Joanna Kinuthia: I don’t regret quitting my job at 23 to become an entrepreneur

If success in entrepreneurship is measured on the scale of age, Joanna Kinuthia would probably not make the cut.

This is because at only age 24, she would be considered too young to be an entrepreneur. But this is the glass ceiling that she has broken.

After graduating from the University in June 2017, Joanna went on a job application spree. “I applied for as many jobs as I possibly could because this was naturally the next step. It is what my peers were doing.

It is what everyone expected of me, and I felt like it is what I had gone through school for,” she says. She landed a job a few weeks later at Jumia Market where she would be earning Sh. 25,000 per month. “I was put on a three month probation, after which my salary was to be increased to Sh. 60,000 per month. This amount may not have seemed like much money to many, but compared to the salaries that my peers were being started off on, I thought that it was a good deal,” she says.

A month later, Joanna’s interest in her job had fizzled out. She was not as excited about a 9 to 5 job as she thought she would. “I didn’t like being employed. It was not my calling. I felt that instead of being employed, I should have been on the other side of the seat running my own venture,” she says. After realizing that she was not cut out to be an employee, Joanna says that she did not dilly dally on when to quit. “I quit and respectfully addressed my decision to my employer. My quitting though was not well received by everyone. Many people thought I was out of my mind, lazy or just another millennial not willing to put in the hard work to succeed,” she says.

These commentaries did not change her resolution. She would venture into a form of entrepreneurship. “I was clear in my mind that I would pursue something that made me wake up every morning with anticipation and excitement,” says Joanna. “I like to say that I’m the author of my life story, and while I was employed, i felt like my story was being written by someone else.”

Interestingly, Joanna chose to venture into the developing marketing concept popularly known as Vlogging and Blogging.  “Before I started, I laid out potential income generating ventures that I could pursue. In the process, I realized that that the regular woman could hardly relate to the existing content creators and digital influencers.” She says that this was mainly because they had lifestyles that exerted financial pressure on the ordinary woman to conform. In turn, this set out her target audience. Interestingly, all she started her venture with was a smart phone with high and fast internet capabilities. “I started to create content that targeted the daily needs of the ordinary Kenyan woman, from finances to beauty,” she says.

While her business idea had looked easy to apply on paper, it was not a walk in the park when it hit the road. “My growth was almost entirely out of my control. I would create content and distribute it on my social media channels, and from there, I could hardly control how widely it was consumed,” she says. A bigger challenge was in the offing. For the next six months, Joanna did not make money from her venture. Watching her peers take home a salary every end of month while she waited for her venture to start bearing fruits did not make things any easier to bear. ‘It was not easy at all. There were many times when I contemplated giving up. But then, this was a battle I had vowed not to lose,” she says.

And looking back, Joanna is glad she stuck to her guns. This is because her financial numbers are blossoming. “What I do is quite profitable because a collaboration with a brand will pay anywhere between Sh. 50,000 and Sh. 130,000 per month,” she says. But to succeed, you must have the requisite numbers. “You cannot get business if you don’t have good social audiences to back up your pitch,” she says.

Interestingly, Joanna says that operational costs in her field of work are not a challenge. “Operational costs are very low. In fact, the biggest task is in developing fresh and relevant content. Becoming an influencer is easy, but remaining relevant to your audience and your clients’ needs is where the challenge is,” she says.

But for this young lady, the future can only get better. “This field is a fresh entrepreneurial concept that is rising meteorically, and I am positioning myself to tap from it as much as I can,” she says. Apart from saving, Joanna says that she is currently re-investing her earnings in the acquisition of top-of-the-range filming and broadcasting equipment for her vlogging and blogging jobs. “In the next five years, I am hoping to have grown from brand marketing to promoting my own merchandise,” she says.

Joanna’s takeaways

  • Don’t follow the crowd: Don’t just get into something simply because it is what everyone else is doing.
  • It won’t be easy: It will not be easy for a new venture to start earning you money. You must have the will-power to nurse it until it stands on its own feet.
  • Go digital: The advent of technology has presented many unexploited opportunities to make money. Search for them and see what will work for you.
  • Don’t let negative commentaries hold you back: There will always be negative comments and judgments if you take the jump. Be ready to face them

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