meet up in Thika town was a determined move to deal with the giant of unemployment for David Kyalo a 29 years old Bachelor of Science in Human Resource Management Degree holder from Moi University, and Cephas Gathii, a 28 years old computer science and mathematics graduate from Jomo Kenyatta University of Technology and Science.

The two are the founders of Koncepts and Events who meet back in 2004 in Thika High School but it was not until there was a need that they synergized to earn a living and survive the high cost of living.

The duo started off with an IT company, Afrique Ventures, which majored in developing websites for schools and other small businesses. When not developing websites for their clients they would walk around Nairobi city seeking to find   anyone who was in need of business cards and company logos so they could design for a small fee.

“We could to sit at the Kenyatta University food court and help ourselves with the campus Wi-Fi to run our business,” says Mr. Gathii.

The business however conceived and bore a company for concepts and events development for products and organizations when they visited a prospective client and though their request to design a website for them took a rain check and they left with a better deal; to plan a kid’s festival.

Inversk Magazine Cover ( (Issue 1 – August/September 2019

Smart or Hard Workers?

“If you are working hard and smart at the same time that is a double-edged sword,” states Mr. Kyalo the CEO of Koncepts and Events who was listed on the Top 40 under 40 men list in 2016. Mr. Kyalo says that in their business they are on toes to work hard smart and hard to outsmart competitors and changes in the technology sector.

Yet, at the on onset of the business partnership the pair was marked with hard but not smart results as they lost close to 400,000KSH after they executed the kid’s festival as demanded by their client -a huge corporate business in Nairobi.

It was after the well-attended sponsored event that they realized that the sponsored event was not to pay back the money they had borrowed from friends to organize the event leave alone yield profit. The grand mistake was as a result of communications which were done on Email ignoring the signing of the deal which required a written and contract.

“Our mistake was our big break and our major retainers came from this event.” Points out Kyalo

Having been classmates in High School and even participating in the competitive Science Congress Contexts as a team while in form three and emerged third at Provincial level, the team eyed for a bigger price as a reward for cutting ties was at zero guarantee.

The hard work applied on the well planned and executed open to public kid’s festival, had a ripple effect on the market earning them referrals and attracting clients of all cadres including World Bank, Mountain Mall, Garden city among others. Through these events they were able to pay back the borrowed money and made to a near KSH5 million turn over in the 2015/2016 fiscal year.

“Some of the World Bank’s staff had attended our event and recommended us to their bosses,” said Gathii who was also listed in the Daily Nation top 40 under 40 men in 2017.

Rebranding

Since its inception in 2014, Afrique faced a brand misinterpretation where people easily confused the contents in the package with Travel and Tours Company, making them shy away from the brand. Like many entrepreneurs’ hunt for profit, the company had to face-lift by rebranding to Koncepts and Events, a name that say it all, in order to penetrate the market and attract more germane clients.

Reinventing the wheel is a risk that Events Companies suffer through handling different clients with same needs.

Hitherto, the success of Koncept and Events is attributed to a great team of young talented and creative personnel who are dedicated to give a unique experience, not showing up during the event, but engaging the clients from planning to completion of their event. Their oldest employee is 29 years of age. The company claims that young employees are more innovative and creative which is a vital quality in the industry.

While quality goes hand in hand with the price tag, Koncept has devised a way to deliver events with lowered pricing without sacrificing quality of events or client experience getting ahead of their competitors in the aggressive market of events.

“Our Goal is to launch and be grounded in a number of African countries in the next five year as we are looking for dominance and not only competition with a million dollars turn over,” says Kyalo.

With expertise in events management, Public Relations, marketing, live screens, décor and information technology Kyalo and Gathii are passionate and prefer events to IT business because it gives room for creativity and innovation, enabling them to create platforms where people interact with brands while brands network with brands.

The duo says that they love to be in events and have held successful World Bank Fun and Talent Day events, organized the Annual Young Entrepreneurs Expo drawing top industries and corporate among other event like press conferences, dinner parties, Annual general meetings, corporate and team building events and road shows.

Koncepts and Events have had it all figured out and they look forward to empower more than 100,000 successful SMEs by 2030 which will have fairly unraveled unemployment crises which the co-founders, who now do not regret this partnership, are victims.

