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"Don’t be afraid to borrow. Debt is not always a bad thing"

“After graduating from the University of Nairobi with a Bachelor of Science, Physics, in 2005, two friends and I decided to start a homestay business, which we registered in 2006. At the time of inception, we were all employed and planned to run it as a side hustle. Big mistake! The business was inexpensive to start because all we needed was the registration fee and some posters. We advertised through word of mouth and online platforms.

That year, we got a contract with the Ministry of Youth to find host homes for about 250 youth who were attending the Youth Enterprise (YES) Summit - that is the moment we realized what we had got ourselves into. We didn’t sleep for the next 72 hours. We had to work for our employers during the day and deal with hosts and guests at night. Although we made a profit from this gig, we realized that we couldn’t achieve operational excellence, and even though we had employed two staff to help in the daily operations of the business, managing it from a distance was quite a tussle.

We agreed that it couldn’t run as a side hustle and that we needed to learn more about operating a business. We would also find out that one of the employees had gone behind our backs and started a company offering similar services and was using the company’s resources to get her own clients.

We called it quits after operating for about a year and a couple of months.

In 2010, armed with better business skill, Sh 200,000 and more focus, I saw an opportunity and decided to grab it. I quit my job and started an ICT company, Talinda East Africa, an IT company offering Wireless Networking and advanced Telephony systems to businesses, high-end hotels and education institutes.

For the first six months, I was the sole employee, with my car as the center of operation. In January 2011, I hired my first employee.

Within a year after establishment, our advanced voice systems expertise was used by a leading service provider to launch Kenya’s first Hosted IP PBX telephony system for businesses. The system was delivered in conjunction with a German manufacturer and French system integrator. This earned us some good cash that capitalized the business towards growth and enabled us to hire four more employees and move to our own office.

Although the entrepreneurship journey has had its twists and turns, I’m proud of how far Talinda has come. We are the currently the leading reseller and system integration service provider of IT, Telecommunications and Audio Visual solutions for mid-size businesses in East Africa.

Why the business failed:

The first business failed because my focus was split between my job and the business. You cannot manage a growing business from a distance.

How I bounced back:  

I came back to the world of business focused on one thing. My time, effort, energy and money were all now focused on the success of the business.

Training has also been a major part of the journey. I have taken entrepreneurship courses at Stanford University, Vital Voices, and Strathmore University. An entrepreneur never stops learning.

Lessons learned:

  • Until you can completely delegate duties, don’t manage your business from a distance. Also, seek the best entrepreneurial support group.
  • Taking care of yourself and your family will do wonders for your business.
  • You need an accountability partner, someone you can share your achievements and challenges with.
  • Don’t be afraid to borrow. Debt is not always a bad thing.

Narrated by: Eunice Wafula - Managing Director Talinda East Africa

Source: Daily Nation THURSDAY OCTOBER 26 2017


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