By Bizna Brand Analyst
Sage Events Limited is one of Kenya’s most sought after companies. It’s involved in the planning of events and weddings. We linked up with it’s founder Martin Kibati and managed to extract morsels of information from him that might be useful to other entrepreneurs too. Here is out Q&A with Martin.
1. Why did you decide to get into this type of business and how long have you been in it?
I used to be in a Christian music group and I was a technician/instrumentalist and a singer. Through this I got the interest in setting up sound equipment and that is what I began the events business with. I have been running this business for 8 years now.
2. What major challenges has your business faced so far? How did you handle them?
The challenges in this business are many but the few that come to mind are:
a. Payment due from clients: sometimes clients do not pay on time and some in the beginning do not even pay deposits. How I have managed this is putting up strict terms and condition and sticking to it regardless of whether I get the job or lose it. This in turn brands your business and clients come to respect your business.
b. Unprofessional suppliers: in this industry you cannot have everything and you have to network with other suppliers in order to supply an event. There are those suppliers who lack work ethics, they come to your event and advertise themselves or bring faulty equipment or some do not even deliver on time. This has forced many people the industry try to purchase all the equipment they can to satisfy their events.
c. Dynamic industry: the events industry is very dynamic and it evolves rapidly and thus I have to upgrade my equipment to keep up with the times and current event trends. I have managed this dynamism by always coming up with fresh ideas on how to use my equipment thus I do not have to upgrade yearly or as often as I should.
d. LPO funding: some corporate clientele give LPOs that some banks are bit hesitant on funding. I have managed this by being in investment groups and borrow there where I still earn as a member and also being in a Sacco has helped a lot as their interest rates are low and have flexible payment terms.
e. Staff: it is very difficult to get good staff regardless of how good you pay them. We are plagued by job seekers who want instant fame and gratification thus a staff turnover is quite high. I have managed this by being hands on and the few I have I have embarked on a mentoring process for them to understand the business and carry the vision as I would.
3. What do you consider the greatest achievement for your business?
Being selected to be the events agency for Nokia. At the time we were just starting out and when we were approached to bid for the job we were hesitant at first but we went for it head on and we were shortlisted and given the job finally from 2011 to date. We have partnered & handled Nokia events in Kenya with their events agency in Denmark called Eventually (voted the best event agency in Denmark)
4. Anything you ever regret not doing? /Anything you wish you had done differently?
No I do not regret anything all the ups and down of business make you grow as an individual and also as a business. Nothing comes easy
5. What type of customers do you normally get?
My clientele ranges from corporate clients, to couples planning their weddings and also private parties e.g. birthdays but also suppliers seeking to hire my equipment for their own events.
6. How many employees do you have?
Only 3. The rest are casuals on call when I have big jobs. I love intimate teams that you can manage effectively
7. Have you ever received any form of loan or funding?
Yes I have received loans when purchasing some of my equipment.
8. What would you say is the biggest reason for your success/failure?
A failure never. This is one who falls and never tries again. Success is measured by what I should have achieved so I cannot say am a success. I can say a work in progress. The biggest reason for my pressing on is my faith and belief in God. That is what keeps me going because of the passion I have in this industry otherwise I would have given up a long time ago.
9. Why is your business located where it is?
My business Is located inside Marula Manor on Marula Lane off Karen Road. I chose this location because of many reasons
a. Affordability – compared to many offices in this neighborhood I can say that they are quite cheap for their location
b. Accessibility – especially for clients
c. Location – The venue hosts very many weddings and events so it is very strategic for my events company
d. Space – There is enough for me to service and test my equipment
e. Security – I can come and go as I please and no one can remove anything from here without express authority from the managers or myself.
10. What is your background?
Education: Ofafa Jericho high school, and then a bit of college. Bulk of my education I obtained while at work. Work Experience. For my work experience I worked in Kenya Airways for the last 16 years as a Flight purser and instructor until December 2016
11. What type of business form do you have?
12. How do you market your business to get more customers?
Through a lot of word of mouth and referrals from previous clients. But I also do a lot of social media marketing though I need to be more vibrant on this
13. Who are your competitors and how do you handle them?
I do not believe in competition. I have branded my business uniquely because when you compete you always never catch up to competition as this industry is very dynamic. What you call competition I look at them as inspiration e.g. mo. sound. I call it setting yourself apart from competition.
14. What’s your biggest fear in business?
My biggest fear in business is the end result never pleasing the client.
15. Where do you draw your inspiration?
From God and my many travels. I can say our best asset a company is creative concepts. I thank God that I have had the opportunity to travel the world over. I have been able to sit and come up with concepts that also shock me when I look back.
16. What’s the best business advice you have ever received?
Be your own brand. Don’t try to be better than other people, just try to be better than you ever thought you could be.
17. What do you do when you are not working?
Spend time with family; watch a lot of movies and listening to music or sometimes playing my guitar.
18. What’s your family life like?
I have a wife and two children. My family life was very hectic up until December 2016; I was juggling between a full time job that was very demanding and family especially our two young children that demand your attention 24-7. One of the most critical aspects of the business has been maintaining an awesome relationship with my beautiful wife Joyce Pepeon (who is also my greatest support and the Lead Project Manager and partner at Sage Events). Going forward, i will dedicate more time to Sage Events and a newly opened training consultancy Business Synergistic Value Limited.
19. What’s your most prized possession?
My laptop.. Though I have backup it contains everything I do. It’s my walking office anytime anywhere. I don’t know what I would do if I lost it.
20. State a piece of wisdom you would pass on to a young person looking to follow in your steps?
- Don’t try to be better than other people, just try to be better than you ever thought you could be. Then you will know true success. I am not where I want to be but am happy because I have no pressures of competing.
- Patience is a virtue; nothing comes easy. To quote Winston Churchill: SUCCESS is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.
21. What is the future for your type of business?
The future is limitless. The event business is very dynamic and it evolves with trends butas someone said, pick a struggle. You can’t do everything but pick what you are good at and do it well. That becomes your brand. I intend to make Sage Events LTD a household name in Kenya and globally