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How we turned a failing garage into a Sh5m success

By George Orido | Published Wed, August 15th 2018 at 13:09, Updated August 15th 2018 at 14:10 GMT +3

When Kamal Ibrahim quit his job at Unity Auto garage to venture into business, he knew his journey would be fraught with uncertainties. Still, he was determined to succeed.

Today, as he swivels in his comfy chair at JB Motors, the 33-year-old is definitely seeing the fruits of his determination. In just under five years, Kamal and his business partner Caren Muthoni have transformed the once defunct JB Motors into a sought-after motor repairs shop.

It has even attracted corporate clients who tend to prefer to service their cars in dealerships associated with international car makers. On it’s roster, it counts clients like Japan International Cooperation Agency, United Nations Environment Programme, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, DHL, Kenya Medical Supplies Authority and Kenya Bureau of Standards.

It has also got the stamp of approval from insurance firms like Britam, Jubilee and UAP to handle repairs.

This kind of trust hasn’t been the result of good luck, but a culmination of hard work and discipline with which the mechanics at the workshop, based along Nairobi’s Bunyala Road, handle their job.

“Efficiency and proficiency are key in every service we offer to our customers, and that’s why we’ve been able to attract some big corporate clients,” says Kamal.

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In the beginning

He started repairing vehicles 12 years ago as a mechanic at Unity Auto Garage.

“At Unity, owing to my skin complexion, clients would get surprised at how well I undertook mechanical work, but it was this kind of focus that led me to where I am today,” Kamal says.

After three years, he was put in charge of quotations and estimates. In 2015, however, he left and partnered with his former administrative assistant Caren to acquire JB Motors. They didn’t have enough cash to get started, so they took out loans to raise the capital.

“It was not easy raising the money, but luckily for both of us, we’d saved enough to help secure loans from banks and friends,” says Caren.

They then had to rebrand JB Motors to regain customers’ trust.

“JB Motors was going under for many reasons, and initially it was a Herculean task convincing people to bring their cars here, even for minor repairs,” says Kamal.

But they’d developed a good rapport with clients at their former workplace who, through word of mouth, helped them get clients who’ve grown the business.

“The big turning point for us was when we started getting work from an insurer impressed with our work. They started sending more business our way, and by the end of the year, we were able to buy the all the equipment we needed to get us going,” Kamal says.

Today, JB Motors employs 46 people and registers an annual turnover of Sh5 million. The garage is also a fully accredited major structural repairer, which distinguishes it from a lot of its competition.

While profitability is crucial, a focus on delivering solutions through quality repairs has worked in the workshop’s favour.

“Sometimes it’s the little things that take a business to the next level. I think we as business owners, especially in this industry, lose a lot by focusing on how much profit we’re making, instead of putting emphasis on the quality of work done,” Kamal says.

“You need to focus; do it and don’t look back. In the end, no matter what happens, you need to be prepared to move mountains for your dreams, no matter how insurmountable they might seem.”  


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