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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Evelyne Oyagi: I defied young age to build a successful business

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Events Business Kenya: Entrepreneurship and business passion is often associated with age and experience. In fact, the biggest number of entrepreneurs running successful businesses is at an advanced age.

Youth on the other hand is commonly seen as a reservoir for employment. Finish school, get a job! But this is the common assumption that Evelyne Moraa Oyagi refused to buy into.

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At the age of 27, Evelyne is the founder and chief executive officer at Swazuri Events, a company that creates and organizes events that shape conversations among young people.

“My business is in its third year now. It uses events to give young creative entrepreneurs a platform to showcase their products and services to wider markets,” she says.

Evelyne, though, has not always been in business. In fact, like many other young people, she has tasted employment. “I was employed for nine months before I quit my job,” she says.

She worked at the Quest Holdings Limited which is located at the International Life House in Nairobi’s Central Business District. “My monthly salary ranged between Sh. 30,000 and Sh. 40,000. I was fresh from campus and this salary was way better than what many of my peers were earning,” says Evelyne.

But despite having a job that gave her the comfort of a monthly salary, Evelyn was not satisfied. “I had a desire to be part of change-makers through the work I did. I aspired for something that could give me fulfillment and inspire me to rise up and pursue it with self-driven enthusiasm,” she says.

She decided to quit her job and start a venture that involved community services. Her choice of business was not so far-fetched.

“From an early age, I had been active in community work in Mombasa County. But my passion was sharpened when I moved to Nairobi to pursue my degree. Life was quicker and with endless opportunities and possibilities for the ideas I had been harbouring,” she says.

Evelyne wanted to be part of the force that could empower and motivate other young people to pursue their talents, dreams, and passion. “Although I was 22 years old, the time was right and it felt right to just begin where I was and then grow from there,” she says.

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Interestingly, Evelyne started her venture with virtually no capital. “I had an idea, but no capital to back it up. But since my idea involved events planning, I organized a fashion event dubbed Fashion Bloggers Runaway Show and had people pay up to attend and exhibit. This was the first money I made as an entrepreneur,” she says.

Her start up effort has now become an annual event, with this year’s exhibitions scheduled to happen in October in Nairobi.

Nonetheless, getting started was not as easy as twinkling an eyelid. “I was not known in the corporate world. Pitching my idea to corporates and potential investors for sponsorship deals was hard,” she says.

When the tough got going, Evelyne began to doubt her resolution to swim in the murky waters of entrepreneurship. “There were times I would sit back and contemplate going back to employment.

After all, it had provided a measure of insurance with monthly salaries. But as days went by, those low moments and instances of self-doubt became less,” she says. Consistency in her pursuits was the secret that worked for her.

“It took time to prove that I was in business for the long haul and gradually, corporate clients began to listen.” Apparently, one of the main fears she faced from her clients was that she was just another events’ organizer out to run away with the sponsorship deal.

“It is now three years since I launched, and every month, I have been holding an event. Currently, I meet my operational costs by charging attendance fees, exhibitions fees, and through corporate sponsorship deals.”

Although she is yet to record any major financial losses, Evelyne says that miscalculation and quotations were her early mistakes.

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“At one of my events, I had attendees pay for an event and still end up using all that I made in settling expenses,” she says. “I did not make even a shilling. I was trying out a new concept in my event and it ended up as a tough lesson.”

From that experience, Evelyne learned to stick to her routine and what she’s good at.  “This does not mean my business is stagnant. I will inculcate modifications and fresh ideas, but always ensure that they are within the right budget.”

Currently, Evelyne is developing an expansion plan for her business. “I am torn in between expanding the business but I am a bit scared about getting the right staff. Business growth is not easy to navigate, especially because rapid expansion strategies could end up being your main undoing,” she says.

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While many entrepreneurs have future aspirations for their businesses, Evelyne says that her aspirations are current.

“If I cannot make it work now, I will not be able to make it work in future. As a result, I see my business as the go-to organizing firm for all youth related events under the United Nation’s sustainable development goals for gender equality, decent work and economic growth,” she says. Events Business Kenya.

Events Business Kenya: Evelyne’s five takeaways

  • Age is not a limit to venturing into business. Young women should not be discouraged from doing business on the basis of their age.
  • Lack of capital is not always the hindrance to starting a business. If you have a great idea, there will always be someone willing to invest in it.
  • Have the patience if your business idea is reasonable. Don’t be too quick to give up on your idea. It will be hard at the beginning. But if you hold on and work through the right business structures, opportunities will transform into income streams.
  • Travel and learn. Moving to Nairobi presented me with endless possibilities and opportunities to grow that perhaps I could not have had.


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