“Thank God I made it, beautiful wife with a killer smile an S-Class Mercedes, when I look in the mirror it says I’m the greatest, I’m the boss they call me CEO….” sings out the mellow voice musician Kanji Mbugua in his Hit track Dream Again on my phone as I was on my way to his office to find out how the musician turned into an entrepreneur.
I find him cheerful, in a relaxed mood in his office adorned with with trophies, among them a special award for his contribution to the gospel music at the Africa Gospel Music Awards (AGMA).
As the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Kijiji Entertainment Company, Kanji has been responsible for the production of multimillion events that include Niko na Safaricom Live 2013, Spread the love festival, Village Easter / Christmas and Groove theory (the first Kenyan musical TV show that currently airs on Zuku).
In addition, Kanji oversees Kijiji Records that has signed talented artistes like Kora Award winner Neema Ntale, Dan Chizi Aceda, Rapper Astar, Juliani among other performing artistes.
So what is your year turnover? a question frequently asked by business Journalists that he declines to answer.
“In showbiz making in the range of 0 to 300 million a year is small time business and we are in the small time business, our aim is to hit the one billion mark in the next two years,” he modestly answers.
He says making his talent a business venture has been an exciting and rewarding experience terming it a great training ground.
“It took me seven years to finally figure out what exactly I was good at, what I should focus on and what worked out for me. I tried many things, failed in many but finally got home. Passion drove me, I loved the arts, I knew that is what I was created for.”
He urges people who want to pursue entrepreneurship to enter into something that they are passionate about and talented in.
“I started off as performing artiste, but I wasn’t happy as just being technical, I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I wanted to change the industry, so I started with distribution. I found a big gap in distribution since the Kenyan Music was just starting up it was crazy, with only three people on my side and limited capital it was hard to maintain that business. It never brought the returns we were expecting so we had to change the line of business,” he explained.
The songster would then venture in a record label, that birthed the Kijiji events.
“Not all events were successful, especially spread the love festival never brought any returns to the investment. Many times I would breakdown, wondering what next, but I kept the faith,” he stated.
He says the more mistakes he kept doing, the more he knew how to do it right, realizing that he needed a plan, a strategy so he put together a plan, created a corporate structure as well as a governance structure.
“I realized I was good at events and planned to concentrate on that. I decided to plan a huge launch of my Album to launch my new business agenda, and it was such a huge success, more business kept coming from then,” he noted.
The initial staff of two has grown to 50.
“Money was not my motivation, passion was, and has always been, and the Impact I am having on other people. You see, my vision is to create world class entertainment that has an impact on the community. There is nothing as good as living a fulfilled life and doing what you love to do,“ he says.
He asks people not to run away from their passion pointing out that it always catches up with them, ”The things you are good at and passionate about define your purpose…go for that and you will not go wrong.”
It hasn’t been a rosy journey for the father of two.
“Having a plan and being able to assess is something I learned early on. If you aim at nothing, you will hit it consistently. Also, build a network of advisors, a lot of entrepreneurs do their business in isolation, making mistakes that can be avoided,” Kanji advices.
He says people should always have something beyond money that is motivating them.
“Don’t be scared of doing small things even when you dreams are big. It’s the small things that make up the big things,” he advised.
He says Groove Theory season two is part of his bucket list this year as well as growing entertainment properties.
“We have also partnered with All that Jazz festival so we will behind the production part of it. Next Generation conference (a three day concert) is also part of the list this year.”
He however still insists that the push for local content is still not good enough and urged for more local content to be enforced as well as copyright issues.
“We have come a long way, who knew we could get a paycheck from royalties? The future looks bright and with the digital migration, we are keen to see how it will affect our business,” he says.
(By Kennedy Njoroge)