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Living beyond the orphan name tag

By Paul Kariuki | February 22nd 2017
Joseph Mwangi at his water company premises. [photo: Paul Kariuki/Standard]

I lost both my parents in 1998 when I was 15 years old. This remains the darkest phase of my life and growing up as an orphan was very challenging.

Life seemed to have come to a standstill as I tried to reconcile with this tragedy — especially with no parental figures around to look up to. As the last born of the family, you can understand my attachment to them and why my healing took a long time.

After my education I started life, in 2005, by operating a small meat business in Lanet, Nakuru County, that quickly morphed into big business that had me supplying meat to local butcheries and eateries.

The turning point came when I landed a contract to supply meat to the Lanet military barracks. I was able to open up more butcheries and acquired a van that had a customised meat container.

As a sports lover, I would spend recreational time playing soccer with neighbourhood teams. But around 2010, I decided to take my passion a notch higher by enrolling with the Mathare Youth Sports Association for a coaching course.

In between running businesses, I took up a part-time coaching job with the ROHI group of schools located in the outskirts of Nakuru. This was between the years 2009 – 2012.

I also doubled as a chief talent scout and a youth coach for the Nakuru Allstars Football Club where I played a vital role that saw the club promoted to Kenya’s Premier League (currently, the club plays in the second tier league).

At the time, some thought I was losing my marbles mixing business with sports. They said coaching is untenable as coaches are easily dispensed with and can have their contracts terminated midway depending on a team’s performance.

Although there is a ring of truth to this, being an entrepreneurial person cushioned me from this unpredictability.

I saw beyond coaching duties and had a sports registered company by the name of Sports Masters which I now use to scout for talent. I seek out promising players playing in unstructured village leagues and connect them to big teams in the Kenya Premier League as well as the National Super League sides.

In August of 2014, I decided to venture beyond the meat business as I felt it was not doing well owing to increased competition.

I carried out research on the water business having realised the vital commodity was scarce and many residents did not have access to clean, safe water.

I then sold the meat businesses and sunk a borehole at a plot in my residential place of Kawangware in Umoja Ward, Lanet.

Thus began my water company known as the Mamlaka Springs that currently employs several hands. Using reverse osmosis technology, we bottle portable water which is sold through retail outlets. Large consumers are supplied with water using boozers (bowsers) that range in capacity from 10,000 to 5,000 litres.

I learned survival skills quite early in life following the loss of my parents. And as such, I learned to depend on myself for everything.

In between all my income generating activities, I made time to further my studies. I pursued a degree in sports management and I am currently pursuing a degree in computer science.

I would like to tell young people out there that entrepreneurship is all about being passionate, committed and disciplined in pursuits of their endeavours.

Habits like smoking, drinking, staying out late or hanging around with the wrong company are not hallmarks of good entrepreneurs.

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