This article appeared on the Aug – Sep 2019 Edition of Inversk Magazine. Head on to this link here to start reading the magazine now.

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Reuben Kimani Crowned the African Business Personality

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Reuben Kimani CEO, Username Investment Ltd was crowned the 2019 African Business Personality Award at the Voice Achievers Award gala dinner recently held at Louis Leakey Memorial Hall in National Museums of Kenya. Reuben was awarded alongside His Excellency Raila Odinga, Governor Kivutha Kibwana, Prof. PLO Lumumba, Dr. Kizza Besigye, Hon Ababu Namwamba, Arch Bishop Arthur Kitonga among other distinguished leaders. The Deputy President William Ruto was also in attendance where he witnessed the winners receive their awards.

The Voice Achievers Awards was established in the Netherlands by The Voice Magazine and seeks to recognize outstanding men and women who have made positive impact on Africa and its people. The award is held yearly and is on its 10th Anniversary and this was the first edition of the awards in Kenya. The winners ranged from Africans and friends of Africa who in pursuit of their businesses and services to humanity, have distinguished themselves in various fields of human endeavor across the African continent.

I thank God, my family, Username Investments Team, our clients and stakeholders for believing in me. I am humbled by this recognition of our efforts in making property ownership inclusive for everyone regardless of their income. Our desire as Username Investments has always been to provide Kenyans living locally and abroad with a place they can call home at affordable prices. We have been in the industry for over 6 years and I am proud that we have impacted thousands of clients across the formal and informal sectors and especially the youth”, Reuben Kimani said as he received his trophy.

Reuben Kimani was accompanied by Username staff members who cheered him for his outstanding leadership.

The proportion of Kenyan youth to the population stands at 20.3%, the highest in Africa and among the highest globally according to the US-based Population Reference Bureau. This population has been faced with unemployment and I am glad that Username Investments has created employment to over 50 directly and 500 indirectly employed in our three offices; two in Nairobi and one in Nakuru”, Reuben continued.

Reuben Kimani, CEO, Username Investment Ltd. receiving his award as The 2019 African Business Personality at the 2019 Voice Achievers Award Ceremony

As the co-founder and CEO of Username Investments, Reuben believes in being impactful in the society by focusing on ideas and work that radically transform people’s lives. His mantra is to get important things done and done fast. Housing being a basic necessity of every human being alongside food and water, he has led the Company to make properties deliberately affordable with prices as low Ksh 199,000 which are also value-added with a perimeter fence, estate gate, graded access roads, water and electricity making them ready for immediate development. This has made great contribution in the Affordable Housing Agenda, one of the 4 key pillars of the government development agenda that aims at providing affordable homes to Kenyans who have been experiencing prolonged renting periods especially in the urban areas.

To all young people in Africa, take action and do something. Talent, knowledge and big talk is useless without action”, Reuben concluded by encouraging young people to do something that will have an impact in their lives.

Username Investment Limited Team together with the CEO, Reuben Kimani, after he won The 2019 African Business Personality Award at the Voice Achievers Awards

Through his leadership, the Company has accomplished over 37 projects, issued over 6,000 title deeds to clients living both in Kenya and the diaspora. His efforts have seen the Company bag accolades across the industry for outstanding performance including; Top 100 Midsized Company Award, Real Estate SME of the Year, Best Land and Investment Company among others. As an individual he has bagged Diversity and Inclusion Business Executive Champion Award, Entrepreneur of the Year by Kenya Professional Realtors Association (KPRA) and JKUAT Alumni Achievement Award for his achievements post-graduation.

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Aug - Sep 2019

Big Dreams and The Long Road for Martin Kibote

Kimani Patrick

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For all of Martin Kibote’s achievements over the past 7 years, the founder of Mediabox Advertising believes in keeping his feet on the ground and having a clear vision for the future.

In a span of 7 years, he has transformed Mediabox Advertising’s simple idea to one of East Africa’s most trusted advertising agencies among blue chip companies and SMEs in the region.

To start with, Martin Kibote may seem like just another down-to-earth lad, but don’t be fooled. The 29-year-old Murang’a native is smart as they come. He’s also a lifelong learner who learns from his own mistakes, reading books, watching youTube videos, benchmarking, attending industry forums and events. He also boasts to have strong mentors around him.

