Where is home...?
North of London. On the border between England and Scotland. I was born there in 1968, spent most of my life there.
Even your education?
Yes. I studied both in England and Scotland. I was at Mowden till the age of 13 and then I moved to Loretto Schools in Edinburgh until I finished my A-Levels.
Tell us about your schooling experience...
I was very un-academic. The last exam that I passed was when I was 16 years old...
It is a fact. I don't learn well from books and classes. I learn from doing things. I like to experience things. This is my best way of learning.
When did you learn this about yourself...?
When I landed my first job at 19 years old, at an advertising company, I realised that I sort of handled ideas and concepts better while doing/ practising them than how I handled the learning experience in school.
Designing and making bags, is this the sort of career you wanted to get into while you were young?
No. I was drawn to advertising. Always wanted to get into advertising. My first job was in advertising.
Why advertising...the promise of a good and fast life or the ladies perhaps?
I loved advertising because of its creative aspects. It is filled with interesting people and it is one field that possess diverse challenges.
Do you consider yourself an artist then?
I’m not an artist in the traditional meaning of that word. Like for instance I can’t draw designs of things. But, I can think up what should be drawn then let the person with gifted fingers do the drawing. I’m more of a creative thinker.
So at 19 years of age, you land your first job working for an advertising firm. What was that like?
I took to it like a duck to water. Worked there till I was 24.
Then I resigned, told the company that I wanted to travel the world. The company, thought I was good at my job, so they told me that they would be keep the position vacant for me to get back to. They also gave me a loan, so I could travel without money worries. They expected me to pay it back of course.
Travelling, huh... to which parts of the world did you go to?
I travelled for eight months; went to India, Nepal and down to Thailand and Indonesia. I also went to Australia and finally to Australia before going back home. I never came to Africa.
What was the best part of your eight-month travelling experience?
India. India was a vibrant experience. It was an assault on the senses. Everything I saw, everything I touched, everything I smelt and tasted was new. It is/was the kind of experience that shakes you up. The people, the food and the architecture.
Did you ever get back to your advertising job when your tour ended?
Yes I did. I worked until I was 30. Progressed from an office junior to client services director. Then I moved to a bigger company in Scotland. I didn’t stay in this new company for a long time though. Two years after I joined them, I quit and started a new design and branding company- Stand Design- with two other people. It was while working in Stand Design that I met the owner of Sandstorm Kenya.
This is the company that you now run and co-own right?
Yes it is. Sandstorm had been existing in Kenya for two years or so before our meeting. But it had overseas business interests, and they were mainly focusing on making safari tents. The owner was one of our clients at Stand Design.
So how did you change from being the man behind their overseas branding to being the guy who co-owns the company?
I liked Sandstorm. I liked it so much that when I approached the owner and he had no problem with me joining him, I left the comfort of Stand Design, invested in Sandstorm Kenya, took over the running of the company and moved to Kenya to help fulfill its potential. I joined Sandstorm in 2007, but moved to Kenya in 2008.
That was a drastic move...why make such a move?
Because I believed in Sandstorm. I still believe in it as much now as I believed then. But more to it, having worked with brands for nearly two decades, I had the feeling that Sandstorm Kenya was genuinely different and also that it had massive untapped potential.
The transition must have been a difficult one. Moving from one continent to another and switching from the advertising to entrepreneurship...
Was it easy? No. But for me some things made it a bit easy. Like; I wasn’t married, so it was easy for me to pick up my bag and get onto a plane. About the mental shift from advertising to entrepreneurship; anyone who knows me will tell you that whatever field it is, I would put my soul in it.
So how has it been running Sandstorm Kenya?
Running a growing business as an entrepreneur, you have to be single minded if you want it to grow. With a brand like Sandstorm, it is important to have a clear vision; how the brand looks and how it feels. It comes very naturally to me, to want to control how that brand looks.
Anything unique about your brand?
We moved from making Safari tents to concentrate on making bags only. We tried bags and it proved more popular with the customers, so we switched. What is unique about Sandstorm is that we are a complete business; we design, produce and retail our products on our own.
You must be facing lots of competition...
There are imports and local companies. So competition is here. I have every respect for anyone in the business of making bags and leather products but I do believe that we are the best company in East Africa.
All that heat from competitors...
I view competition as an opportunity. It keeps your eye on the ball and forces you to raise your game.
About your life...
Nothing much to report. Still not yet married. I drive a Toyota
I don’t drive a flashy car. I prefer to invest in experiences than to invest in material things.
Between Nairobi and Edinburgh how do the two cities compare?
Nairobi as a city has more energy than Edinburgh on every level because it is a young and growing city. But Edinburgh being 100 years and all has the best architecture.