I’m sure you’ve seen all the stories online about these young millionaires. For the longest time, I didn’t believe them, until recently.

A while back, I recorded a song with Jorma Taccone, who’s one third of the famous group, Lonely Island. And if you’re not conversant with the group, Google them. They’ve acted in movies and recorded songs with superstars like Akon, Justin Timberlake, Kendrick Lamar and many more.

Anyway, Jorma called me a week ago and told me that one of his friends was coming to Kenya, and it would be amazing if I could show him around.

What he didn’t tell me is that this friend was 23 years old and was a millionaire.

The genesis

Anyway, the friend checked into his hotel at around 10pm, and just so I could introduce myself, I was at the reception to receive him. We had coffee to touch base and I let him rest for the night. 

The following morning, we met up so I could show him around. He was more interested in seeing the Eastlands side of Nairobi since the last time Jorma was here, I’d shown him where I grew up; his friend wanted a similar experience.

On our way there, he gave me his back story and then all of a sudden mentioned that he’d struck a multi-million-dollar deal by selling one of his businesses to an established firm.

Such patterns intrigue me, and I’m amazed not so much by the wealth, but by the stories behind the genesis and the victory.

So as he was giving me the back story, I noticed a lot of similarities between himself and I.

First, he started being inquisitive at an early age, so when he was in high school, he was the ‘plug’, the guy to go to for whatever you wanted.

Seize opportunity

It reminded me of my mandazi business. What I fail to understand sometimes is how people don’t have drive. So while I was telling him about my own high school hustle, we could see the similarities in our zeal.

I saw an opportunity and I pounced on it. I used to walk all the way from Kaloleni estate to Eastleigh High School, so while most of my peers were complaining about the trek, I made an economy out of what were buying along the way to class.

There was this lady who used to live in Majengo estate, and I noticed that on the days she didn’t open we would get so frustrated to the point that the school was curious about these precious mandazis.

One outstanding quality about entrepreneurs is that they see an opportunity and they work towards it.

So one day I took a risk. My mother gave me fees to take to school, and from this cash, I took Sh200 to start my business.

The mandazis cost Sh5, so I convinced the woman who sold them to let me buy them at Sh3 each. She would make my batch just before her normal one.

And by 8am, my stock would be sold out. I was in an art class, so I put my talents into practise to cut costs. I made a poster and since I was a prefect, I had access to the school noticeboard. One morning, students came to school and found my handmade poster marketing mandazis up on the board.

Later on I realised that just by doing that, I’d cut costs in my accounting.

Jorma’s friend was a paper boy when he was a young boy, so almost everyone in the neighbourhood knew him on a personal basis because he brought their newspapers.

So when he started one of his first companies, a grocery delivery service, his neighbours were his first clients.

And his initial marketing method was interesting, even though now he mostly uses social experiments.

He approached the current delivery boy, whom he’d handed over to, and asked to attach a photocopied poster of his grocery services to every newspaper delivery.

Before he knew it, he was getting not less than 10 jobs a day. At the age of 17, he recruited two of his friends – who are still his business partners to date – to help out.

The highlight of his trip here, apart from experiencing the culture and eating ugali, was that he felt he’d travelled back in time. This could only mean that the business explosion in Kenya is happening, and young entrepreneurs should take advantage.

I also learnt that we should dream big, plan and execute. Get personal and be obsessed. He’s 23 and a millionaire – in dollar terms.


The writer is an award-winning artiste and entrepreneur.

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