His departure, however, was not one of a kind – “it was out of desperation,” he says. He’d just secured a greener pasture in September 2011 to work as a marketing executive at an agency. That required him to give a two weeks’ notice to his then employer.

So how did the Murang’a born son skyrocket East Africa’s go to advertising agency from his humble backpack into the big league without college education?

When the two weeks’ notice period expired, Martin packed from his boss to start a career in a company of his dream – which also offered a better pay. This was not to happen. On his reporting day, the HR asked him to go home and wait for to be called. Apparently, the MD (who was to sign the employment letter) was away and Martin had to wait till he’s back.

The wait was longer than expected, until today “I’m still waiting for the call.” Martin says. “That is how I lost my job.”

“For days, I could pass by and camp at the station where I was supposed to work, in order to familiarize myself with the colleagues and work environment.”

After two weeks of follow ups, nothing was forthcoming. His emails and calls went answered. It is then that Martin decided to go and do his own stuff. “I had a wife and a child at home who required my support. There was no way I could continue waiting to be called.”

Luckily for Martin, he had worked as a marketing executive in an advertising, branding and printing for two and a half years. Clients from his previous employment could call him for projects which he executed on freelance. “That is how I started out, working from home and with zero capital.”

The First Break

A couple of weeks after losing his job, someone from Turkey wanted to run a media campaign in Kenya and needed someone to organize that for him. A friend vouched for Martin. They met at Hilton.

At the meeting, Martin was brutally honest. He confessed that he’d left his previous employment and was now working on freelance. Surprisingly, the client didn’t mind about that. “As long as you deliver, we don’t care.” Martin got the job.

“I did the billboards, booked TV adverts and newspaper adverts and the client was very happy.”

The margin from the project was good enough to afford Martin his bills for two months as well as allow him time to brainstorm. It was then that he decided to dip his two legs and venture on his own. He registered Mediabox Advertising in November 2011.

The Growing Pains

As many startup CEOs attest, certain growing pains are par for the course when your business starts.

For Martin, growing from a briefcase business to setting up his office was not easy. Initially, everything was done from a cybercafé – to print quotations, invoices, delivery notes et cetera. All he needed was to design them from his mini laptop and go to print. He could also joyride at his friends in their offices in Nairobi’s downtown.

His first office was co-shared with a friend in Westlands in January 2012. The friend gave Martin a work station at a cost of Ksh 10,000 a month. For the amount, he could get the work station, internet and cleaning services.

The office did not last for long. The friend who had shared the officed closed after a disagreement with his business partner. Martin went home for two more months.

While this happened, his business was also growing and he decided to get his own office. It was at this point Martin also decided to hire a first employee – an administrative assistant. This move allowed him to delegate some of administrative tasks so he could concentrate on building the businesses.

On the marketing bit, referrals from the clients he’d worked with came in handy. “I had also created rapport with my suppliers and they could supply for me on credit as we wait for the client to pay.”

To keep costs to the lean side, he started out with contractors and casual workers whom he could hire and pay based on a need basis.

Taking off some chips,

According to Martin, who has now grown his business from zero to 10 full time employees, working with people you know well and hiring on a need basis is the perfect recipe to ensuring a business success.

Martin also advises that “when you’re hiring someone, you need to first understand their background and also the needs to be filled in your company. There has to be a perfect match between the two.”

For Mediabox, Martin employs people he has worked with or those he has nurtured in his firm as interns. This guarantees that they understand the industry well and also, he is assured of their capabilities. It also assures him that they will be loyal to the brand he has worked hard to build and deliver to its promise.

To advance his skills and knowledge, Martin has taken short courses in Marketing, Brand Communications and Advertising courses. He is also currently pursuing an executive course at Strathmore Business School.

Martin attributes his company’s success (which now has a workshop in Nairobi downtown and an agency office in Westlands), can be attributed to being frugal, resilience, constant learning and having a strong vision. “And this is just the beginning.” He says.

With this, Mediabox grown beyond itself and is privileged to have clients such as Darling, MoneyGram Ea, Barcadi Martini, Heineken East Africa, Loreal, Airtel, Bosch, Viva Global, Local and International Ad and Event agencies, and many others.

Article appears on the Aug-Sep 2019 edition of Inversk Magazine. Read it here or download article.

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