NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 18 – Ochieng Oloo is the founder and the CEO of Think Business Limited, which is currently involved in conducting banking, insurance, capital markets and even Sacco surveys and awards.
When I get to his office in Wetlands, he is busy with his laptop trying to look through this year’s final preparation for the Capital Market Awards.
Unlike the typical businessman who comes up with an idea, starts a company and sees it through to the end, Oloo understands too well the agony of watching your business – which you have toiled for, for years – collapse. And just not one, but two.
“In business every day is a learning experience. Some things you know too well but some pounce on you,” he tells me.
German-born physicist Albert Einstein said it best, that we cannot keep doing the same thing again and again expecting different results. In fact, he terms such trends as insanity.
Oloo had to put some new style in his passion cum-business to make money. When he started Think Business Limited in 2006 it was not going to be just a publishing firm like in his previous establishments. He put a financial research aspect in it and as he says, this has been the golden stroke for his success.
“You got to change with time and do things differently,” he says with a firm look.
Oloo’s passion for writing and dream to be a publisher started at a tender age and his late uncle played a great role. The latter would give him books to read, something that natured his writing skills over time. “I read my first book while in standard six. I would go pick a book from my uncle’s book shelves and read. In fact when he passed away, I inherited all his books. He also gave me my first type writer,” Oloo recalls.
Oloo attempted to write his own autobiography in form one, but realised he had not lived enough yet to tell a story. He lost pace at some point.
However after finishing university with a degree in economics, this time, Oloo managed to write a book, within three months, but which he has not published to date. “After campus the needs of life set in, so I put aside the issues of publishing. I started looking for a job. Now that I am a bit settled, I will publish it,” he says smiling.
With a combination of writing skills and economic studies from the university, the young graduate then felt he could fit so well in the media industry and to be precise, a business editor.
“One day I saw an advert on the newspaper for a position of business news editor and I applied. They called me and I even carried my book during the interview room to show the panel that I qualified. The book was not handwritten, but typed,” he says.
But despite what he terms as being too ambitious, he landed a job as a business reporter at Kenya Times. However after two years as an acting business editor, he was retrenched.
“I now started to look for another job. I realised how uncertain employment can be. What pained me at that moment was that when you agree with employer on salary, the offer letter comes with a lower figure. They usually know you are desperate for a job,” he laments.
Oloo later managed join East African Chronicles, a fresh publishing firm which was owned by renowned businessman and politician Mutahi Kagwe. At the age of 27, Oloo says he took the courage to head a young team to run the new publishing house. It was tough, but he learnt a lot of lessons which he says he applies to date. Passion, hard work and endurance.
“I have never been afraid of working long hours. I once worked three days non-stop. Everyone would leave for home in the evening and find me where I was seated the previous evening when they come in the following morning. Perhaps during the night I could catch a nap, but not for too long,” he recalls.
“I employ many people but who have no passion in what they do. Some want a salary by the end of the month. If you lack passion, you will never give it your all,” he emphasises.
East African Chronicles was his last job as an employee after working for one and a half years.
“I wanted to cool off and do my own things. I needed to make my own money.” But he did not have capital since the salary he was getting was nothing to write home about. He could hardly save.
In 1997 Oloo registered a company; Media Monarchs. He would write supplements for newspapers and get his cut from advertisers. However the company could not sustain itself since the income was seasonal, and after few months he closed it down.
In 1998, Oloo, a former colleague and another friend set up a publishing firm; Economic Intelligence Limited. They wanted to start publishing a monthly magazine but again, did not have capital.
“I remember we started by writing a book called, Nairobi Exchange Fact Book. This is because at that time there was a boom in the securities market. We later approached several advertisers and the book was published.”
The trio published a magazine by the name Market Intelligence.
“The business started on well, but I would say it was just a struggle for the eight years it lasted. We were on and off to the press. It got so frustrating in several occasions.”
For that and many reasons, he says, the business collapsed early in 2006. They parted ways.
“That was the most devastating part of my life. At some point, I got sick. I had gone back to zero,” he says with a sigh.
However as an entrepreneur, one has to keep going and not give up. Guided by this mantra, he shrugged off the failure and ventured into banking surveys and awards in the same year.
“I approached the same partners I had known during the eight years in Economic Intelligence Limited and told them what I wanted to do.
Because of the good relationship I had with them, I got 10 banks to participate in the first banking survey in 2006,”he says grinning happily.
Things started looking greener and better, and for the last six years, Oloo has something to write home about.
“Apart from the different surveys we are carrying out in the corporate world, we are also looking at doing TV productions on financial matters,” he says.
The 45-year-old entrepreneur and a father of four charming boys, has now been able to learn through his failures. He urges young entrepreneurs to learn the art of patience and make sure that they put in aesthetics in their businesses to make money.
The latest glint to catch his eye is the digital media, which he says should interest every man or woman in business.