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The success journey of two: I suggested to Richard it was time we gave my hobby a business try

Achieving Woman
 Richard and Catherine Kipchillet

They say marriages where couples work together are fraught with challenges but Richard and Catherine Kipchillet have proven this does not always have to be the case

Our marital and entrepreneurial journey began in the mid 1980s.  I (Richard) have never been formally employed and I learned business ropes while working for my father. He operated a string of businesses spreading from Eldoret to Nakuru and it was while running one of his business errands that I met my wife, Catherine.

She was an employee of one of my father’s clients and I proposed to her and she accepted. Before long, we were married and thus began our life journey together.

Like any entrepreneurial journey, ours has been one of many ups and downs. We began by operating a cereal business in Nakuru town that was very promising. We would buy bulk grain in wholesale and resell at retail. It did not take long before copycats modelled their businesses on our success and before long; competition meant we were staring at dismal returns.

This did not deter us for we knew there would be an opening elsewhere. Our maxim has been if one door closes, another will open. After strategising a lot, we opened a bureau service business offering printing, scanning, typesetting before upgrading to offer cyber café services. By then, competition was not high, but, like in our first business, we were forced to rethink our approach after every other building started spotting similar business as ours. By then, we were enjoying a kind of monopoly before this rosy run came to a screeching halt.

I (Catherine) had this passion of making food and experimenting with new culinary ideas. I suggested to Richard it was time we gave my hobby a business try and see the outcome.

We rented a building along Moi Road in Nakuru and thus began our hotel business. However, there was a catch - we had to diversify from what other similar businesses were offering and we decided to specialise in making traditional delicacies borrowed from diverse Kenyan tribes. Mursik Hotel, as we christened the venture, borrows its name from traditional fermented Kalenjin milk. It became a popular joint with doctors referring some of their patients here to try a dietary change for health reasons.

Since we did not have hands on experience in this sector, the business faced all sorts of challenges. We had to learn business management the hard way while inconsistent staff members meant we were under performing.

Managers hired to steer business to profitability demanded more than we were making.

At times, we did not have enough facilities like when the place was hosting conferences and we had to borrow chairs, tables and utensils from elsewhere.

When we were well progressing, or so we thought, a bank sank with all our savings such that we could not pay our suppliers and we were almost auctioned. But, some suppliers had faith in us and it took us a long time before we found our footing again.

All this is behind us now. We have seen the wisdom of not putting all our eggs into one basket and have diversified by investing in two guest houses - one located at Section 58 and the other at Kampi Moi.

All we can say is that a journey begins from somewhere, and if two are agreed on this journey, it makes the going easier, for one does not see the other as a burden in the process. In our three decades of working together, we have discovered if harmony in a marriage is replicated in a business environment, where couples are team players, it can translate to great success.

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