NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 6 – “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 he became the greatest in a country where music was not previously considered a reputable business venture.
I find him cheerful, in a relaxed mood playing with a toy car in his office which was full of trophies for his work, among them, a special award for his contribution to the gospel music at the Africa Gospel Music Awards (AGMA).
Mbugua is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Kijiji Entertainment Company, the company behind the production of multimillion shillings events that include Niko Na Safaricom Live 2013, Spread the Love festival, Village Easter/Christmas and Groove Theory Musical (the first African musical TV show that currently airs on Zuku).
On top of that, the company owns a record label dubbed Kijiji Records that has signed the likes of Kora Award winner Neema Ntalel, Dan Chizi Aceda, Rappers Astar, Rigger and Juliani among others.
So what is your yearly turnover? A question frequently asked by business journalists that he declines to answer pointing out that he likes to keep his competitors guessing.
“In showbiz making in the range of zero 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 said.
Mbugua urges people who want to pursue entrepreneurship to enter into something that they are passionate about and talented in.
“I started off as a 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 music distribution since Kenyan music was just starting up, “he says.
“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 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 break down, wondering what next, but I kept the faith,” he stated.