If something doesn’t seem right, he doesn’t waste time on it. And that got Isaac Mosongo, a General Service Unit man, studying nursing while still in the police force. He wanted to serve, only in a very different way. 10 years in service, he knew it was time to put the arms down. He was restless. He also realised he couldn’t possibly reach his highest potential while in the armed forces. This realisation was further solidified by the fact he was getting some job offers. He took one from AAR; and as he was going through orientation, he was presented with a more enticing offer by Mount Kenya Safari Club. They wanted to take him on as a health and safety manager in charge of the security department. This was a better fit for his skills and he accepted it. He would later work in a similar capacity for The Fairmont, West House, Eka Hotel and DusitD2. Today, he owns Safety Associates Limited, a firm with corporate clients and institutions like the Centum Group of Companies, Weetabix East Africa, Mathara Holdings among others.
How did your entrepreneurship journey start?
I was in between jobs at the time. That was back in 2015 when I met my business partner. He was also out of work at the time and I found out that like me, he had worked in health and safety, dealing with emergencies and was a seasoned professional in the field. We brainstormed about starting a business and Safety Associates Limited was born. We are a health and safety solutions provider, dealing mostly with supplies such as First Aid boxes. We also do installations of fire alarm systems, fire suppression systems, security installation systems such as CCTV and access control systems, firefighting equipment and safety signage. Currently, we are taking steps to ensure that the company is compliant with all necessary industry requirements. I am also looking to become a health and safety advisor – I joined Kenyatta University where I am studying Bachelor of Science, Health and Safety.
Why this business?
I developed a passion for health and safety while at Mount Kenya Safari Club and at the three other three hotels I worked for afterwards where I spearheaded health and safety issues. I was either the chair or assistant chair of the safety committee. I was also revamping or setting up health and safety systems where none were in existence. The business was a natural progression.
How did you raise the capital?
Most people believe you must have a lump sum of money to start a company. But that was not the case with Safety Associates. My business partner and I were out of jobs back then, so we didn’t have anything, actually. But we looked around and saw what other companies were doing. These people must have started somewhere, and we thought that we could do something with what we could scrounge up. We started putting together the documentation necessary to start a company. We searched for our company name and, since no one else had it, we registered it. Most of the things we paid for out of pocket, the little we had on us. We opened a bank account, did the necessary stuff at Sheria House and with our documents in place, we started sending out proposals to prospective clients. The rest is history.
In what ways has your marketing strategy changed since you launched your company?
Back then, with our target market in mind, we’d go to the internet, search for their addresses and send out proposals. Right now social media is a powerful tool. That is one of the ways in which we are marketing our company. We have a presence online as our customers and potential clients are heavy users of social media.
How lucrative is the business?
I would say very. Safety is regulated by law. People are supposed to comply with and put in place measures that deal with safety. You can’t opt not to. So, if you are good at marketing, you will get many clients and you can make a living out of safety, either as a supplier, trainer or auditor. From one client, one can make between Sh200,000 to even more than Sh5 million. Depending on what you’re doing, a major installation can fetch you millions.
Does this mean your nursing credentials aren’t put to use?
Oh, but they are. I am also a nursing officer at Technical University of Kenya. At the university, I am the secretary to the health and safety committee. Safety Associates actually increases the knowledge that I have, because I think I’m better able to advise the management on health and safety issues. For example, during this Covid pandemic period, I’ve been helping the university develop Covid-19 policies and risk assessment tools. These are requirements by the Directorate of Safety, which falls under the Ministry of Labor.
What impact has the pandemic had on your company?
Some of our clients were put out of business. That means that we lost that business. Also, lot of clients canceled businesses which Safety Associates was supposed to deliver on. Our slogan is ‘Trust, Technology, Safety’. So we are using technology to deliver some of our services. For example, if our client had an equipment installed and they need after sale training on its use, we can zoom call and take them through it. So one also has to embrace technology.
What has the pandemic taught you about business?
The pandemic calls for us to be a bit more aggressive in marketing. Put yourself out there and don’t just rely on the existing market. Look for new markets where you can sell your product.
What role has networking played in the growth of Safety Associates?
Some of the clients who have come on board have been through people we’ve given good service who’ve, in turn, given referrals.
What does someone who wants to get into the business need to know?
Be passionate about what you do. At the end of the day, it’s all about timely service delivery to clients. Have good customer service and do a good job. If you do a good job, you definitely get repeat business and referrals. Be efficient and have integrity.
How important is a business plan?
It took us some time to come up with a business plan. You have to think about how big you want your business to grow. I foresee Safety Associates doing regional markets; international business. So, if you’re thinking about doing such kind of a business, you have to understand that it has to be scalable. We want to grow from a small outfit that operates in the different regions in Kenya into neighboring countries where business is favorable, say places like Uganda or Rwanda. Then we can have partners whose line of products we stock. For example, safety deposit box makers. Your business plan has to be very robust – take your time when you’re doing one. Knowing where you’re going will inform the business plan.
This is a young industry in Kenya, but even so, how do you stay ahead?
I have a good sense of what the business should look like. By looking at some of the companies which have done it, I know we can become better than some corporations out there. We do not want to replicate what they are doing; we want to be competitors offering equally or much better services and products.
How do you manage to stay informed?
I read and surround myself with people who have street smarts. For example, the person who does our accounts has to be somebody knowledgeable not only in bookkeeping, but (s)he needs to have an idea about the market and where we need to put our focus. Currently, I’m reading Business Secrets from the Bible by Rabbi Daniel Lapin. I am also reading Leadership Secrets of the World’s Most Successful CEOs and a book on international marketing.