Tuesday, September 27, 2022

James Mwaura: How I used my Sh. 50,000 savings to start my business

James Mwaura is the founder and Sales & Technical Director at Epitome Panafrican Tech Ltd, an ICT systems integrator and reseller, dealing with computer hardware and software.

I started my business back in 2018. This was after finding out that there was a gap in ICT services on offer from local firms to local corporates. Many were being done by foreigners. Most of those who were doing it locally were doing it casually.

I started with Sh. 50,000 savings, selling printer cartridges and ICT stationeries. It took me the first 3 years for the business to break even. However, things got worse when the pandemic broke out and I had to start all over again.

Finding capital to grow the business has been my biggest challenge so far. I have been looking for funding to grow the business and increase foothold in the Kenyan market and so far, it has been a herculean task. Most banks if not all want security, which many of us in the SME sector do not have. The other challenge has been finding experienced engineers within our pay abilities. Looking back, I should have looked for more capital for the business and started with some qualified personnel to avoid burn out and get a quick turnaround.

I once loaned someone a large sum of money. They had promised that they would return. Up until today, they have never done so. This has taught me that it is not good to trust anyone with your money. Furthermore, I have learnt that I would have been better off had I asked for collateral in case the person refused to repay their debt.

My greatest business moment came in 2019. I qualified as a supplier for a large manufacturing company, Kenafric Industries Ltd. I got a huge deal to supply ICT hardware and software solutions that were worth a six figure lump pay.

I use an array of ways to save money. These include buying shares at the Nairobi Securities Exchange, money markets, T-Bills, Fixed Deposits and I-REITS. Previously, I used to put my money in small businesses like matatus and unfortunately, my efforts proved futile. Additionally, chamas were another avenue but the money didn’t grow.

I have learnt that we have to create wealth first before using our money to buy things. Many of us will want and prioritize things like cars, houses and other luxuries before creating wealth. Then disaster strikes when we lose jobs and start living as if we have never been employed or done any business because we’re too broke to make ends meet.

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Stop living like you are dying tomorrow. Invest your hard-earned money in various vehicles of wealth creation like T-Bills, money markets, I-REITS and shares. Have a personal pension account and start building your after-retirement life.

We are all wired differently. There are those who have an entrepreneurship spirit and others just want to be employed. Business has better returns but it takes time to take shape in contrast to employment where there is comfort of a monthly salary. It is easier to be employed than to start a business for many people.

A version of this profile feature on James Mwaura was also published in the Saturday Magazine. The Saturday Magazine is a publiation of the Nation Media Group.

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