Robert Muthee had a good and successful life laid out for him like a prestigious red carpet. He had managed to set up a profitable photography business that made him a millionaire.
In his good days in Thika, Muthee made millions. “On a bad month, I was getting like Sh. 250,000. On a good month, I would make up to Sh. 1 million,” he said. Beyond the millions, Muthee’s line of business saw him rubbing shoulders with presidents and top government dignitaries and operatives.
Today, all his glory days are part of a troubling memory that he would rather forget than spend his days reminiscing. The once in-demand Muthee hawks Sh. 10 masks in the streets of Thika.
“Before I started selling masks, I was in the photography business. I worked with many dignitaries including Kenya’s three Presidents,” he said. “I have worked with very many big people in the industry. I have worked with industrial giants and billionaires like Manu Chandaria and Vimal Shah of Bidco.” Muthee was business mogul Manu Chandaria’s photographer where he was paid Sh. 25,000 per hour to cover his 50th wedding anniversary. He could easily pocket half a million in a day!
His fall from grace began right about the time he was at the peak of his photography and video editing career. “I had a good job and did not owe anyone any money. But it all changed the day my friend, who is a shylock, walked into my office with Sh. 200,000 in cash,” he said.
Muthee, on seeing his friend with the bundle of cash, ended up taking the Sh. 200,000 as a soft loan. “He offered me the money and told me to return it at the end of the month. I saw it as a deal and took it,” he said.
Apparently, after taking the money, Muthee used it to acquire new photography and video editing accessories for his business. When the time to repay came that end month, he only had Sh. 180,000.
His friend said that he would restructure the balance into a new loan. Muthee agreed. To get out of this remaining debt, he took another Sh. 100,000 from a different shylock and paid off the loan. Faced with a new loan, Muthee put his car up for sale and repaid the second loan. But this was only the beginning of his money problems.
He became addicted to loans and took loans at all the banks he transacted with. At one point, some banks gave him credit cards with over Sh. 300,000 for his spending. His addiction got so bad that at one point, he started buying cars on credit from his friends who work in the car importation business.
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By the time he started to realize that he had a huge debt problem, Robert Muthee had accrued debts worth over Sh. 4 million. By this time, no bank or friend wanted anything to do with him. Broke and desolate, he started washing cars in Thika at Sh. 50 per car. In 2020, he shifted business and started hawking masks around Thika, a business he is still doing up until now.
“At some point, I worked at a car wash. Life was really hard. Bishops and pastors prayed for me since I believed I was bewitched. I had reached a point where most people would kill themselves, but I chose to accept my situation. I started selling masks in Thika to support my family,” he said.