Odipo G is an entrepreneur and a journalist by profession. He studied journalism and public relations at the USIU university. He started practicing journalism while still a third year student. Odipo G was the youngest journalist to have two shows on air in mainstream media. He shared his career and entrepreneurship story with Bizna Kenya:
What inspired you to become and entrepreneur and what are the highlights of your entrepreneurship journey?
For as long as I can remember I have always had the entrepreneurial spirit in me. As early as when I was in class 3 I used to draw cartoons, compile them in a book and sell. My first sale was a whole 10/- Hahahaha I feasted on some roasted road side bhajias. On a personal level, I have been growing and learning new things and it’s better to be a master of something than a jack of all. I have learnt that money has a way of revealing the true nature of the mortal who holds it, or rather the nature of the mortal it holds. I have also enjoyed finding my purpose and calling in life in this journey.
How would you describe the business environment in Kenya?
It’s not for the faint of heart. It will hurt you real bad if you’re weak and don’t know what you want. The opportunities are too many and the wind of excitement will easily carry anyone who doesn’t have their anchor steadfast on their purpose.
Who has been the greatest influence in life/business and why?
My parents for sure. They’re probably two of the most hardest working people I know. They stop at anything, I actually have a hard time trying to remember my father ever being on leave from work.
Tell us about your business: How you started the current business
It was what you’d call “love at first sight.” I had gone with some friends for a road trip to a farm where they had invited us to look at an investment opportunity in agriculture. The moment the sole of my feet touched the soil our souls connected. I got this idea of becoming the bridge linking exporters, farmers and workers in one neat composition. I managed to raise capital from family, friends and interested parties. As a result of poor leadership and money management skills from my end we lost more than Ksh. 10 million of our capital. This was a dark time for me. We went from 65 acres to 5 acres and eventually to none. We had to start all over again. It took God both His hands to salvage me from the dark wilderness I was I. I thank Him daily I am out of that dark place. I started all over again and managed to rebuild and restructure our entire business model changing everything from logo, to name meaning, to partners.
What is the range of your products and services?
We concentrate in propagating, planting, processing and packaging of herbs and spices. We have our own brand available on: www.1516spices.co.ke
What are the greatest achievements and challenges in business so far?
Government regulations which are not very friendly to small processors has been painful to us. Delay in legal certification is a huge huddle as well. By the writing of this article we’re still waiting for some KEBS licenses that we applied for renewal more than 5 months ago. Despite this, we have managed to disrupt the market with our revolutionary products. We have managed to prove our concept works and have managed to concentrate and settle in Agribusiness after moving away from agriculture. (The two are not the same.)
Who is your competition in business, and do you do to stay ahead in the game?
We don’t really consider other industry players as competition but view them as fellow players in the same industry. But for the sake of argument, we can say McCormick. To stay ahead of the game we do our best to solve problems using spices. We “don’t sell” spices but offer solutions as per the needs of the market.
What lessons have you learnt on managing people: staff, customers, partners, and other stakeholders?
WAH! Too many, I don’t think we have enough words in the English language to state them all. But in a nut shell, humans are humans, continent, color, height, size or sex be damned, humans are humans. All humans like feeling special and to be treated with the respect they believe they deserve, not the one they ought to get. When you make people feel special, considered and respected, you’ll be at peace with all.
What are your views on business financing in Kenya?
The opportunities are too many but so are the regulations and stringent measures that hinder many great ideas from being realized. We should not have a uniform blueprint when it comes to accessing funds but customized application requirements would do better for different businesses.
Where do you see your business in the next 5 years?
I m working to take my business to at least 23 countries, with the Headquarters in Kenya.
Do you have any other business interests or plan to diversify your business into?
Yes…. All I can say right now is block chain agritech… Watch this space.
What is your biggest fear in business?
Becoming irrelevant, growing too fast, and generating excess profits.
What do you do for leisure?
I am a cartoon and animation junkie.
What car are your driving currently and what is your dream car?
Anything Odipo G ever regrets not doing? Anything you wish you had done differently?
I wish I had had children early. They’re fun. And I wish I knew what I know now 10 years ago.
What advice you would give to a young person starting out in business?
The best time to start was yesterday, the next best time is now. Research, search, research and repeat this. Don’t be hypnotized by the numbers, know your numbers to the decimal and research, search and research.
Tell us about your family
Odipo G comes from a family of six children…I was dethroned from my last born seat by my dear sister after holding it for many years. We’re five boys and one girl with two parents. Born and raised in Kibra so that was more than enough motivation to want to move out of that life of poverty into what I called “the air up there.”
What is your parting shot
Be the best or among them. Your greatest limitation is your ignorance. Be and stay blessed.