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How Exposure, Hard Work and Resilience Helped Johnson Mwakazi to Build Himself

Kimani Patrick

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If background could dictate your future then that of Johnson Mwakazi could have been the worst. The joys of life of having a decent upbringing are a tale for his childhood; nevertheless, his adulthood is a total success.

Where Did Our Legend Start?

Mwakazi attributes his success to exposure and resilience. It all started way back in Kibera when he ‘said’ a poem in the presence of the director general of world health organization.

The stars were rightly placed for him. “He called me to perform the poem again in Switzerland Geneva, I have shared a table with the richest man in the world”, he says. That was his starting point and he has never looked backed ever since. Sooner than later he got a job at hot 96 FM where he mainly did voice over and was paid 4000 Kenyan shillings after six months.

“One day the producer said that they had heard enough of me on the radio and that I should try the TV. I applied for a job at citizen television without any tertiary academic qualification and I got the job.”

He had no godfathers or know anyone who knew someone else in order to get his job. Mwakazi attributes his success to his starting point, Kibera. “Coming from the largest slums in Africa made me have a clear cut of my responsibilities”, he affirms to me. “All of us have starting points, and that should move us to have a clear mindset of what we want in life.”

Who/What Has Influenced You This Far?

Exposure, it plays an important role in making us achieve our dreams or even meet our mentors in life. My mentor, who I also describe as my spiritual father, Rev Tom Otieno is one good man who helped me get into the spotlight. I first met when my mother took me to All Saints’ Cathedral church.

You do not have to meet your mentors face to face for you to be inspired. Technology has really made it easier for us to know our mentors. If your mentor is Chris Kirubi, get on YouTube and search for his talks.  Listen to them; if the first three lines do not appeal to you then he is not your mentor. Just because everyone loves him and sees him as a great person, it does not necessarily mean that he will be appealing to you.

January ‎20, ‎2017

How Can young people get mentors?

This narrows down to you as an individual. What are you looking for in a mentor?  The problem with the current youths is that most of them are pleased with the wrong behavior. They think that being cool, dressing is some ways or even talking in some tone makes you famous and admired with so many people.

Yes you might be famous for a while but that is not a long lasting heritage that you will be proud of as you age or even for your children.  Do not be mentored by someone who wants to destroy others, be mentored with people who inspire your integrity. Mentorship starts from the brain and not anywhere else.

The Journey To The Top

While he is a household name in our, Mwakazi says it was not easy for him to make it up to the top. Immediately he got a job with Citizen Television, he had to work twice harder to compete with people who were well versed and well learned in the field of journalism. He had to enroll at Daystar University.

However, this was not a walk in the park for him. He would work during the day and be in class in the evening. When I asked how he was able to overcome the challenge he simply recommended a book for me to read. Readers are leaders, as much as this may sound like a cliché it’s the truth of the matter. His main mantra is always, if you spend 10,000hours onto something that you love, you become an expert at it.

“Having a talent without fully focusing on it is a waste of time totally. You must be consistent in what you do, you should be concise. Being concise comes with a clear mind on what you want to achieve. For instance if you want to go to the gym, what do you hope to achieve after three months? Having such questions enables you to have a time slot that will ensure you do not under do it and despite the circumstances surrounding you, you need to do what you had planned to do.”

“It’s not a walk in the park or bread and butter affair; to be able to realize your dreams and live in the full splendor of your purpose. The process of making your dreams come into reality means that you are aware of the hard and tough choices you will have to make. There will be disappointments, lots of failures and more so a lot of pain. These rough times, subsequently, come and pass. Smooth seas never brought tough sailors. The moment you have that at the back of your mind, you are good to go.”

Mwakazi believes that to be great is not a childhood illusion, nevertheless, it is a feature that exists in all of us and not as believed that it is for the chosen few.

As a global business man who wants to invest into business as well as advice young entrepreneurs who want to startup businesses, Mwakazi insists that if plan A does not work not work there is plan B and there is no way you will move to plan B if you haven’t worked on plan A. You need to work with what you have, if it does not work move to the next resource.

“Resilience is the key to every business startup. Surround yourself with people whose brain works harmoniously with yours not people who compete with you. This will help you develop ideas strongly. It is important that one goes for a meet in places that allow you to think.”

Full feature on Inversk Magazine Issue 006. Head on to this link and start reading the magazine. Article first published on March 2, 2017.

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Entrepreneur. Group CEO for The Carlstic Group | Magazine Publisher (@readinversk), Copywriter & Unpublished Author. Into = 🎤📃🚵‍ #ReadInversk

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Cover Story

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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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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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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