John Gitau’s journey in entrepreneurship is a true testament that entrepreneurship is not for the faint-hearted but only the strong-willed win. Gitau started and closed many businesses but, years later, emerged victorious in the journey.
He is the proprietor of a successful learning institution in Nakuru –The Rift Valley Institute of Business Studies (RVIBS) –a technical and vocational training accredited institution that currently has six campuses.
Gitau started as an employee at Unilever, where he took home a fat salary. While still in employment, he set up a shop in Kahawa West in 1990.
Things, however, went south, forcing him to shut the business after just six months. Gitau decided to explore opportunities in other sectors and opened a hair and beauty salon in Umoja estate, Nairobi.
The business was promising at first, but it was not long before it collapsed. Gitau attributes the fall of his businesses to disagreements with family members who were at the helm of the two businesses.
“The problem was involving family members in the running and management of both businesses. Though both at first showed promise of doing well and expanding, disagreements and feuding with those entrusted to manage them are what contributed to the collapse. Unlike the case of hired workers one can fire, it is a different scenario with family members,’’ he said.
He decided to take a break from entrepreneurship and concentrated on his employment. In 2006, after getting a transfer to Kericho, the urge to start a side hustle hit, and he set up a hair and beauty shop.
The business did so well, creating room for expansion to a cyber café which later transformed into a beauty school under the name Kericho Beauty School.
The businesses created a decent income prompting him to quit employment to focus on entrepreneurship fully; little did he know the worst was about to happen.
During the 2007/08 post-election violence, all his premises were looted and all equipment stolen taking him back to the drawing board.
“If there was anything I regretted, it was quitting formal employment as I had not anticipated the worst. The saving grace, however, was that I had terminal benefits, which I decided to invest in a college business in Nakuru town. This was mid-2008. I was picking up from where I had left, but with diversified courses on offer.’’ he added.
The business started at a very low pace prompting him to seek employment to keep it afloat. He was employed at Kenya Breweries Limited and used his earning to finance the business.
The college has presently seen over 5,000 students graduating since its inception, and it offers non-technical and technical courses. It is currently accredited to offer TVET courses.
Gitau advised those intending to try their hand at entrepreneurship to chase what they love adding that failure is part of growth in business.
“It is noble to fail while attempting to do something than to fail doing nothing. It was discouraging with each setback experienced along the process, but I soldiered on,’’ he said.