Magazine / Entrepreneurship
Monday, 11 Jul 2016 16:32 EATjwamuyu@kenyafreepress.com
Africa and Kenya in particular, has become a center for innovation and entrepreneurship. It is against this phenomenon that prodigious youthful businessmen like Henry Maitha, CEO Hencan Group Limited, have emerged. Henry's company deals in strategic management, policy making, construction of exhibition stands, branding, public relations, and research.
His is a pure case of tenacity, hard work, discipline focus and trust in God. When I sat with Henry, nothing had prepared me for his story all I knew he had worked hard to run a company but I left with solid business lessons this young man would teach me in the two hours I talked to him.
Henry comes from a humble background. Raised by a single mother, his childhood was tough but fun. He had an uneventful school life until he graduated from A levels to join university, yet he couldn't afford the required fees. It is then he started knocking on doors seeking sponsorship. Eventually he got a willing sponsor who agreed to pay two years school fees to Kampala University and he was to raise the rest.
He attributes his business acumen to activist Boniface Mwangi whom he met in high school. He says it is Boniface who taught him survival tactics, hard work and honesty. And in few months after A levels, Henry had mastered how to survive in the streets by selling books and newspapers. A tactic he took to Uganda while undertaking his degree in communications.
“Boniface taught me my first business lessons: hard work, honesty, perseverance and discipline. He woke me up as early as 4:30am to go sell books and newspapers at Nyamakima Stage. Hawking has never been for the fainthearted; we lost count of the number of times we were arrested by City Council askaris. But what that taught me was ethics; how to be the best you can be and persistence,” he adds.
He managed to obtain his degree and subsequently secured a job in one of the local media houses, which in turn opened up an opportunity to West Africa where he worked for almost a year. It is while in Nigeria he learnt of different ideologies and lifestyles. He admits he could not cope with West Africa ideologies.
“People in Nigeria, Ghana operate very differently from us in East Africa. I often found myself feeling odd due to the different pace of life there, I could not survive long because of my beliefs and convictions. I decided to come back home and be my own boss venturing into the unknown," he told me.
Being a communications graduate, creative designs was easy to go about. In 2009, he started a multimedia company MekeyAgnus Design Studio, dealing with designing and branding. Being a greenhorn and without enough capital, the company didn’t take off as anticipated. He had to go back to the drawing board and restrategize his vision.
"I contemplated quitting many times but something kept me going, I knocked on doors, sent letters, talked to people and basically networked, until I hit my first break working with Serena Hotels exhibition in 2011," he told me, even divulging that the contract paid him Sh670,000. “I hadn't gone to the bank for a week, so they (Equity Bank) called me alerting me of the money deposited in my account,” he say.
This fortune came with important lessons on the prudent use of his earnings. His most valuable lessons have come from interacting with successful people through whom he has learnt that one should never use the business proceeds to pay his rent or buy a car, thus learnt to draw a salary and re invest into the business.
Henry abhors shortcuts, he says most business empires have failed due to acts of dishonesty;short cuts and greed. “In efforts to master entrepreneurship I have had tempting opportunities. He ponders how a single lawsuit can crush me down.
He advises that the best entrepreneurial practice is managing contacts, loyalty, giving your clients your best, committing to them and in turn they give you new contacts thus saving you the headache of finding clientele.
Maitha is passionate about Africa and its progress. He advises that Africa has failed to develop not because we don’t have the capacity to grow but because we don’t invest in original ideas.
He advises young people who would like to set up their own business to be patient, persistent, believe in self, invest in Knowledge and work hard.
“Do not live your life on basis of someone else, take pleasure in yourself, be mysterious. The moment you start pleasing people you lose yourself, you will definitely make decisions based on them.
He says that entrepreneurs are not born but are made adding that there are No specific traits that define an entrepreneur but most people who have succeeded are confident, self-motivated, tenacious and do not conform to status quo they do things differently set out on unknown paths and conquer.
Henry holds a Masters degree from Africa Leadership University among other academic qualifications. He hopes by 2020 to be spending a maximum of six hours in the office, the rest of the day he will be playing golf, managing contacts and learning the avenues of success in business.
Judy is a contributing writer for the Kenya Free Press