Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Benaiah Wepundi: 21-year-old with Sh. 300k Airbnb business for University students

At 21 years old, Benaiah Wepundi is the founder of EasyHouse, a platform that helps connect university students with several landlords and hostels. Benaiah is a law student at the Catholic University of East Africa (CUEA).

When Benaiah joined campus, he and his friends could not find a place for student accommodation for the duration of their studies. After failing to get student accommodation near CUEA, Benaiah opt to stay with his aunt who lived in Nairobi’s Ngara area, somewhat 22km away from school.

He realized that bed spaces were scarce in the majority of hostels or they were either too expensive. This was the starting point of how he created EasyHouse, a business that promises bigger returns.

“You can imagine the expenses and hustle of travelling from Ngara to Rongai every day,” he says.

One day as he was commuting, he realized a market gap that would lead to founding EasyHouse, an online platform connecting University Students with property owners around Kenya’s learning institutions.

“Travelling a long distance to look for property is hard, especially for a student, and then secondly, you may find a place but it is not as affordable,” he says.

EasyHouse works by allowing agents and landlords to list their properties, giving preference to students with numerous choices.

“The initial response was not good. There was the issue to trust because anyone can just come up and put a property that does not exist.” Says Benaiah.

For that matter, Benaiah had to recruit his experienced friends in different fields to help with launching the app from scratch.

Cedric Wekesa, his US friend was experienced in business matters and was also the first investor in EasyHouse. He served as his business counsel and advisor.

Linda Gikunda was in charge of communication and compliance, Ian Nyongesa, a commerce student helped run the business while Oscar Wanjala, a software developer, handled the EasyHouse technology.

“Ian, Linda, Oscar, and I were the first co-founders. We built EasyHouse from the ground up. We started figuring out what it is we exactly wanted to do and built a system, a network with agents and landlords,” he says, adding that Mr Wanjala and Mr Nyongesa however, left along the way to pursue other opportunities.

Currently, EasyHouse has 31 hostels on-site located in Nairobi’s Lang’ata which neighbours universities such as CUEA, Multimedia University, Africa Nazarene, Cooperative and Strathmore.

EasyHouse also gives accommodation to international students who book their places to stay before joining the universities in the country.

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“Today, a student from Uganda coming to study in Kenya can book accommodation directly and a student from Kenya going to study in Uganda can get accommodation directly from EasyHouse,” says Mr Wepundi.

Last week EasyHouse team processed over 2,700 booking requests for the upcoming September-December semester.

“About 30% of our requests originate from countries such as Uganda, Nigeria, and DR Congo. We have like close to 300 requests from those areas,” he says.

Prices for a bedsitter are around Sh. 8,000 while those of a 1 bedroom is Sh. 15,000. Upon every booking made, there is a 3% commission that is charged.

“Some institutions might decide this is a convenience they want to offer to their students where they can cover these costs for the students so that the student does not have to carry the grant.” He adds.

Benaiah says that through EasyHouse, which he invested about Sh. 400,000 and was made available through grants and personal savings, he has directly employed 14 people.

“To date, we’ve spent over Sh300,000 to set up the company and put it on its feet. This has gone into development expenses, market research, branding, and marketing, registration, and compliance.”

Lesson he took in his business journey

“The first thing is never to give up because we have pivoted the model thrice and failed twice but at least at the end of it all we have figured it out. I think the problem with our generation is that we have a money-fast mentality. What has brought us to this point is the fact that we focus on solving the problem, then resources start flowing,” he says.

For the future, Benaiah looks to grow and expand EasyHouse to DRC Congo.

“The most obvious challenge is financing. Getting funding is tough, especially when people consider most of us are aged between 19 and 20,” says the entrepreneur who is also a software engineering student at Moringa School.

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