What I wish I knew before I turned my hobby into a business

Do you dream of turning your passion into what puts bread on the table? Four successful entrepreneurs share how they turned their pet projects into money-making ventures.

Andrew Kaggia, Kifaru Studios founder.


Andrew Kaggia, Kifaru Studios founder

If you have watched XYZ Show or played Nairobi X, Kenya’s first 3D first-person shooter and multi-player video game, then you have experienced first-hand the work of Andrew Kaggia.

He is an award-winning filmmaker, 3D animator and game developer, as well as a YouTube content creator with 630,000 subscribers. While most of us enjoyed watching animations or cartoons as kids, Kaggia was fascinated with the workings behind them and wanted to create them himself.

How did you turn your hobby into a business?

If there is one thing I truly loved, and still do, was playing video games. For over 10 years I was a consumer of games before I got into creating my first game in 2014. I am a self-taught animator.

Back then, starting out wasn’t as easy as it is now. We didn’t have easy access to phones, the Internet or YouTube. Everything I learnt was from encyclopedias and long trips to cyber cafés. But I was determined to learn how to do it. I started out doing animation long before I got into game development.

When did you decide employment wasn’t for you?

I was employed once, more than 12 years ago and only out of necessity. I was strapped for cash so I worked for three months designing websites. It was a passionless job, and I constantly asked myself why I was doing it while I knew my heart was in animation.

I quit while still on probation then went on to produce the animated kids’ series, Tinga Tinga Tales. I, however, did not stay long before leaving to figure it out for myself. It took years working as a freelancer, sending my portfolio to different ad agencies and building a client base first locally and then internationally.

What are your ‘3 things I wish someone had told me before I started’ and why?

1.  Think like an entrepreneur; act like an artist. Artists tend not to think of their work in a business sense. That is why people always think there is no work. Create your own opportunities. Like my YouTube channel, Herosmashers, is a revenue stream independent of the economy and of clients. Even now with Covid-19 going on, I still have an income.

2.  Consistency is key. It took a long while for my work to pay off. If you’re getting into animation, be ready to sweat. It is easy to give up within a year or two, but for me I had to sometimes do back-breaking work for free or next to nothing just to get in the door.

3. Having a company builds validation. Animation is serious business. I put in long hours to get output. Every game is different and depending on the complexity, I could take three months to half a year to finish a project. Thus you don’t want companies to devalue you and pay you less than you are worth. Having a registered company builds client confidence. It also allows you to bill competitively.


Raphael ‘Raf’ Mumbo, Entheon Pictures co-founder

Raf’s company, Entheon Pictures, was born from a passion for the arts and co-founded with Morris. Entheon, they explain, means a place to discover the God within. Raf’s photography is an art that he feels cannot be inspired without spirituality.

How did you turn your hobby into a business?

I was always the family photographer, and growing up my parents bought me cameras. But I never took it seriously until in 2012, a week after my graduation when I got a job at a studio. I had been in USIU studying international relations and diplomacy.

All through my studies, I would make money doing odd jobs editing photos. Most photographers hated the time-consuming work of editing, so finding jobs was quite easy. I spent all my free time burning the midnight oil to finish the edits, but what I did not know is that I was honing my skills.

When did you decide to do your own thing?

Fast forward to four years of working as a photographer’s assistant and a studio manager, and I got into an accident. I had for a while contemplated pursuing my master’s in international relations, but the accident made me realise I wanted to spend my life doing what I was most passionate about.

That’s how we started Entheon Pictures, which we used to call Role Modelz Photography. I have always wanted to do work that makes a difference and I hope to morph into a celestial photographer, which is basically recording the details of extended objects, such as the moon, sun and planets. I want to sensitise people on air pollution through my art.

What are your ‘3 things I wish someone had told me before I started’ and why?

1. Learn to do taxes. I had no idea how to do taxes and by the time we got an accountant on board, the business was a mess. Learn financial basics like how to use an ETR machine, filing taxes, registering for NHIF, etc.

