Then and now: How the past defined my brand

King Kaka
Let me tell you a story about my childhood. I had just completed high school and my mother was happy I had gotten good grades.

What that meant was that finally, one of her sons was going to university. There was pure joy both at home and among my extended family.

But then there was also Kaka Sungura, who back then took risks, overly stretched ones.

His knowledge of tips was nursery-level and he was a dreamer. King Kaka today takes calculated risks, since he’s been in the ‘game’ for a while.

There were times I’d think Kaka Sungura wasted a lot of time and resources, but then I’ve come to appreciate that the path I took then has made me who I am today. The beauty of entrepreneurship is that when you learn who you are and the weaknesses you have, you can focus on the strengths and make yourself a success.

I’ve heard stories about the younger me and how I’d take a lot of risks. In Class Seven, for instance, I wrote a book. In Form 1, I developed a comic book, and started a clothing line in Form 2. By Form 3, I was running a competitive rap battle in school.

By age 20, I had a shop and an office in Nairobi’s CBD, and then launched a music career with an album and eventually started Kaka Empire.

But every time I thought of these ideas and mentioned them to my peers, they would get shot down. I came to realise that I have to live my life rather than what they think I should be living.

I’m sharing this story because I ended up going to university and got my degree, and then worked at an accounting firm. However, I quit after a week.

I felt my potential couldn’t be boxed behind a desk. But don’t be like me, because the 21-year-old me was irrational.

King Kaka now would have stayed at the firm for maybe six months to a year to network and see what other opportunities are there.

So what did I learn in the seven years I was Kaka Sungura – and what’s been the difference in work ethic and mindset when it comes to King Kaka?

Ideology

The young me was a dreamer and so is King Kaka. You know how they say experience is the best teacher?

The young me built experiences so that King Kaka could make ‘perfect’ decisions.

Trust me, I’ll look back 10 years from now and say King Kaka made a few mistakes so that the then King can thrive in making the right decisions. What I like about the two timelines is that these two characters are both fighters for what they believe in.

The question I always ask myself and all entrepreneurs I meet is: How unique is the idea?

The moment you have a unique product or service, the world will pay attention. But most of us would rather jump onto a moving train than ask what other way to that destination exists, or if there’s even a different destination to get to.

Risk

This has never changed for me. I’m a risk taker and that’s been consistent.

I’ll jump on the next new wave before it happens, I’ll spend money on an investment that’s pure risk and look back and say that was a good move. I have the same mindset; it’s only that I’ve scaled things up now.

Student

The young me worked in a cocoon and eventually presented to the world what he was working on, without regulations.

King Kaka now is more of a student and has built a ‘mentor’ network of people. He knows whom to call to get the right information. King Kaka and Kaka Sungura have both always been students, but the level of class has changed since one has a wide network and the other learnt from what was around him.

Network

Your network is your net worth. I remember I wanted to get into the industry differently and had read in foreign magazines that most new artistes record albums first before releasing debut singles.

So I went that direction. Getting a venue and pulling together the resources to launch my album was really difficult.

Fast forward to my fifth studio album that I launched a few months ago. I’ve built networks and a solid fan base over the last 10 years. Getting sponsorship and fans to buy the album and tickets wasn’t as hard as it was 10 years ago. It all depends on your level of consistency.

Both characters are a learning blueprint for what direction I’ll be taking years from now.

My answer when asked what inspires me is poverty/my past. This has given me a strong compass to walk into the future.

The writer is an award-winning artiste and entrepreneur.

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