BY LILYS NJERU: Business loans in Kenya: “My name is Patrick M. Mwiti. I am the Managing Director of Newskin Media Limited. I started my first business with Sh. 2, 000 that I borrowed from a friend in November 2005 after dropping out of college due to financial constraints. I was studying IT and media.
I made mainly t-shirts that featured Christian graphics and African prints. I started with just three t-shirts, which got the attention of artists in the gospel industry such as the late Kaberere, Zaidi Ya Muziki band and Njugush of K-krew.
However, the business collapsed in 2007 due to lack of proper management skills. I ended up losing all my equipment since I was unable to pay my rent arrears.
Still determined to succeed, I reached out to friends for ideas, and one introduced me to branding. I did some research on it and figured that it was a business I could excel at since I had excellent graphic design skills. I did not have the capital though. I approached a few friends with the idea, and one of them bought into my proposal. In 2008, we jointly registered a business together. He brought in the capital and business networks while I offered my skills. The business did well, but at the start of 2009, we had internal management strangles that paralysed the business operations. We decided to dissolve the company and part ways in 2010. On the brighter side, I had gained some management skills and build some networks.
Armed with this, I registered a branding agency, Newskin Media in 2011. I didn’t have money to operate the business, and had to borrow a loan of Sh200, 000 against my father’s land title deed. The business was looking up, and that same year, I got married. My wife would later become my business partner. Unfortunately, in January 2012, our office was broken into and we lost two laptops that contained our clients’ data, forcing me to borrow some money to replace the laptops and negotiate with the landlord for a one month’s grace period to enable us regain our footing.
Today, we have a fully fledged corporate branding agency with offices in Nairobi and Mombasa and directly employ a full time staff of five and are in the process of recruiting two creative designers. We have also been able to offset our debts and are looking forward to expanding the business.
Why the first business failed:
When I started the business, I didn’t know that it is important to keep proper books of records and separate my money from the business money. The partnership failed because we didn’t have a clear outline of who was to play which role and how money earned would be used.
How I bounced back:
When our office was broken into, we had no budget to market, and relied on referrals to bring in new clientele. At the same time, our church began a forum called Christian Professionals Networking Forum (MCN) which greatly exposed us. Our interaction with business owners and key decision makers in various corporations within Mombasa was our breakthrough.
Our clientele has grown, with our main clients comprising of mainstream local and international brands. We specialise in supply of branded marketing merchandise, office partitioning, décor and general branding, logo and website designs, staff uniform supplies and outdoor signage fabrication and installation.
No amount of money is too little to start a business, having started one with just Sh2, 000. I have also learnt that without good management skills, a business is as good as over.