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10 tips on building an impressive business - Esther Muchemi CEO of Samchi Group of Companies

Sunday Magazine
 Esther Muchemi group CEO of Samchi Photo: Edward Kiplimo.

Start small

This is the only sure way to learn and get the best out of your business. Samchi Telecom started as a small mobile outlet business in the year 2000 selling phones and other mobile hardware. This was a year when mobile business was setting base in Kenya and our shop was the first along Kimathi Street. Later on, in 2001, we joined the telecom industry as a Kencell (now Airtel) and Safaricom dealer but later abandoned Kencell to diversify and fully work with Safaricom as an M-Pesa dealer. That's how we have managed to gradually scale up our business to the level we are now. Begin humble, with whatever you have. It is a sure way to grow.

Don’t be a push-over

You should expect many people to challenge your ideals during the initial stages of starting any new business. This was more so for me being in the male dominated telecommunication industry. When establishing Samchi Telecom, many people would poke holes at my reasoning, openly resisting my moves, but after I broke the ceiling, things got easier since many realized that when it came to business, they couldn't push me around.

You don't know much

Always remember that, and be hungry to learn. Learn on the job and if possible, go to school. I started out as a junior officer with a local auditing firm, called PKF Audit. It was a good lesson on scaling up the management ladder. This was after I completed my commerce degree and my CPA (K) course at the Nairobi University. I started my career as a trainee auditor, and then moved in to become a salaried partner with PKF Audit. Board room frustrations made it impossible for me to become a profit sharing partner which I was looking forward to, thus, I had to move on and chase my dreams of starting something that other people could join and get their life changed. It has taken time.

Be like mother theresa

Living and working ethically has enabled us be who we are and to withstand the competition from emerging competitors. Doing right and playing by the rules builds your business a solid foundation. Don't play dirty. Our competitors have even voted us in to win awards a number of times.

Don’t be a control freak

Starting out, I ran the company alone, but as we have continued to grow, I have to delegate. Find competent people. People you can count on to do the best job possible. Allow your employees room for growth, that way they are personally invested in your business. Delegating responsibilities helps them stretch their capabilities too, and gives you a break.

Plan on your retirement

Business should never end with you. One day, you will retire, thus, it is better to nurture a number of people in your company who can take over from you when you bolt out. At Samchi Telecom, I have left a number of responsibilities to some people to make it easier for them to learn everything when I am not around. I also do a lot of mentoring to bring up my future leaders.

Play time matters

Running a business can wear you out. You need to find time to blow off some steam. I am an introvert, I love my personal space. Sometimes I will go out for some fun but most times I will be alone in my quiet garden enjoying some me-time. This is when I am even able to make some decisions that I can't make in the office or anywhere else.

Own your femininity

It is easy for men to embrace their masculinity in the workplace. Women however, should learn to be themselves and never change their life to behave like men in order to be successful. Trying to be someone else will be your undoing, as you temper down the positive attributes that come with being the fairer sex. I have learnt to maintain my feminine soft approach to things and being a woman gives me great insight into things that could have been ignored.

Teach your kids your values

I have always ensured that decisions I make do not negatively impact my family. I have taught my kids that you have to work hard to get the best. When they were growing up, I taught them that even when I am not around, they had to ensure that they have done their homework way before I got home. They have carried this sense of responsibility into their adulthood, making it easier for me as a mum and allowing me to be great in business.


Never doubt your ability to perform your duties. Yes, you don't know everything, but you will learn and can do it. I was brought up in a family where everyone was treated equal. Equally, as I have slowly been growing in my business, I have learnt never to doubt the steps that I make in life since after all the repercussions will be mine to bear.

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