Remember the man who surprised his wife on her birthday with a Range Rover estimated at 20 million? The one behind well-known travel and tours company Bonfire Adventures? Looking at him now who would ever have thought that his dream of travelling would become a reality?
Born in a humble background to a civil servant father and a farmer mother, Simon Kabu beat all the odds to become the CEO of one of the leading tours company. The entrepreneurship bug, he says, hit him quite early.
Struggling To Make Ends Meet
“When I completed secondary school in the early 90s, I first worked at an aunt’s food kiosk, preparing and selling chapatti and mandazi. This is when I knew that I wanted to engage in business fully or as a side hustle. At Egerton University, where I studied bachelor of Economics and Statistics, I sold music CDs and rented out music videos.”
His enthusiasm for business however did not come easy. While in university, he had to defer classes for a year since his parents could not afford to pay his fees.
“I had two options, to drop out, or look for school fees. I chose to look for school fees. During that one year I was out of school, I worked as a tout, plying Githurai route 44 in a quest to raise fees. After I graduated, the first job I got was that of a turn boy, loading and offloading milk.”
The Birth Of Bonfire Adventures
Never in his wildest dream did Simon think, that he would venture into tours and travel. He was working at Unga Group Ltd as a sales regional head when a young professionals group he was in, suggested a meet up. He and the woman who would be his wife, volunteered to organize the getaway, something that turned out to be a huge success. It is after the second meet up that they were paid in cheque form. With only Ksh20,000, Bonfire Adventures was born.
“We started our company in a shared office, using the space during lunch hours and evenings. After a couple of months, we took a risk and quit our jobs to concentrate on our company.”
He and his wife had to sacrifice a lot to get to this point in their success ladder.
“For almost a year, my wife and I worked day and night, managing just a few hours of sleep to keep our company afloat.”Now, Bonfire Adventures has a staff of about 200, and has nine offices. In addition, they work with over 300 guides all drawn from different parts of the world. Its annual turnover is over a billion shillings. Looking back, Simon has drawn lessons from it all, the biggest being on entrepreneurship.
“Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. There’s a lot of dedication and passion needed, sometimes I don’t get enough sleep because although I have delegated, there are many things that my employees consult me about. It calls for a lot of persistence.”
The best decision he considers having made so far was the day he woke up and decided to stop being a tout.
“It was a good lifestyle – I got paid well, every day, and there were always women around me. I am happy that I decided to challenge myself and complete my university education.”
Bonfire Adventures has been in existence for the last 10 years, with new products being launched almost every year. This year has seen the launch of Okoa Holiday, where one can travel and pay later, and Okoa Ndoa, where getaways are organized for couples to rekindle their love.
His parting shot in regard to success:
“Success is not a one-time event; it is a journey that calls for dedication and a lot of sacrifice. Don’t be afraid to start small and always have a vision for your growth. Importantly, be a team but think individually. What I know for sure is that there is fulfillment in making a living off your sweat.”
Source: The Daily Nation