Ghetto mentality can push you to greatness

King Kaka, an award-winning artiste and entrepreneur (PHOTO: FILE)
NAIROBI, KENYA: The man who has confidence in himself gains the confidence of others, according to a famous Hasidic proverb.

I would presume that most of you by now know my story. Well, what you have heard is probably true and more.

I was born and raised in the hardest hoods of Eastlands, Jericho, Maringo and Kaloleni.

When American rappers say in songs that they have had friends who got into crime like it was a normal routine, I could relate. I have seen close friends get into drugs and crime - to the extent of burying some.

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The television doesn’t make it easier for the ghetto mentality to change. Most news that comes from 7pm is mostly negative, but remember the pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty. I knew there was more that the ghetto had to offer.

Practical lessons

I might not have all those fancy quotes from business books, and the fancy business language that motivational speakers use but I know my lessons are from a practical and more realistic place.

I started realising this when attending meetings. I was different. One important lesson that I learned was being me.

When people approach me and ask for advice, I always give them options; deep breakdown and tell them to choose.

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I am put in panels that bring out my business character, but you will still find me throwing in some slang and sheng. It is a different way of passing information but it works.

I have to be honest with you, there was a time I tried all those fancy words as I tried to fit in.

It took too long to learn ‘their’ ways and at the end of it all I failed miserably. It just wasn’t me.  Ever seen someone who has just come out of a French lesson talking to a Frenchman? You will automatically spot the student.

I went back to the drawing board and told myself that the fact that they gave me an audience meant I had something worth listening to.

When most clients approach me for an influencer job or a campaign they would want me to spearhead, I usually ask for a separate meeting where we debate how important messaging is. I have over one million followers on all my social media pages combined and most of these people know my story and my language; and there is what my brand stands for.

I have turned down deals that were not resonating. Most times I change the messaging to what ‘my people’ believe.

Anyway, back to the class, the first school I ever attended was ‘Ghetto University’.

Ever heard people praise the streets and point out how they have learnt so much?

I am one of the students who is doing his masters. After that fake trial, and I couldn’t fit in, I went home one day and asked myself: As much as I get my business done using the ‘gut’ as my mentor, how could I pass this gem to the next generation? I would advise you to do the same today.

Take a piece of paper and write the highlights of your life. With every highlight comes a lesson. And that has been the backbone of what I tell the young ‘King Kakas’.

There were instances when my family couldn’t afford a decent meal, but that played a huge role in motivating me.

It pushed my business instincts to new heights - when they say necessity is the mother of invention, it is all true.

So after cleaning up nicely and fitting into bespoke suits, I decided to package my ghetto experiences and the business lessons that I got from that.

I believe most people in Kenya and elsewhere who are below the poverty line speak a language that is different and what resonates is tailor-made.

Discuss matters

I now sit at the same panels with household names and the Unicef and discuss matters of changing the globe — telling tens of thousands of young people about my business journey, and judging at the Blaze BYOB show alongside Trusha and Caroline Mutoko.

But the survey that got me those jobs and many others is my ghetto story, mentality and approach. Embrace your fear and always seek gold where there is mud.

Anyway, niaje watu wangu hiyo ndio lesson ya leo naishia kucheza ball na watu wangu wa mtaani kwanza nitoe hii three-piece yangu nimetoka kushoot nayo Blaze. Always start by using what youhave.

The writer is an award-winning artiste and entrepreneur.

Nairobi's EastlandsGhettoEnterpreneurship