Village boy who struck it big in construction

Farrowson Muriithi. [iStockphoto]

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, said Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu.

Farrowson Muriithi’s first step into the world of business was after high school in Kavoteri Boys, Embu County.

He had identified a gap within the market days in his native Embu town, where there was no supplier of shoes.

To fill this gap, he sought capital from his father, who advanced him Sh2,000. He embarked on his first trip to Nairobi to purchase shoes for sale from the Gikomba market.

The business was brisk for him but it ended painfully after he lost all the proceeds that he’d been saving in his “mattress.”

Despite this, he remained undeterred in his quest to succeed and relocated to Nairobi for opportunities. His first job in the city was in an agency that had him hawk around electronics for commissions.

“When I come to Nairobi, I did not know anyone. I just made the big leap because all my proceeds from the shoe business were stolen,” he tells Enterprise.

He’d made the decision without even informing his parents. Muriithi had stumbled on a newspaper classified seeking salespeople.

“The requirement for the opportunity was that one comes for the interview dressed in a suit and tie, and carry with them their identification card. I got the job however it was not what I expected. The opportunity entailed hawking electronics around the city for a commission.”

Life in Nairobi, unlike the village, had so many demands that his meagre pay from his sales job would not sustain him.

 Hardware business

He struggled through his initial years trying to survive in the capital city. Eventually, he reconnected with his dad who, as a mason, got a contract to supervise the construction of the famous but now defunct Guzzlers Entertainment Beach and Resort.

Despite his dad being adamant that his son does not join the construction industry, Muriithi soldiered on.

After the construction of the club, the owner absorbed him into the business as a kitchen steward where he rose through the ranks to become a cashier and eventually the general manager.

However, his real passion was in property and he started brokering land. And with the commissions he made, he got himself a piece of land.

It was from his plot that he not only decided to construct his own house but also decided to set up a hardware and grocery shop with his wife.

Owing to the construction boom at the time, his hardware business was soon booming.

Through interactions with his clients, he identified an opportunity in the construction industry. Most of his customers were complaining about poor experiences with their developers who sometimes delivered shoddy workmanship.

“It was by identifying this gap that I decided to set up Pacific Reality Investments. Pacific is the biggest ocean and signified my intention to also be the biggest construction company. I had already built my house then and used it as my portfolio in my quest to get my first client. My first client eventually come after around 13 months,” recalls Muriithi.

Pacific delivered for its first client who was quite pleased with the work that he posted on social media, eventually ushering a stream of clients.

The mantra carried by Pacific was that any budget by the client would be sufficient to execute a construction project, which ushered in the affordable housing concept back in 2013.

Pacific Reality Investment has come a long way in exerting its presence in the affordable housing space - having executed hundreds of projects since its inception around Kenya and even in South Sudan.

Affordable housing was part of the last regime’s key pillars under the infamous Big Four agenda and has also been adopted by the current regime.

His take is that the government needs to only create an enabling environment for developers in order for the affordable housing agenda to succeed.

“The government does not need to build but only needs to create an environment in which developers and executioners of the affordable house agenda can succeed. This is through ensuring that the mortgage rates are affordable, infrastructure such as road networks, water and electricity are accessible and construction regulatory bodies get rid of bureaucracy and corruption for the affordable housing agenda to succeed.”

His business journey has not been without challenges. 2022 has been the toughest year yet owing to a surge in the cost of construction materials.

This has worsened the cost of doing business with the firm executing fewer projects as compared to previous years.

Mr Muriithi, who credits his family, especially his wife, as a key pillar in his business and life’s journey, advises budding entrepreneurs to prize offering solutions, and ethics and embrace failure.

“When you solve people’s problems, money will always follow you. Integrity is also key in running a sustainable business. Failure is also inevitable. Through failures and mistakes, one will also reconfigure their paths.”

“One of the biggest mistakes I made earlier on in the business was recruiting wrongly and trusting too much. I recruited friends who ended up being a liability in the business but eventually, I learnt through this and made the process rigorous and professional with the aim of ensuring that I only got the best talent,” he says.

For one to succeed in the construction industry, have the right paperwork, the right team of professionals and manage costs, he advises. His firm has since set up a subsidiary - Pacific Projects Ltd that seeks to purchase plots and build houses for sale to cater to growing demand, especially from the diaspora.