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You do not have to wait until you are older and more equipped for entrepreneurship to venture into it.

Aren’t your 20s the years to have fun and go on adventures? Yes, they are. And the adventure could be entrepreneurship. According to Meg Jay in her book The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter, doing something later does not automatically mean doing something better.

You do not have to wait until you are older and more equipped for entrepreneurship to venture into it. And if you are in your 20s and raring to go, pick up the book while at it. 

Four entrepreneurs in their 20s, share what the journey to building sustainable has taught them.

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Quitting my job was worth it

Zeks Mungai, 27, owns a gaming arcade in Nairobi’s CBD

The business, he says, gives him the joy of self-employment. The shop also serves as a rental space for online shops that require a physical space to drop their deliveries.

“I started working pretty young, at 20 and began putting my savings in a Sacco. I also had a side hustle selling second-hand clothes to my campus schoolmates. I believe that the more you hustle, the better you get at it. I soon after stopped selling clothes and would buy electronics like TV sets from auctions and resell them. All this while I was saving up to open a bigger business.

 At 26, I finally left full employment earning a gross salary of about Sh170,000 to start my own business.

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And then I borrowed a loan of about Sh2.4 million to buy off the parlour I would be operating from. It wasn’t easy, my wife left because she couldn’t understand the need to leave a stable job for business. I stood firm because I know that one cannot be afraid to get naked when they want to swim. So I went for it.

Now I get on average 100 people a day and take home Sh20,000 a day. The pandemic has slowed down business rapidly but I still get at least Sh1,000 a day.

My take is, whenever there is excitement mixed with fear, pursue it. If it is just excitement, forget about it.

 Time is my greatest resource

Nyatichi Maraga, 25, sells artsy African-insipired bags on @_sanaa_KE

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Fashion was always an interest for Nyatichi and not seeing enough inspired affordable modern African wear in the market, convinced her that the world was ripe for her business.

“I worked in corporate banking for a while making more than Sh50,000 a month but I realised quickly that it wasn’t for me. The corporate environment was toxic and I was passionless which crippled my progress. I quit mid-2019 and almost immediately dived into the business. I started off with big handbags and feedback from my clients is what guided what new designs I would release. Now I sell a wide range of bags including fanny packs, all customised to my clients’ specifications. Customer referrals are my marketing strategy as well as advertising on my Instagram page.”

Almost a year in, she has learnt that grit is crucial.

“Starting a business is difficult, there is a lot of sacrifice involved. I sometimes had to stay up till 8.30 pm with my tailors, trying to get the item finished on time. For me time is my biggest resource, seeing as I am also doing my Master’s degree in Development Studies.  

“On average, a bag costs Sh3,000 and in the current business climate I now sell about one bag a day. Despite the interruption in business flow, I believe it was the best decision to start when I did. You will never have enough money saved up so start with what you have. I started with a little over Sh30,000 and I plough back my profits into the business to grow it.”

Not starting is way worse than failing

Thieri Ngugi, 24, is a Jack of all trades. He dabbles in providing tech services, photography and cyber cyber services, all under one roof

Thieri believes that the youth can no longer wait for employment. That they have to create work for themselves.

 “I was studying law in university but one failed unit held me back a year. I was frustrated to have to delay a whole year to finish one unit but I decided to take that time as an opportunity to start a small business. I had to reach out to my family for money for capital because the savings I had could not cut it. They offered me Sh120, 000 which I used to start the business, advertising through social media and relying on walk-ins. On average I would take home about Sh15, 000  a month which is quite fair considering the business is only a few months old. The coronavirus pandemic hit when my business was just picking up and I was growing my client base so I had to close shop. Nonetheless, I intend to reopen having negotiated with the landlord for a rent relief, albeit small and hopefully my business will survive the blow. I believe in taking risks, not starting is way worse than failing.”

I knew my salary would never buy me a V8-engine ride

Martin Nduiga, 27, owner of Mtoto Fabulous, a baby clothing store

The economics and finance graduate worked for four years as a banker before quitting to pursue business.  Besides clothing items, he sells baby care products like strollers, bags, breast pumps among others. He also has a photo studio for baby photography.

“It started as a side hustle and at first business was slow.  The business however flourished early 2018 when I started importing diaper backpacks with insulated bottle spaces to keep fluids warm. They were quite rare then and I started getting many orders, about 30 a month. That is when I resigned from my job to do business full time.” Martin resigned because he was not getting much needed flexibility.

“I also knew my pay cheque will never buy me a V8-engine ride so I made the trade off. Most of my bank clients were in business, doing imports and selling locally. I learnt from them and met some after work for some tips,” he says. 

 His business has not suffered much even in the midst of the pandemic. 

“Baby items are a necessity. And I have noticed that parents have a very big appetite to spend on their babies. What I have not been able to move fast is luxury items like fancy strollers, rockers, bassinets, playpens and car seats.

 Is employment crucial for an aspiring entrepreneur?

“Employment was really useful for me when I was starting out. A job teaches you a lot like how money is made and how to deal with customers. But the most important thing is to follow your passion. Even if you can only describe it as an interest, pursue it. Like for me, I love when kids look sharp. I get baby fever when I see kids especially boys dressed wonderfully.” ?  

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