What it takes to run a marketing agency

Aquila East Africa Director, Kester Muhanji.[Gerard Nyele, Standard]

For Kester Muhanji, the lightbulb moment to build a business struck during a church sermon.

The preacher ministered on the enduring strength of an eagle.

The muscular but agile bird has one of the sharpest eyesight in the animal kingdom. The Bible often symbolises the eagle to portray power, vision, and even destruction.

The sermon inspired Mr Muhanji to develop a business name which has since grown into a thriving marketing and communication agency known as Aquila East Africa Limited. Aquila refers to an eagle in Latin.

He serves as the director of the firm which has taken grit and determination to stay above the competition.

"Perception gives clients confidence; however, this comes with the heavy cost of branding yourself. My main challenge in this was raising capital, which was only possible from friends and family," he says.

The once-decorated Business Executive with a leading media house shifted careers after taking a sabbatical leave to focus on a personal matter. During this time, fate would plunge him into entrepreneurship.

"I was on leave but some people who knew my abilities would not let me be, So I was called upon to consult for them. The pay was good and the jobs kept coming. This pushed me out of employment and in April 2018, we opened an office equipped with only one computer and printer," recalls Mr Muhanji.

Media planning companies have experts working for them who can undertake the task of market research and analysis for identifying the best and most effective media channels, platforms, and outlets for your company.

Firms such as Aquila can easily guide clients into choosing media plans that are effective and within their budget owing to their networks and reach in the local media industry.

Media planning experts also help clients and companies outshine competitors in the market by giving valuable insight into marketing plans and ever-changing trends in the media industry.

Having handled client detail in his previous roles, Mr Muhanji says it was easy for the new media startup to find a footing. "It was all about learning how to run the business on the job, though previous experience with media buying and management helped me out," he observes.

Mr Muhanji says that his biggest business lesson when starting out was learning how to separate his personal and business account.

"Running a business requires a top level of discipline and honesty," he reflects.

Mr Muhanji had previously taken a course in Economics from the University of Nairobi, but he soon found out that running a media agency or any business required more than an economic degree.

"Knowledge is key in understanding business concepts and putting them to practice. The good thing knowledge is dynamic and it's not constrained in classrooms. I am currently practising peer-to-peer mentorship with a strong urge to take a course in digital business management soon," he adds.

Without a mentor, Muhanji has joined a club for peer experience sharing. He advises that "Even online clubs can be useful for the exchange of experiences," he points out.

Having worked in the corporate world, it was easy to identify gaps in the media buying industry. Capitalizing on them worked to his advantage and currently, Aquila enjoys an adequate share of the market, with prospects of growth high.

"We do everything that ordinary media agencies don't do. Being extraordinary has served our clients well, and our market share is gradually growing through referrals from the clients we have served effectively"

"We have devised a very unique way to reach people in the remotest areas and impart any campaign effectively through a reach database of groups at the grass root level," he says.

"Rigidity in media and lack of flexibility to accommodate client and modern-day needs is giving us leverage over the competition."

But what does it take to thrive as a startup?

"Venture into a business that you understand or have experience in. You can't do guesswork in business and succeed," he advises upcoming business leaders.

When scouting for the best talent to support his business, the entrepreneur emphasises the need for "a good team" factor.

"Flexibility with pricing is also key, packaging each client needs by coasting rather than stiff packages."

Mr Muhanji adds that the marketing strategy has to be guided by creating relations that transit to ambassadors.

Aquila is now planning to expand its operations within the East African region, with already a footing in some countries through partnerships like in Rwanda.

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