I left Sh1m in the Den but walked out richer

Who would get a Sh1 million deal on KCB Lions’ Den and turn it down? Well, Nyambura Kinyori did.

She didn’t say ‘thanks, but no thanks’ because there was anything wrong with the deal, she just realised the time wasn’t yet right to bring in an investor.

“Have you ever wanted something so badly, and then realised that you need more time? That’s my story with the Den,” she says.

Nyambura, along with three friends, started Picha Booth, an automated camera and film processing unit that allows people to phose for photos and carry print-outs with them immediately after. They launched their business in March 2015.

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And despite opting out of the deal they got on the TV show, Nyambura says the Den has had significant impact in growing the business.

The beginning

The idea for the booth came while Nyambura and her three friends were discussing wedding plans.

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Her friends, however, dropped out of the business, and she’s been the sole proprietor since 2017.

“I became an entrepreneur by accident. I was planning my wedding and was online when I stumbled upon these two gentlemen from the US who were explaining how picture booths are the in-thing, and I told myself, why not?”

She and her friends had been brainstorming on business ideas, so the video offered a ‘eureka’ moment.

With start-up capital of Sh900,000, the business took off, and Nyambura quit her PR job for Picha Booth.

“Picha Booth is simply an icebreaker during occasions. It’s more of a gift that the owner of a function gives to the guests,” Nyambura explains, adding that the business brings in an average of Sh70,000 a month.

The booth is a full compact unit usually placed in one corner of an event, and it creatively uses a screen, lights and cameras for photography. It allows guests to walk away with pictorial mementos of an occasion.

Picha Booth offers three packages, with the pricing decreasing the longer the booth is hired. The silver package goes for Sh16,000 per hour, while gold and platinum packages go for Sh14,500 and Sh12,000, respectively.

“In a world where selfies are the order of the day, the picture booth offers much more to events in terms of creativity. We also offer related services, such as designing photo books,” says Nyambura.

Her strategy has been to be innovative and creative, and she’s working her way to the top with the help of three employees – a photo booth assistant, a creative writer and an accountant.

“We offer different themes. Anyone can set up a photo booth, but not everyone is creative,” she says on what gives Picha Booth an edge in the industry.

The lessons

And being in business has brought valuable lessons her way.

First, Nyambura says, she’s had to learn to be adaptable and versatile. “I’ve learnt to have in mind that I can do different things, but what I can’t, I outsource, which means asking for help.”

And unlike with employment, entrepreneurship requires a lot of time, which not only calls for patience, but also resilience when things don’t look like they’re on course.

This also means entrepreneurship can get quite lonely, leading to anxiety and depression. A strong support system, therefore, is absolutely critical.

“I also do a lot of physical exercises to relieve the pressure that comes with running the business and to stay focused,” Nyambura says, adding that in the course of her business journey, she’s also realised that she has a lot more skills than she ever thought she did.

Last year, she decided to take her business to KCB Lions’ Den, something that was “the hardest and the best thing that has ever happened to my business”.

“The den was an eye opener and life changing because of how it made me think businesswise,” she says.

To qualify for the TV show that links business owners to investors, she had to do a lot of research to understand her business, her talents and internalise her numbers.

“Before I even entered the Den to meet the investor panel, I’d been given an opportunity to meet analysts who helped me understand my business and how to value it,” says Nyambura, adding that the show’s production team was also of great assistance when it came to preparing her pitch.

And when she finally got into the Den, she got a proposal of Sh1 million for a 30 per cent stake in her business from Olive Gachara. However, the realisation hit her that her business wasn’t ready for this kind of deal.

But since the Den is not just about money but also mentorship, learning and partnership, Nyambura still feels like a winner.

“Now, I’m asking myself what else I can do so that next time I get an opportunity like the one at the Den, I don’t have to let it go.”

Nyambura has her sights set on venturing into more of the East African market in the next two years. But before this, she’s focusing on building her brand.

Her advice to other entrepreneurs?

“Don’t stop! One problem with the youth is that they think entrepreneurship means getting rich overnight. Build now and you’ll enjoy in the future.”

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