Behold The power of partnerships

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By JAMES KAHONGEH
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Some of the top brands in the world such as Google, Warner Bros, computer hardware manufacturing company Hewlett Packard, commonly known as HP, and Apple, all began their multi-billion dollar businesses as partnerships. Business partners may be relatives, friends or simply people with a common objective of starting a profitable venture.

Young people have discovered the potential of partnerships, and through their interactions as students in college and university, during social events and through networking, business partnerships have been forged. We spoke with four groups that have pooled together ideas, resources and skills to start up fairly fruitful enterprises. 

Business name: Flavours Juice Bar 

Operations: selling fresh juice

Members: Ryna Kithinji, 21

Students: Strathmore University 

What does your business specialise in?

Ryan: We blend and sell fresh fruit juice. We have about 20 varieties of flavours including tangerine, cocktail and pineapple mint, which has become a favourite, as well as tree-tomato juice and smoothies. We began our business in February 2016. Then, it was only Ian and me.

Ian: We started with Sh70,000 from our savings and support from family. We would blend juice and sell to fellow students during events at the university. We later met Joanne and Wambui, who would help us sell whenever there was an event. Gradually, we got closer, and when they proposed to join our team, we gladly admitted them. We have since worked together.

Are there specific roles for each member?

Joanne: Ian is the managing director while Ryan is in charge of marketing. Wambui is our logistician while I handle the financial matters. These roles are not rigid though, and often overlap as we seek to steer our business forward. We have since hired someone who buys stock, prepares and packs the juice on our behalf. She operates from her premises, and earns Sh20,000 at the end of the month. A glass of juice, depending on the size, costs between Sh180 to Sh900 for five litres.

What is your target market?

Ryan: Initially, we targeted events on weekends. We then started doing household and office deliveries. We also sell to fellow students while on session, but events remain our largest market segment.  

How much do you make in a month?

Joanne: On average we make between Sh10,000 to Sh15,000 every weekend, sometimes even more. In a month we make at least Sh60,000 in profit.

What aspirations do you have for the business?

Ian: Over the months, we have established contacts with some city-based event organisers, who invite us whenever they have an event. Our market base is growing by the day, and we are planning to expand by branding, buying more equipment and hiring more staff.

There must be challenges running this type of business, especially with classes to attend…

Wambui: Events are the mainstay of our business, but these can be very unpredictable because they might get cancelled at the last minute, after we have prepared our juice. Others record poor attendance. Sometimes the attendance is bigger than expected, which can be quite overwhelming. Bad weather patterns also affect attendance and consequently consumption of our product. Long spells of drought push fruit prices up, directly affecting our business.

From left: 4K members: Diana Muga, Njeri Mbugua, Doris Muchemi and Beverly Ooko pose on March 29, 2017. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU

From left: 4K members: Diana Muga, Njeri Mbugua, Doris Muchemi and Beverly Ooko pose on March 29, 2017. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU

Business name: 4K Farmers

How did the group come into being?

Diana: We met in 2013 during our second year at Kenyatta University. We belonged to a college women’s savings group of 15. We contributed Sh200 every week consistently for three years. By 2015, our final year in university, most of the members had withdrawn their membership and contributions. We decided to start a business.

Doris: We thought that a regular business would require more capital, rent and registration fees, yet we did not have that kind of money. Growing vegetables, we concluded, would require less capital and the market for fresh produce was ready. Also, Njeri’s mother lent us an acre of land in Limuru.

How much was your start-up capital, and how did you raise it?

Beverly: We had a total of Sh70,000 from the group savings. We started with potatoes since the crop does well in Limuru. We bought potato seeds, got more seed donations from Njeri’s mother, and paid for labour and off began our business.

What crops do you grow? How much do you make in a season?

Njeri: The potato crop did not do very well, although we got our capital back and a profit of Sh18,000. We reinvested the money, this time planting capsicums, coriander and courgettes, which we still do. My mother however asked for her land back at the start of 2016, which prompted us to look for land elsewhere. We leased an acre in Narok, where we have grown onions once, a venture that was very profitable, with a net profit of Sh1.2m. We intend to reintroduce the onions.

How are you able to run the business despite having no training in agriculture? And do your other engagements not hinder smooth operations of the partnership?

Diana: Doris and I are studying at the Kenya School of Revenue Administration (KESRA), Njeri works for a Sacco in Nairobi while Beverly owns a boutique. With our tight schedules, our collective venture would suffer, so we hired a horticulturalist who offers consultancy services such as what to plant when and where, when to apply fertiliser, spraying against pests and weeding. The consultant manages most of the business on our behalf.

Partnerships are challenging due to personality differences among members. How have you managed to remain cohesive for so long?

Doris: It is hard to break a friendship that survived the test time in the university. Having been members of the same group for three years too enabled us to understand each another at a deeper level. Besides, we have a shared vision of excelling in business, which is what we all studied for in the university. Trust among us ensures that there is no room for manipulation, and that there is honest contribution to the business. 

To who do you sell your products?

Njeri: We mostly sell to market vendors. The profit margin is better if you sell directly to the mama mboga instead of dealing with brokers.

Are you in agriculture for the long haul, or do you intend to pursue other interests in future?

Beverly: We will be in horticulture for as long as people are in need of fresh farm produce. We will pursue our individual career paths but our farming business is here to stay.