2.  Business is a roller coaster. Business can be really great one second and fall apart the next. Actually, getting jobs feels great but cash flow issues are always there. Sometimes you do jobs that you don’t get paid for until much later. It can get frustrating.

3.  The grind is real, so buckle up. I did not know I would have to work half as much as I do. I need to market, advertise, build a brand, identify a niche and that is work before the actual work. There are times I sleep at 2am and have to be up at 4am. Business is putting in money, time and a lot of hustle.


Nick Kanali, TechTrendsKe founder

Like the name suggests, Nick Kanali’s business is a blog about trending topics in the world of technology. Kanali’s background is in broadcast journalism and he has, over the years, worked in various organisations.

He first worked for a wildlife NGO as a communications manager before joining the corporate world at a logistics firm as a PR manager, and then became a correspondent for African television.

Why did you leave a well-paying job for a hobby?

At this point, I had established myself as a tech blogger. I, however, remember deciding to take the plunge on a Tuesday.  

I thought about how my job was limiting me so much that I couldn’t take time off to cover an event or interview people while on the office clock. I would secure clients and events but would not get the time to pursue the work.  

I also felt strongly about building my personal brand; all I needed was to focus more on was developing tech content. So I quit my job almost three years ago.

How do you make money as a tech blogger?

Now I get paid by companies to do product reviews, publish sponsored content and sponsored interviews, banner ads for brands, attend tech events and get paid to cover it in the blog and through promotional marketing in our newsletter.

I now run a full digital media company and have diversified to doing podcasts, social media and digital PR, and consultancy.

What are your ‘3 things I wish someone had told me before I started’ and why?

1. To think long-term. I wish someone had told me that I should always look at the bigger picture when venturing into something. The digital/online media space is always changing and you need to stay ahead of the curve.

2. That content creation is not easy money. It is more than just getting your laptop and writing an article. Some serious research works need to be done, especially when you want to identify content that will resonate with your audience. Lots of work and dedication needs to be put in.

3. That I shouldn’t limit myself. I had discovered what I was passionate about but I stalled. If I had started what I am doing now a long time ago, I would be very far in my career. So do it now.


Everlyne Moraa, Swazuri Events founder

Everlyne Moraa is a Jill of all trades – she is a global moderator and a two-time nominee for the Founder of the Year Awards (FOYA).

She is also an alumnus of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) programme and the brains behind the Wineanddine blog. But above all else, she is the founder of Swazuri Events, which she fondly refers to as her legacy.

How did you turn your hobby into a business?

I have always been an entrepreneur. When I was in campus, I sold everything, from jewellery to clothes, handbags and shoes. But getting my parents to understand I was on to something was not easy, so I did my Bachelor of Business Information Technology (BBIT) degree. I graduated and even got a job as an accountant. That’s when I knew the corporate life would never be for me.

The work was intense the first few months, working through the weekend and not having any time to explore my passions. So nine months in, I wrote my resignation letter, forfeited my pay and walked out.

How did you get into events?

Back in campus, I had done a couple of catering events and was a little familiar with the events space. I organised a fashion event dubbed Fashion Bloggers Runway Show and made my first income as an entrepreneur.

A ticket cost Sh1,500 and around 120 people showed up. I had earlier sworn to myself that if the event was successful, I would start a company. Well, it was very successful, and so Swazuri Events was born. I don’t just want to make money, my passion is to work with the youth to create events that shape conversations.

This means I am getting involved in talks on the future of work, technology, empowerment, digital media, mental health and finance, among other things.

What are your ‘3 things I wish someone had told me before I started’ and why?

1. Know your systems. Business school does not prepare you for the realities of business. My first event took lots of emails and follow up consistently for six months. Find mentors to walk you through your business from idea to execution. You will learn systems are important from registering your business to teams, framework and noting everything down.

2. Good leaders delegate. You need a team that you can trust, understand and who believe in your mission. If you do everything alone, your progress will be slow. So delegate, but wisely.

3. Event businesses are about people. I learn this everyday. You need grace to deal with all kinds of clients, even when you are frustrated. Sometimes the turnout is low, but you need to suck it up and make sure the guests who made it get their money’s worth.  

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