Reuben Kimani is the co-founder and CEO of real estate development and investment firm, Username Investment Limited.
Saving method: I used to save money in the bank when I got my first job. This didn’t work as the cash was easily available for use. During this time, I made useless purchases that had no value to my future. I later got some financial tips and joined a Sacco at my former workplace that gave out handsome dividends. The amount I saved would later become a key source of capital when we started Username. In the course of doing business, I have also learned that it’s more beneficial to save money in an investment scheme where money keeps growing. One of these schemes is property.
Biggest loss: In the earlier years, we faced a setback when a property we had acquired turned out to be fraudulent. This led to an instant loss of Sh. 5 million that we had paid as deposit. This was all the money we had at that time and the business almost went down. We picked ourselves up and thought hard of other ideas that would help us continue with the business.
We struggled until we found a land owner who was willing to partner with us. This partnership gave us a new lease of life. Rising up from this setback, we learned through the help of our lawyer to conduct extensive due diligence before acquiring a property. Always learn the core areas that might bring down your business and have alternative mitigation plans. Never give up on your end goal because people and resources exist to take you there if you’re determined and persistent enough to look for them.
Biggest money mistake: In 2008 when I left college, some prime properties along Thika Road were being sold for as low as Sh. 25,000 for an eighth of an acre. The current value for the same property stands at Sh. 5 million. I ought to have invested in these plots from the income I made on the side and the extras from HELB. This is a mistake I continued to make even after getting my first job. Instead, I spent most of my income on unnecessary and expensive gadgets.
Biggest money lesson: I have learned that just like power, money abhors a vacuum. I now deliberately budget and direct my income to value-adding opportunities. Also, active and running projects take at least 30 per cent of my income. You must read widely, invest in knowledge and be on top of breaking opportunities to avoid losing on investment chances that can turn you into a millionaire.
Greatest milestone: We started Username as three directors and one employee in a small, one room office in the CBD. Today, we’ve grown to a staff of over 35 employees and indirectly employed more than 500. Our first Username project was a 42-plot property in Konza which we bought with monies pulled from savings and an unsecured loan of Sh. 1.8 million. Today, at Username, we have grown to manage projects that can provide homes to 1,000 families with projected revenues of more than Sh. 200 million.
Secret to success: You must live deliberately if you want to make it. Don’t take the fast food-instant coffee-instant riches direction. Be self-aware and do things that improve your life daily. If you’re in business, take risks, know your customers and deliver beyond their expectation. Learn from your customers’ feedback and remember to build a great team behind you.
If I could go back in time: I would ensure that I fail faster, learn faster and think big from the word go. We wasted 3 years from 2013 to 2015 implementing relatively small projects. With what I know now, we would have done more. In this period we also took little risk as only one partner was fully engaged in the business.