Compiled by Lilian Wamaitha
Young. Innovative. Ambitious. Meet 24 year old Tilas Onyango. The founder and owner of Topwatch Security company that deals with not only securing residential estates but also providing service for concerts and political campaigns.
He was only 21 when he started his company and looking back three years later, he is proud of what he has achieved.
In an interview with the Standard, Silas revealed that his passion for security came from growing upon in a sort of security oriented family. His father was a major in the army and retired last year. This he says set him up with a determination to help protect people without necessarily joining the army.
While he may seems like a focused young man now, Tilas admits that growing up, he did not always know what he wanted in life.
He was expelled from two schools and finally sat for his KCSE at Obara High School in Rongo, Nyanza. This was despite the fact that he was suspended from the school twice.
“The principal always told my dad that there was something special in me which is why he was willing to allow me sit for my final exams there,” he says.
When the results came back and the principal informed his dad that he had managed to score a C, his father did not believe and had to go to the school himself to confirm that indeed he had managed to get a good grade.
Something happens when you realize that nobody, not even your family believes in you. No one believes that you can amount into anything but a failure.
He decided to go beyond their expectations in the only way he knew how – in the only passion he had left despite what the outcome would be.
Tilas requested to be allowed to enroll for a course in Forensic Investigation and Security Management at the Kenya Institute of Criminal Justice. His father did not object and paid his school fees like he was supposed to.
The first job
While he studied at the institute he got a grasp of just how important having experience in your industry is in helping you secure a job. He therefore started applying for jobs while still in school.
He secured his first job as a security officer, which to him meant sitting in his well laundered clothes in an office and helping formulate polices to do with security. However, on the day he was to report to work, the shock was on him when he was given a pair of boots and uniform and told to report to his post.
It turned out that he had been hired a security guard to stand at the gate of a refugee consortium. While most people would take it as an insult and walk away, he decided to push on.
In his heart he knew that to make it in life, you have to start from the bottom. Growing up with an army father, he had known many army guys who had started from the bottom and rose to ranks that they themselves could not fathom.
Changing the tides
It was while working as a security guard that he decided to use the knowledge he had learned in school to help the consortium. He suggested measures to them and his efforts were noticed. However, his position didn’t not change and his salary remained the same at Sh7,000.
“I would give Sh1,000 to my mum, save Sh1,000 and invest Sh1,000 and use the rest for my upkeep. It was not an easy life and I had difficulties balancing my salary with my needs. I knew that if I had to make it in life, I had to change the course of it all. I had to find my own way and dictate my own terms of work. That is when I decided to start my own company,” he recalls.
The take off
Deciding to go out on his own was not easy. It took him six months to finally set up his security company. During this time, he graduated from the Kenya Institute of Criminal Justice and enrolled for a security and forensics course at Egerton University.
He bagged his first client soon after – a construction company that required the services of four security guards, who Tilas provided.
He would however face one of his biggest setbacks, when during that time; the construction company suffered three thefts and had to cancel their contract with him.
It was tough time for him to imagine that he had failed. He however, realized that he had gone into business without studying and analyzing the challenges of guarding a construction site. He decided to change tactics and concentrate of residential security instead.
He approached several estate managers and inquired about the challenges they were facing with the security firms they were using. For most of them it was indiscipline and the fact that most guards did not harbor good relations with the residents.
The light bulb but clicked and he saw this as a chance to fill this gap. With the help of his father, they came up with a curriculum designed at filling these particular gaps and to train high end security guards that most people would want to hire.
Picking up the pieces
He was able to supply well trained security guards at affordable rates. The firm currently has 100 guards trained for residential security, 27 of whom are in employment. The company also handles events and boasts of providing security for among others Churchill Live recordings, weddings as well as political rallies.
Currently, Tilas says that the company makes Sh200,000 to Sh400,000 a month but his dream is to grow this to Sh500 million to Sh700 million every year for the next five years or so.
From an irresponsible young man who did not have his future planned out, to the magnificent owner of one of the most thriving security companies in Kenyan. Tilas story is that of courage, resilience and determination and there is a thing or two we can all learn from him.
Source: The Standard