Joseph Githiaka went from a jua kali artisan to the managing director of Mabati and Steel Enterprises Limited, brand name Super Mabati a company that is worth over 100 million shillings. In an interview with the Daily Nation, he gave an insight into his journey, the challenges he faced as well as his advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs.
After finishing high school, he could no longer continue with his education, his father made just 2000 shillings which was not enough for a family of 11 children.
He spent the next three years in Nyandarua helping his parents with chores then he decided to go to Nakuru to help one of his brothers run a general shop.
He later left Nakuru for Embu in 1998, where he worked for a macadamia nuts company delivering nuts to farmers. He stayed there for a year and a half and then went back home.
The same brother he worked for took him back to Nakuru where he had a Jua Kali shed along Kanu Street in Langalanga. Joseph stayed with him for a year until the year 2000 fabricating steel items like school boxes, jikos, sufurias, gutter and meter boxes,. He then decided to leave and seek employment. By then he had gained a lot of knowledge on sheet metal work.
He was employed by a couple along the same street doing the same job. However, in 2002, the wife who was responsible for the supply of already fabricated materials took everything to the market and never returned.
It was when the ‘husband’ returned that he realized they were just business partners and he had been conned. He was left stranded in that tiny store but it was from here that he built his empire.
“I didn’t want to go back to my brother’s house because I had burned bridges with him. Destitute and alone I was forced to start repair work,” says Githiaka. “There was a low-class estate opposite Kanu Street and I would get jobs repairing sufurias,” he says.
Whatever he made after a day’s work would go back into the store. “It took me six months to raise a capital of 1000 shillings. I had to balance necessities and savings but I am where I am today because of saving. I would save as little as 20 shillings at a Postbank right opposite my shop. They accepted as little as Ksh 20 and I saved happily knowing I was doing it for tomorrow,” he reminisces.
When working for his brother he had learned a lot and he would apply the strengths he saw in his brother’s business and shun the weaknesses.
“With the 1000 shillings I had saved, I would travel to Nairobi, buy sheets and come back to make items that produced a profit of Ksh 200, which may look small but made me immensely proud,” he adds.
He woke up at 5 am every day in order to be at work by 5.45 am. His store did not have electricity so he relied on natural light and at times, a neighbor’s furniture shops light in order to push his closing time. Because of this, he had to work from dawn to 8 pm.
“I was really hard working but above all, I trusted in God. I would go to church in the morning and pray for my business,” he says.
“In 2004, I realized that this was business with potential; I liaised with suppliers in Nairobi and gained their trust. I was able to buy a vehicle at 120K to help supply goods. I still tried to make more money, selling gutters as well as getting paid for labor for fitting the gutters,” says Githiaka.
“My bank at the time was impressed with my work but when I asked for a soft loan, they gave me two sheets of written requirements, most of which I could barely meet,” he says.
He did not have the necessary security needed to acquire a loan but he needed the money. By chance he was introduced to the former CEO of Family Bank and Women Enterprise Fund, Samuel Tiras Wainaina, he gave him his story and the frustrations he was facing in getting funds. Mr. Wainaina advised him to apply for the youth fund.
Githiaka got a loan of 500K from the youth fund in 2006 using his household goods as collateral. “With time my business began to flourish and I could make 1K shillings a day in profit,” he says.
With the experience, he had gained in the jua kali industry and an improved financial status, Joseph toured China in 2006 and 2007 to gather information about their steel industries.
He registered his business Mabati and Steel Enterprises Limited in 2007.
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“The tours were insightful and helped me settle on the mabati industry,” he says. “I approached Family Bank for a loan but I did not have collateral, luckily, the officer I met was considerate and he accepted my postdated cheque as collateral,” Githiaka added.
Finally, in 2016, he opened the factory doors to the public, he currently employs over people and this number is expected to grow as the company expands.
His advice to others
- Come up with original ideas. Don’t see a hardware store and decide to open your own right next to it.
- Save, even if it’s as little as 20 shillings. Don’t despise small beginnings.
- Take advantage of government financing such as the Youth, Uwezo and Women funds to venture into entrepreneurship.
- Do as much research as you can about the field you want to venture into.
- Never stop learning. In my case, touring China’s steel industries helped open my eyes on the possibilities available
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. It’s the only way to learn.
- Until you lay a foundation for your future, leave luxury for later.
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Source: Daily Nation