Sophie Mukwana is the director, Biotech Forensics, and principal at SMG Research & Consulting, which deal with forensic biology and serology, crime scene review, audit and analysis through the use of DNA.
Biggest money mistake: I have so far made two common mistakes. The first was failing to separate my personal money from my business money. I followed this up with the failure to pay myself first. I have since observed that this is a common struggle for many people who work for themselves. It gets worse when there is poor record keeping.
Biggest loss: This has been the loss of a business partner and the subsequent end of our friendship. It is said that you should not mix business with friendship. This proved to be true in my case. Nonetheless, I do not think it is the entire truth. What is far more important is to ensure that if collaborating with a friend, you agree on the ground rules from the beginning, have the necessary structures in place, and share the same business philosophy.
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Saving method: I signed up for the #52WeekChallenge with Mshwari that offers the option to lock up my savings. I am able to view how much I have saved every week, which has proved to be a great motivator. I am also able to save directly from my mobile phone, which has made my saving process smooth and friction-less. Previously, I used a coin box. This was not very effective. I would only toss in my change every once in a while.
The key to success: Networking is the key that will unlock the door to your success. You have to be willing to put yourself out there, to talk to people, and to sell your brand. Tell people what you do whenever you get the opportunity. Make a good impression and always try your best to deliver on your promise. People will remember you if you show up and deliver. You must also be aware that the journey to success is never easy. You must have grit. It will determine if you make it or not. Do not take the get-rich-quick shortcut. Put in the work and your seeds will germinate.
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Greatest milestone: I set up the first DNA testing laboratory in Kenya in 2008. This is ranks as my biggest achievement so far. I had never done anything close to it before. While setting it up, I was filled with unbridled optimism about how great it was going to be. Although it was the most difficult task I had endeavored to achieve, I ended up growing immensely from it. Above all, I learned that no goal is impossible if we truly commit and put in the work.
If I could turn back the clock: I would make more use of professional services. I would also start small and accelerate my growth over time.
Business vs employment: I advocate for both. Not everyone can be an entrepreneur and not everyone wants to be an employee. There is a lot to gain from both options. Go ahead if you have the opportunity to work for someone or a company that values and respects your services. You will not only get a stable income but also earn valuable skills on how to work with others, and how businesses are developed. These skills will come in handy should you choose to venture into entrepreneurship in future.
This feature on Sophie Mukwana was first published in the Saturday Magazine.