The moment that you stop dreaming, you will be on your way to a sure death. That is why you must keep dreaming; to become successful, to become a better person than you are today.
Most institutions also have their dreams too; this is what they call, their, ‘vision’. Here at Optiven, our vision is to be the pacesetters in social economic transformation.
For starters, dreaming gives you a purpose in life. If you have no purpose in life, you are like a ship that is in the middle of some vast ocean. Any direction that you will take will still take you somewhere, not necessarily towards the right destination, unfortunately. Having a purpose in life is what makes you wake up every morning, to go out there and achieve it, no matter any obstacle that may be on the way.
Secondly, dreaming activate our inner energy. You have so much energy, such a high capacity to achieve super great success in your life. Having a dream will make you become more self-motivated and it will excite those stored energies which will spring forth, to some well channelled, positive use.
On the other hand, dreaming help us to go beyond tangible things. By just having a dream and a good perspective about life, you will be able to start thinking beyond tangible things such help us to look beyond wealth and money and power
Given, dreams awaken our capacity to innovate. You will be pushed to find a shorter way of doing things. Dreams enhance our focus so much such that you are able to focus on what matters.
At the same time, dreaming enhances personal commitment. You are able to commit to what you do, and it gives you impetus. You take risks; you go out of your way to stay on track.
Again, dreaming will help you scare yourself; to jump outside your comfort zone and to think at a much higher level. As a matter of principle, if you are not doing things that will give you a few goose bumps, you are either; not learning or you are getting bored by your predictable line of doing things. Learn to do at least one thing that is slightly uncomfortable daily. This could be as small as making a phone call or sharing your art with someone.
Finally, dreaming will push you to do things in a more effective way. You will rise up early every day. It will push you to go back to school and earn that extra academic paper; it will make you attend all your meetings in the time, it will enhance your capacity to be more patient, especially when things don’t seem to come your way as promptly as you would wish.
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George Wachiuri – A Story of True Resilience
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).
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Safe Joe’s Complex World: How Passion and Resilience Helped This Entrepreneur to Set up His Music Production Firm
This story appeared in the January 4th, 2018 issue of Inversk Magazine.
His is an amazing story about bridging passion to profit: Safe Joe, he emerged among the finalists of The Blaze BYOB 2017. It captures the heart as it clearly reveals and touch on the aspect of many entrepreneurs struggling, yet very passionate of their gifting.
What could be the missing ingredient? As you read on, you are going to discover.
His birth name is Joseph Mugweru Wanja, but goes by his largely known brand name Safe Joe. He is a music producer for his Music Firm; Safecon Music and Wildlife Conservation Enthusiast.
How It All Begun:
He started out as a musician, specifically as a rapper and poet. After clearing Form 4, Safe Joe started doing music production but during this time he was observing under another music production house.
Entrepreneurship is a journey and for some, it takes much longer than others. For his case, “Music takes time, it’s not like baking a bread and selling it in the next few minutes.”
Joe had to get an alternative means to sustain himself as he continued working towards his dream. He worked at a Timber yard from 7am to 5 pm where he could earn Ksh 325 per day and continued learning and improving his music production skills through YouTube. This also translated to 3 or 4 hrs of sleep for the young musician.
When he decided to venture full time into music, he opted to start off as a freelance music producer where he would pay the music production house per hour. He would work together with his artist, oversee the whole process and give the artist the final work that would generate him around Ksh 2,000 in profits after paying the overheads.
Safe Joe’s producing talent is inborn but one has to incorporate skills, discipline and work ethic to get results. The world of producing is quite technical, from beat making, lyric composing, recording mixing and mastering, and the production, where the producer oversee the whole process.
Idea Inspiration and Clarity:
Safe Joe started learning music since his childhood, but getting into the music production was inspired by necessity because of the situations he was going through.
He was working in the Timber yard and lived in a one roomed house in Githurai under poor conditions without money then so he decided to use what he had: Music.
It was hard for him to get into production, he remembers a song he had to pay for, amounting to Kes 9,000 for one full year by contributing small amounts of Ksh 100, Ksh 200 etc. to cover the total fees.
Joe also desired to be in a space where he could help others not to go through the same struggles he went through as a startup producer.
Music production is something Safe Joe desired. The fact that he loves music, and the idea of creating something from scratch to something that you can hear and inspire someone is what inspires and drives him to keep the hustle.
A Journey of Breakdown and Breakthrough:
To summarize in one word the journey of his early beginnings: Rocky. Safe Joe started his entrepreneur journey earlier than most of his peers and age mates because it was a do or die situation. His mum passed on in 2009 when he was in Form 3 and he had been raised by a single parent. This meant he had himself to depend on.
His business faced challenges and closed down the 1st time when he was only 21. He got scared and terrified, with no idea of where to go.
Another instance was when he was moving his studio in Githurai to Hunters, a more well of and civilized place but he again closed the shop and went into a depression, moved to Eldoret but the ignition of his dream could not let him rest. He had to stand up, shake off the dust and move on. He took a whole year off from Music Production but was engaged in small projects here and there.
He was still on the move until his breakthrough came!
He Auditioned for The Blaze BYOB by Safaricom; a young entrepreneurs summit that included a TV Show and out of 1,500 participants he became a Finalist. The Blaze experience helped him to scaling his business.
Joe had developed his skills since 2013. However, the business side of it and networking was something he was working on until when he got the opportunity at Blaze.
Positive Mindset In Building a Business:
Like any other startup business, there are seasons that demands alertness in the part of the entrepreneur.
There were two occasions where Safe Joe faced closing down of his business, this was time to evaluate and look back to how far he had come. And this helped him decide to wake up, dust himself and keep life moving. He also asserts that many entrepreneurs go through these tough tests, and anyone facing such would be wise to recognize they are not the first ones to undergo through such and it’s a situation that can be overcome.
Lessons Learnt Through The Journey:
- Investing In Self: – Most young people acknowledge network as the only ingredient needed to build a successful brand. For Safe Joe, he strongly believes it starts with the person as an entrepreneur. He had instances of low times after thinking of his mum’s demise and through that course of time, he got a Chance by Wildlife; Anti-Poaching Org, to a Competition that gave him Ksh 250,000 and the first thing he thought was to furnish his house, dress well to help boost his esteem.
- Merge Your Passion With Skills:- When you have a passion, you have to put it into business. In budding himself, Safe Joe relied on Dr. Eddy, the man who produced Kapungala. A Musician should ask right questions, do research and have a business model. When you make a decision you affect the business, separate business from yourself as an independent entity. Knowing the key players in your market, he believes your Network is your Net worth, Networking and collaborations are very important.
Advice to Young Musicians:
Safe Joe advices young and novice musicians wishing to step into the music space not think of music as a hobby but more as a business. Having a business model and being disciplined will pave the way for you. “Everyone must instill discipline, work ethics and undertake what they do professionally by registering their businesses and invest time to grow them.”
Winding Up: “You are who you think you are. If you think you are a failure, you will fail definitely, if you believe in Success it becomes inevitable. Mind is a powerful tool that people do not normally use.”
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How This Kenyan Entrepreneur Build East Africa’s Real Estate Giant
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 stationary.
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.
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