, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 19 – After creating two successful businesses in five years, this 29-year-old entrepreneur has come a long way from the days of selling eggs and food supplies to schools, to the day when a customer asked if he could supply a tent for an event.
Eric Kinoti is the proprietor of Shades System East Africa – a company that manufactures and supplies tents, as well as Safi Sana home Cleaning Services.
Shade Systems East Africa makes about Sh150 million per annum while Safi Sana Home Cleaning Services brings home about Sh3 million every year.
Kinoti says the journey has been long, exciting and hard but full of lessons that he could not learn from anywhere else.
“Capital was my biggest problem. I went to see a shylock and it was a terrible idea. I even had my stuff auctioned when I did not pay on time… I would not want anyone to go through that,” he said.
He said entrepreneurship is a journey, not a one-off get rich scheme.
“I see young people juggling from one business idea to another just because they hear the idea has huge returns, yet they can’t see tangible returns in either of those ideas – you cannot be rich in a day. You have to accept that entrepreneurship is a process,” he said.
He said that entrepreneurs should be prepared to face the challenges and not run away from them.
What are some of the failures he encountered that others could learn from?
He says people should be keen in doing their business, and not to trust in people.
“Many are the times the people I trusted with money ran away with it, others used the ideas I shared with them – as an entrepreneur listen more than you speak.”
I also was too quick in decision making, especially when the deal was too good, and as they say, if the deal is too good, think twice. Make sure you are sober every time you make a decision,” he said.
He also confessed that opening up the Safi Sana Home service was premature and urged entrepreneurs to grow one idea at a time.
“The returns of Safi Sana are very low. I felt as if Safi came earlier than it should have, that’s why it’s not making the money it should have. However we are planning on restructuring it and also opening up a web portal on home improvement solutions where all home improvement solutions will be under one roof,” he said.
He says the web portal will be up and running in January.
“We have already registered the site. People who offer home improvement services will pay to be part of the portfolio. I will also want to gain from advertising,” he explains.
He says entrepreneurs should focus on creating their own brand, instead on running for profits.
“I know it’s hard, but it’s first important to create credibility, a strong foundation… a base, then you can proceed to another business,” he said.
What is next for the entrepreneur?
“I want money to work for me, in the next two years I want to hit the Sh1 billion mark; then I will sit down and enjoy the fruits as I re- focus. My role Model is Dr Chris Kirubi. I follow his steps and I seek to be in his league in the next three years,” he says.
The entrepreneur still yearns for more.
“My day begins at 4am with spending time with God. I am in the office by 5am. I am driven by my desire to achieve more, and to face all the challenges that come my way,” he said.
Kinoti now says he wants to open a bag manufacturing service dubbed Bagbase Kenya.
“Bagbase Kenya is our new subsidiary. We will be manufacturing all kinds of bags, from college bags, to school bags, laptop bags, clutch bags, leather bags and even men bags,” Kinoti told Capital FM Business.
He has already invested about Sh1.5 million in the new business and targets to make about Sh100 million a year from it.
“This is in part of expanding product portfolio. We have made a web portal for it; we are targeting to sell the bags in bulk in the region,” he said.
He urges all entrepreneurs to start small and start now.
“Don’t wait until you have millions because it might never happen, begin with what you have, if it is Sh5,000 register your company and see things flow as they say, where there is a will there is a way,” he said.
He maintains that brand awareness is a key factor that defines the success of an enterprise.
His clients for the Shades System business include USAID, Toyota Kenya, Bata Company, East African Breweries Limited among other respected institutions in the country.
He plans to list the Shades Systems Company on the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) in coming years.
With the government launching the Sh6 billion programme dubbed UWEZO Fund to support youth and women enterprises more entrepreneurs will be realised.
The resources under the UWEZO Fund will be disbursed directly to beneficiaries through the Constituency Development Fund framework, under the administration of committees that have been established at each constituency.
The government has also set aside 30 percent of government procurement to the youth, women and persons with disabilities.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has urged young people to take advantage of this opportunity and borrow money for investment.
The Kenya Private Sector Alliance Chairman Vimal Shah says the country needs to grow five times more in order to attain the middle income target.
Indeed for Vision 2030 to be realized more entrepreneurs need to be born.