Eunice Njoki is the chief executive officer at Eunema Errands, a custom courier service in Nairobi, and the founder of Maktaba Mashinani Foundation (MMF), which is a non-governmental organization building and developing modern libraries in Kenya’s rural areas.
Business or employment: I got employed after campus. I had not entertained the thought of entrepreneurship despite being raised by parents who were aggressive in business. My journey as an employee was fun because someone else got the deals, made the hard decision and got burnt when seasons were tough. All I had to do was report to work in the morning on time, clear the pile on my desk and wait for my monthly cheque. I decided to get into business after a friend who was celebrating his birthday could not get time to shop and get his birthday cake delivered. I offered to do it and that is how I started Eunema Errands. Being an employee might guarantee you a constant cheque every month but being an entrepreneur is far much rewarding only that it requires patience and a tough skin.
On making it: There is no specific way; but you must be keen enough to notice opportunities that life throws your way. These will always look like hard work, and that’s because they really are! As a female entrepreneur, you must not let anyone put you down on the basis of your gender, age or marital status. I remember this one time when I met a man who worked in quite a senior position at his organization to polish the final details of a business deal we had been working on. We had exchanged emails and agreed on the critical things. When I met him, he turned me down simply because I was ‘too young’ and didn’t have a wedding band! It was frustrating but I moved on to bigger and better business deals.
Biggest money mistake: This occurred sometime back when I got into business. I was doing everything I could to grow it. I took a bank loan to top up on my savings and buy a business car. It’d help me serve four corporate clients simultaneously. The person I trusted to help me buy the car disappeared with my money and the car! Repaying the loan after losing out the borrowed cash brought my business to its knees. By the time I got back on my feet again, I’d lost so many business deals, employees, and even shut down one of my offices. Persistence was the secret that helped me bounce back. I learned that bad choices are part of the business journey. You will hit the ground from time to time, but you will survive if you decide to!
Biggest loss: This came due to my over-reliance on people early on in my career. I got into a business agreement with a friend without the necessary documentation. Later, the person disappeared with my money and was never to be heard of ever since. Reliance on friendships for business deals is a huge risk. I have since learned to document even the least of my business deals. Always put any business deal on paper. This makes it formal and binding to all parties in the agreement.
If I were to start all over again: I’d be more deliberate about the friends I keep. The friends we hang out with influence the kind of thinking we have. When I was starting Maktaba, I had to be very specific about the people I chose to work with. They had to add value in every step of the way. Friends need to add value to your life. This way, every minute of your life, including the time spent unwinding, adds something valuable to your life.
Saving: I am not as big on saving as I am on investments. When I save, my goal is usually to hit a certain investment target. I achieve this by setting aside a percentage of savings from my budget. Saving without a goal is bound to fail due to lack of motivation.
Building wealth: Don’t be choosy as long as it is clean money; most beginnings are very humble so work your way up. After all, the only thing that starts from the top is a grave. I have also learnt to keep a good name. Hard work might give you all the money you have ever wanted but character will help you keep that money. So as I invest in good business networks I also ensure that they are networks that will keep my name and character untainted.