Sheer grit and hope keeps Timothy Mbaluka energised for his business that pays him a tidy Sh3 million a month.
Mr Mbaluka, 35, had been dreaming of “doing serious business,” since he was a teenager, a dream that gave him the courage to take a pay cut when he switched jobs and further gave him the will to quit employment altogether and go it alone.
The young entrepreneur, who is the proprietor of Mwisaf Limited, a stationery and document-binding firm, said he started the business with Sh10,000.
As a result, he has ready answer for restless young people who are, however, not sure when and how to start.
“Never underestimate small beginnings and never give up on your dream. With hard work and support from people who believe in your potential, the reward is inevitable,’’ says Mr Mbaluka.
He started selling stationery to schools in his home county of Machakos and in Nairobi during his free time while still an employee of Spinknit Dairy where he earned Sh18,000 a month.
He says this money was inadequate, forcing him look for other avenues of earning money.
He now boasts corporate clients, with his services ranging from branding corporate uniforms, selling stationery and document binding, which he says earn him not less than Sh3 million a month. He specialises in corporate logo embroidery on a wide variety of clothing.
“I started selling stationery to schools as a part time job in 2003 with only Sh10, 000 as capital’ ’ he told the Business Daily in an interview at his office in Nairobi.
This side job was earning him Sh5,000 a month. “This was a pointer that all was not lost. It was a humbling experience with hard industry lessons,’’ he says with nostalgia.
In 2005, his venture proved worth pursuing and he registered Mwisaf Stationery and Book Binding Company with the hope of getting corporate clients.
But success did not come easily. Customers were hard to get and the challenges were inevitable if not insurmountable.
The same year, he quit Spinknit to take up a job as bus driver at a local primary school. The pay was Sh15, 000 per month, which was lower than what he used to earn as a salesman at Spinknit.
“But I loved my new job since I was only assigned to take the children on trips which came once a term, leaving me with a lot of free time to sell my stationery and market my new company,’’ he said.
A year later he also quit this job and moved to Nairobi where he rented a small office to start full time operations. He employed a secretary as he embarked on vigorous marketing.
His savings had come to Sh40,000 which he used to pay for the office space and bought second- hand furniture and an old computer through hire purchase.
With three clients, one employee and a computer, the budding entrepreneur started a fierce campaign to win corporate firms and diversified his business from stationery to bulk- binding for big firms.
“ I saw an opportunity that had not been exploited and acted with speed and the results were not disappointing for although most of my competitors were offering binding services, they restricted themselves to school work , ’’ he recalls.
“I researched on potential clients and gave good quotations that won me more business,’’ he adds.
In 2006, he approached Equity Bank with a proposal to bind their documents. He says he clinched the “handsome deal”, creating greater opportunities and building a name for his firm.
‘“Through the Equity Bank job, Mwisaf gained credibility and used the acknowledgement to bring more institutions on board. They included the Kenya Technical Training College (KTTC), Catholic University and Mwalimu Co-operative Society Limited,’’ said Mr Mbaluka with a grin.
“It was a gradual growth that came with lessons that made me increase the number of employees from one to four,’’ he recalls.
As the firm grew, he saw another untapped opportunity in 2007 that involved printing of books and journals.
Mwisaf Limited has now employed 35 workers and he plans to open offices in Mombasa and Nakuru.
The entrepreneur bought his first printing machine worth Sh6 million and shifted his office from Nature House to Gatkim Complex along Temple Road in Nairobi that is more spacious and can comfortably accommodate his growing printing facilities.
The company also undertakes printing and graphic design jobs.
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