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How I overcame job loss to set up Sh. 50 million turnover business

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Media Box Advertising: A job loss always seems like the end, especially when it was the last straw you were grasping on. But this is not always the case as this story aspires to show you. It was first published in the Business Daily, a publication of the Nation Media Group:

Ten years ago Martin Kibote walked from shop to shop soliciting for sign branding jobs in Nairobi’s Industrial Area and in his first month managed two jobs that earned him a Sh. 2,000 commission.

Then working as a Celtel (now Airtel) branding agent, the Kibote hardly imagined that this ‘tarmacking’ would later transform his fortune into a multi-million shilling outfit employing eight permanent staff , a fully equipped office and a state-of-the-art modern printing press.

“I moved from shop to shop but quit to join a branding company that offered me higher perks. I realised I was making more money for them but earned very little and when I asked for a pay rise, they instead raised the target and added that I would stand fired if I failed to meet them,” he says.

By the third month, Mr Kibote knew his days were numbered since he had failed to meet the new targets in two consecutive months. He quickly planned his exit, sought a new job and tendered his resignation to avert his inescapable.

“My new employer appointed me as a branch representative; offered me a salary and a commission but on the day I was to report, I was asked to return home and wait. Four years later, the call to my new appointment is yet to come,” says Mr Kibote.

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After completing his Form Four education at Gituru Secondary School, Murang’a County, Mr Kibote spent time reading old newspaper cuttings that he got from unwrapping items, which he was sent to buy from shops.

Media Box Advertising founder, Martin Kibote.
Media Box Advertising founder, Martin Kibote.

It is this habit that saw him come across an ad in one of the dailies. He saw a Celtel (now Airtel) advertisement seeking salesmen with Form Four qualification and he applied resulting in an invitation to attend an interview.

“I was told to choose whether I wanted to work under a postpaid or prepaid agency status. I chose postpaid, which ensured I would get a Sh1,000 commission for every job done. He set out moving from shop to shop seeking requests to pin the Celtel logo and managed to get two contracts worth Sh2,000 commission.

He later moved to a printing and branding agency, which allowed him to keep doing what he knew best soliciting for jobs on a shop-to-shop basis, office to office. It also involved profiling and updating of a website and by January 2009, he was earning a Sh10,000 salary.

He clinched a business deal worth Sh170,000 but that saw his target upped with no commission offered. It was then that he made a commission request but saw his target upped to Sh300,000 a month which he was unable to make.

“At another occasion I clinched a ceramic mugs labelling contract that earned my firm Sh360,000 but I still failed to hit the target to earn a commission and I knew I would be fired as I was still under probation,” he recalls.

He opted to resign after receiving an employment letter from another firm that offered him a retainer of Sh20,000 and a commission for every job done. This was never to be.

“After a week, I paid a second visit to my new employer’s office and was told to wait at home since the boss was  away on business,” he says, adding that he sensed danger as his savings were fast getting depleted.

While at home several former clients called him seeking his services. This saw him move around shops in Industrial Area armed with a folder seeking one off contracts leading to the name ‘Media Box’.

While his clientele grew, his profits were meagre since he had to outsource jobs where he relied mainly on trust.

At one point he landed a Sh360,000 contract which he gave out to a close friend. This forced him to start a company that would directly conduct his business.

“I started Media Box Advertising with no solid capital. I bought several files, branded receipts, delivery books and other accessories that I used to fit in my backpack together with my mini laptop,” says Mr Kibote.

He then had his new outfit registered and got a PIN certificate from the Kenya Revenue Authority.

“I operated from a friend’s premises at an office building on River Road but ended up in my one roomed house after the two partners parted ways. I moved to Westlands where a friend accommodated me on a small 150 square feet space,” he says.

He hired a graphics designer cum creative artist, which helped him reduce outsourcing costs earning him handsome profits. He moved office and acquired some printers to prepare handbills, posters and formal reports in booklets.

Continue reading on Page 2 …

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