BY HUMPHREY KARIUKI
When young people ask me for my advice on how to start a business, I always tell them: entrepreneurship is a mindset, it is about identifying a need or gap in the market and addressing it through value creation.
And those aren’t just empty words. They are my story.
When I was in my twenties it was how I started my very first business.
When visiting my sister in the UK, I watched her struggle to sell her car, so I brought it back to Kenya and sold it for a profit.
Identifying that need paved the way for me to set up my first venture, Tradewheels, which imported and sold cars in Kenya.
I continued to follow the same model for success – finding the gap – to build Janus Continental Group. A collection of value creating companies across energy, petroleum distribution, real estate and hospitality which today employ hundreds of people on three continents.
In the early 2000s I noticed a major lack of petroleum distribution capacity across East Africa – which was holding the region back.
So I took this opportunity and launched Dalbit Petroleum, which today is a leading distributor supplying the region with millions of cubic meters of fuel.
Having further realised the extent of Africa’s crippling power supply issues, I set up GL Africa Energy to invest in the need for power generation capacity and now GLAE is generating hundreds of megawatts of power for local economies.
And in 2013 I noticed another unique gap in the market, one for a business which combined luxury hospitality with the vital efforts to conserve Africa’s wildlife. So, I bought Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club and the Mount Kenya Game Ranch.
Today not only are they successful tourism businesses – they are home to some of the most critically endangered animals on our continent.
These stories cover just a few of the businesses I have set up over the last 30 years – but in each and every venture my guiding thought has stayed the same: what is the need or gap in the market and how can I address it through value creation.
I am not telling you that starting an enterprise will be easy. Far from it. In fact, you will likely have to work harder than all those around you to succeed.
Yes, if you succeed you will make money. I don’t underrate that. But the satisfaction of building a business, employing people, and putting something back in is priceless.