Reuben Kimani is the co-founder and chief executive officer at Username Investment Ltd, a real estate development and investment company in Kenya.
What is your business all about? What inspired you to start it?
For a long time, property ownership in our country was a reserve for the rich, with prices of plots being over Sh. 1 million and that of houses at over Sh. 3 million. This is unaffordable to low and middle income earners.
I identified this housing gap in 2013 and together with a few partners, we came in to provide affordable land priced at lows of Sh. 199,000. So far, we have accomplished 39 projects and issued over 8,072 title deeds.
These projects are located in Ngong, Nakuru, Tinga, Konza, Naivasha, Athi River, Matuu and Kangundo Road.
How much did it cost you to get started?
Raising capital is one of the most difficult challenges faced by entrepreneurs. We were not an exemption.
Our first project was in the Konza area and was worth Sh. 2.5 million. We had only consolidated a small amount of these funds. I had to take an unsecured loan of Sh. 1.8 million from a bank through my former employer to fund the first project.
Tell us about making it as a young man? How did you do it?
Coming from a humble background and growing up in the village taught me a number of things. I learnt how to fend for myself early enough. School fee was a big challenge.
In class six, I learnt how to repair shoes which gave me pocket cash, status in the village, and some basic lessons in business and life.
Since then, I have engaged in various hustles including working in a flower farm after high school, assisting students apply for green cards back in college for a small fee, and teaching computers in my former high school. I learnt how to use minimal resources for maximum gain.
I am able to see opportunities fast, take maximum advantage and make progress. I also learnt early to be open minded. Despite a stellar academic record, I knew to succeed I had to hustle like a dropout.
Thousands of people get scammed in real estate; what challenges have you faced?
Just like a number of Kenyans who have been victims of fraud in the real estate industry, we lost Sh. 5 million we had paid as deposit to a property that turned out to be a scam.
This was all the money we had at that time and the business almost went down. Since we did not have cash after the loss, we thought of other ideas that helped us continue with the business.
We found a land owner who was willing to partner with us and that gave us a new lease of life.
What regrets do you have when you look back at your journey?
I would not term them as regrets, but as learning opportunities that have seen me and the company grow. When we began operation, we were implementing relatively small projects between 2013 and 2015.
With what I know now, we would have done more and achieved greater results from the word go. At the beginning, we took little risk as only one partner was fully engaged in the business.
We accelerated our growth when we decided to resign from our jobs and focus fully on the business.
What advice would you give to the young and upcoming entrepreneurs?
Research adequately before venturing into any business. This will help you settle on an idea that is both practical and sustainable in the long run. Invest early before you begin your venture.
Ensure you have enough upkeep for the next six months to ensure you are able to function and operate your business before it stabilizes. Know your customers’ needs and deliver beyond expectation.
In real estate for example, the overall impact is measured by the ability to deliver title deeds on time.
What would you say to the youth about getting rich?
It is not an overnight affair. Success takes a strategy. It has taken us over 7 years to be where we are today. We started with 3 projects which we did in 3 years.
No one knew about us then. We started scaling things up in 2016 and in 2017, we achieved more than the previous years combined. Take your time and write down your strategy, then start the implementation process.
Entrepreneurship is not all about making money. Money is good but it should not be your only motivation. Create a solution and money will follow.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I desire to be an authority in business leadership in Kenya and Africa, achieve visible impact in the society which will possibly inspire many budding entrepreneurs across the continent. With these business initiatives and innovation, backed with my capable team, I also hope to make affordable housing a reality in Kenya.