By Kibet Tobias
George Wachiuri, CEO Optiven Limited is undoubtedly one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Kenya today.
But before becoming the known billionaire, he was just a boy from Laburra, Kieni Constituency in Nyeri trying to make something of his life.
His early life
His father, a primary school teacher passed away while he was still a young boy. At this time his mother was a housewife.
This loss forced his mother to start cultivating & tilling neighbors’ lands in order to earn a living for her family.
Early in the morning, the young George together with his siblings would till their land and in the evening go to till other people’s land for just Ksh 5. Tattered clothes and hungry stomachs due to overworking characterized their daily livelihood.
George says he got his first trouser when he joined high school.
“My motivation to read harder came after I saw my elder brother with a trouser for the first time. This made me realize I had to work very hard to get such” he says.
After doing well in his KCPE exams, George was admitted to Chinga Boys High School in Nyeri County. His mother then sold their only milk producing cow to raise school fees.
Due to lack of fees, George was in and out of school forcing him to start an onion selling business as a way to raise his fees. This entrepreneurial spirit helped him pay school fees and enabled his mother buy foodstuff.
After secondary school, George excelled and was admitted to the University of Nairobi (Kabete Campus) to pursue a course in Bachelor of Commerce (Marketing Option).
It was during this time that George ventured into different businesses including photography, Laundry and library business, hiring out newspapers/magazines to his fellow students in the hostel.
In 1997, he was awarded the Best and Most Entrepreneurial student by the university.
After University, he looked for a job for a very long and made several applications to many companies. He later got his first job as an accountant at Uchumi Supermarket.
Later he worked for Lutheran World Organization as a social worker at Kakuma Refugee Camp.
After 10 years of employment, he had managed to save 5 million shillings. He decided to quit his job in order to start a land business.
Little did he know that he was going to lose his lifetime saving to a conman promising to sell him genuine land.
“After the loss, I swore that I would never do business again, but I remembered that winners never quit and quitters never win,” George said.
However, his family supported him to overcome the depression and accept the situation and get back on his feet.
Birth of Optiven Limited
In 2008, George founded Optiven as a general supplies entity which diversified operations into the real estate sector.
“My previous businesses failed acting as a lesson to do better, my appetite for taking risks grew as a result of many failed ventures that I started.” He said.
His big break
In 2015, George Wachiuri was crowned with a global award as the Best & Most Innovative Entrepreneur in Kenya in The US Mashujaa Awards.
In 2014, Optiven emerged number One on Kenya’s Top 100 mid-sized companies and the best firm in Real Estate.
The company was also awarded the best in customer service in the same year while in 2017, it was voted the leading super brand in East Africa.
“My previous businesses failed but my appetite for taking risks grew as a result of many failed ventures that I started,” He says.
Currently, he sits as a Board Member at the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA where he serves an advisor of the board. He is also a board member of Brook Hurst International School.
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“I learnt from the initiatives that no one should ever give up. I learnt to focus on my vision, trust in God, be self-disciplined, network relentlessly, be passionate about my undertakings, work smart and hire people who are smarter than me.”
He attributes his success to the faith he has in God. That is why his firm dedicates millions of shillings to their Optiven Foundation to support needy children across the country.