From left: Kevin Chesa, Emily Maina, Gerald Muema and Kaveke Terry Nduku on April 2, 2017. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO.

From left: Kevin Chesa, Emily Maina, Gerald Muema and Kaveke Terry Nduku on April 2, 2017. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO.

Business name: Chessa Creations 

Business: Branding and customising t-shirts

Members: Kevin Chesa, Fourth Year, Statistics, JKUAT

Emily Ndiko, Second Year, Finance, Cooperative University

Terry Kaveke, Second Year, IT, JKUAT

Gerald Muema, Second Year, Fashion Design, Kenyatta University

Upon what values was your partnership founded?

Kevin: Our partnership was hinged on each member’s contribution to the partnership. I knew how to sew, so I could provide labour. Gerald is a fashion designer, which made him our creative director. Emily’s background is in finance, while Terry is a photographer. Combined, the business had nearly all the necessary ingredients to start off.

What services do you offer?

Terry: We customise and brand t-shirts for individuals and businesses. We buy plain t-shirts which we embroider and decorate according to our clients’ specifications. We also sell products that we have designed.

How was the start, and what progress have you made?

Gerald: The business was able to weather the initial volatility because of the members’ willingness to work without earning a cent until when we were able to get some good business, seven months later. Today, we are all salaried, each one of us taking home Sh20,000 every month when business is good. When business is slow, we take less. Earning a salary encourages dedication.

What is the scope of your market?

Emily: We get orders from individuals, small groups such as music bands and sometimes corporates. Orange Telkom, Limuru Girls, Wave Restaurant in Nairobi and Abraaj Group are some of the institutions that we have worked with. Our products are online, you can find them on Kilimall. They are also available on order on Instagram @chessacreations and on Facebook at Chessa Creations.

What main challenges does your business face?

Terry: Customisation and branding for corporates is a risky business because it is centred on the client’s business identity. Failure to correctly capture the client’s specifications means a different final product. Delayed and sometimes default on payment also affect our business. Also, the fabric that we use, Dashiki, is imported, which makes it more expensive. Since we are still small, we are overwhelmed when we receive huge orders that have to be delivered within a short time frame. We are doing well though, considering that we were  nominated the most creative upcoming designers during the Kenya Fashion Awards in 2016! 

How different are you from other designers in the country?

Gerald: What separates designers is not only their unique schemes, but also the quality of fabrics they use for their garments. That is why major clothes brands in the world have their own in-house fabric processing plants. We have not got there yet, so we use the available fabrics in the market, but lend creativity to the finishes of our branded products to make them distinct.

What would you tell young people about entrepreneurship?

Kevin: It is the answer to the youth unemployment crisis. There are many income-generating activities to undertake. Starting partnerships, taking up numerous small jobs and even volunteering services equips you with skills you can use to start your own small investment. Starting small does not mean you will remain small forever.  

Artville Africa made of Philip Chege,Joe Bukachi, Roy Mwikia and Ted Odhiambo. PHOTO | COURTESY

Artville Africa made of Philip Chege,Joe Bukachi, Roy Mwikia and Ted Odhiambo. PHOTO | COURTESY

Business name: Artville Africa

Industry: Media production

Location: Lavington, Nairobi

Tell us how the partnership came into being…

Philip: The four of us met in 2011 while working in a band for a music campaign sponsored by a South Korean missionary called Yong Joo Lee under the banner of Student Arise Movement, which trains African student leaders. The contract lasted two years, during which we travelled a lot together and interacted more. 

Joe: Joo Lee occasionally challenged us to consider entrepreneurship, arguing that it was the only sustainable way to become financially independent. This ignited in us a desire to start our own music studio. When this engagement wound up, we formed Artville Africa.

What are your main areas of operation?

Philip: We are involved with production of documentaries, live music recordings, filming music videos and event highlights. Lately we have been producing celebrity videos for YouTube. We also draft media strategy for our clients, and enable them to cash in on their often huge social media following.  

How long did it take to break even?

Joe: It was not easy, especially the first year. We would work at all day, with no pay at the end of the month. We understood that it was through investment in high quality equipment that we would entice top music names to our facility. For a year, we charged promotional rates to our clients. We also let them know that they could record with us even if they did not have ready money. Our studio became popular, and soon we were signing contracts. We broke even the following year. 

Who are some of the names in the music industry that you have worked with?

Philip: Locally we have worked with Sauti Sol, Elani, Octopizzo and Muthoni the Drummer Queen. We were also part of the Safaricom Live Tour.

What lessons have you gathered along the way?

Philip: Learning from other people’s mistakes is crucial to keep a business up and running. A keen entrepreneur cannot afford to fall into the same pit that another one has fallen into. When you set to do something, whether it is your own work or another person’s, do it faithfully. This diligence and self-drive was the foundation of our partnership.

How much are your monthly earnings?

Joe: Our income is project-based. We may have a project lasting three months and another going for up to six months. It is upon the successful completion of such an engagement that we receive our pay cheque. Right now, the business is worth Sh25m.

Would you advise me to consider a partnership?

Philip: Twitter, for instance, is a partnership business, so why not?

The arrangement though can be frustrating if the partners have not spent enough time together to study each other’s temperaments, expenditure behaviour and diligence.

If you are not careful, you may shoulder the burden of the business alone while your partners only show up when it is time to share out the dividends. 

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