Tuesday, June 18, 2024

I quit my job to start a business and lost Sh. 10 million

Best Business to Start: On Syokimau estate’s Katani Road stands a one-storey building that reflects a kaleidoscope of colour and radiance above the ordinary monotony of homes. The striking building, labelled Zuwena International School, is the budding dream of one woman whose story of courage and faith stands as boldly as her building does above the residential suburb.

Esther Wangu Etende, a petit woman in her looks striking in daring fashionable wear and dyed, short dreadlocks, but quickly says her story did not start at the school. She hit a rough path before landing on what she calls her life’s dream. Etende, a mother of three, who describes herself as a risk-taker, started on a high-risk note.

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She quit her managerial job as a T24 consultant with a leading bank in Nairobi in 2013, to follow her passion of serving children. Earning a great salary and good bonuses from the bank, Etende had saved enough capital to start a children’s indoor fun park at a location near Nairobi.


Backed by a supportive husband, Protus Etende, an IT expert, she set up a Sh10 million outfit that she hoped would pick and be self-sustaining. But, it was more than the banker may have bargained for. Lack of prior experience had not taught her that such a business is a money guzzler that requires far more funds to set up.

“We had to sell our house, our car and some house belongings so that the business could run smoothly. It failed after a short while, and that was all the money we had,” explains Etende. The unforeseen collapse of the play park pushed the family to move from their home at Kileleshwa to rent a cheaper house, which had its fair share of issues.

“I cried from time to time and it took me six months to accept that Sh10 million had gone down the drain and I had no job. But my passion for education and caring for children inspired me to bounce back,” says Etende.

After the collapse of the business, life went from bad to worse to a point where raising house rent was a big issue for the family, but they kept their faith strong as her husband landed a job with a telcom company in 2014. Driven by the same passion, Wangui took to extensive research that saw her discover a gap in kindergarten schools around Syokimau area. Once bitten, twice shy.

This time round, Etende involved experts and got herself a mentor who offered her an attachment to teach her how to run a school successfully. Her dream had been to start a school offering Kenyan and British curriculums. She rented premises near Syokimau Shopping Centre and got down to work setting up Zuwena International School.

The institution, that started enrolling in January, offers Montessori system, 8-4-4 and the British GCE curriculum. “I did a lot of research before starting the school, learning where I had gone wrong with the first business and building on my experience. God is good as the school has started and is picking steadily,” says Etende.

“My vision is to grow the school beyond Nairobi and into East Africa,” Etende says. The budding school has captured the attention of many residents of Syokimau seeking quality basic education for pre-school and primary school children. Currently she is looking for expansion space to cope with demand.

Etende who operates full-time as a manager has her three children, aged between three and eight, enrolled in the same school and says this helps her to track the performance and get personal in the business. In her quest to serve children, Etende urges all school owners to be keen on delivering quality above business. Best Business to Start. Best Business to Start.

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