One thing that many successful entrepreneurs have in common is that they made an early start with their business endeavors. And as many entrepreneurs know, dedicating time and energy to starting a business needs a whole lot.
It takes determination to start a business at any time and season, but starting your first business while still in school is even more challenging.
The silver lining is that you are not alone. Some of the most famous and successful businesses were started in school by people just like you.
The most famous of all is Mark Zuckerberg, who is the co-founder and CEO of Facebook. He co-founded the social networking platform - Facebook in his dorm room at Havard University, which currently boasts of 2.89 billion active users monthly.
Another great business that was birthed at College is Dell Technologies which was founded by Michael Dell in his dorm room at the University of Texas, with just $1,000. Today, the company has grown so vast with a market value of nearly $80 billion.
If you can, there’s no need to wait until you are dome with campus before you can step into the business world. Although balancing schoolwork and your entrepreneurial dream could be troublesome, this is a risk worth taking.
Maureen King’ori found a way to do it, by starting her own business, and she hasn't looked back since then.
Maureen is a recent Bsc. Food Science and Technology graduate, the founder, and CEO of Feliz Cleaners, a company that is located in Nairobi - on Mirema drive. Feliz Cleaners is a comprehensive cleaning business that specializes in cleaning and offers both domestic and corporate cleaning services, fumigation and moving services among others. She founded the company in March 2020 while studying at The Technical University of Kenya.
She shares with us how she founded a company while studying at university, during a pandemic, and how she has grown the company up until this day.
I started Feliz cleaners last year 2020 March and the basic reason why I did that was to find something to do in the pandemic. In fact, I started it just when the lockdown was declared in the country.
At that moment, as much as I was trying to find a niche in the market, I was trying to get busy and also hire my age mates and campus mates. I came up with a business model that can accommodate campus students so that we don’t find it hard to balance work and studies. I was trying to find a way of how to, you know, mitigate idleness and boredom that can have adverse effects on campus students.
Starting the business in school and in the heat of the Covid-19 pandemic was a very fulfilling moment because besides doing the job we kinda felt like we had a purpose of reassuring people that things are going to be okay.
The fact that there were clients who were willing to open the doors for us made us feel like we had a lot of reassurance to give them. We actually got a lot of work fumigating houses and spaces for clients who got Covid and interacting with them was life-changing.
I would say it was the right timing to start the business. We started on the right note, giving hope.
The business idea came in as a result of actually trying to help a friend with whom we worked within the first quarter. I met her while she was doing some cleaning but not commercially. So we decided to set up a business and of course to help us be stable as much as get something to do for ourselves because we had the lockdown at that time.
So, the name Feliz came from, trying to create a culture for the business. It is very important when you are starting up because the culture that you have when you’re starting up is what lives on and I wanted the business to be a happy place for everyone. For the attendants and the clients.
Feliz is a Spanish name for happy or merry. Like, from the Christmas carol Feliz Navidad. You know? Yeah, so actually we’ve seen that materialize in all the jobs we’ve had. We are very cheerful souls at work, even our attendants assimilated and understood the meaning. And we’re glad that we made such a perfect choice for the name.
At least we don’t struggle too much to make both our attendants and our clients understand that we love doing what we do and we are happy to do it.
In the beginning, actually, we started with very little money. We did registration and after that we got a few pieces of equipment to begin with. They were very basic equipment like; buckets, brushes, and common detergents.
Nowadays we have done better with such and we have even managed in manufacturing our own but at the time we were starting up, things were just very basic.
I was also lucky to get some money from my parents and within the second month, I had already started looking for collaborations with bigger businesses so that we were able to operate without having to pump in a lot of money. We were banking on being more visible but collaborating with other people.
Feliz cleaners has created an employment opportunity for both campus students and other people as well. We have 9 permanent employees who are not campus students and 13 procured employees who we pay in wage - who mostly are campus students and it’s because of their school schedules so that they can also get time for their studies.
Something which I wish I knew was, you need to keep a record of every coin, every expenditure, every income that comes and be very particular and intentional about keeping books. That has delayed actually getting a business loan. As much as we have good cash flow, we didn’t have the book records back then so now I know better.
For anyone wishing to start a business they should know that keeping books and keeping records of expenditure and income is mandatory if you want to grow your business and also seek financial support from financial institutions.
I would do planning better and prioritize things the right way because I found out that we focussed on something that we weren’t supposed to focus on in the beginning. Things have to follow a certain path.
So yeah, if I went back in time, those are the things I would take very seriously - keeping records and prioritizing tasks.
Already, the business is more than one year old and it has impacted my personal life so much because a business teaches you some level of discipline. It has its ups and downs, it teaches you emotional intelligence on how to make sober decisions.
The biggest challenge, though initially, we were getting operation money, we could use almost all our profit from one job to secure materials and so when we got bigger clients, we were quite unable to do it because we didn’t have enough operating capital.
But I realized, early enough, that anyone in business needs, maybe like a supplier who can give items on credit so that you can save up and not miss on the next job then maybe pay off monthly. This is very essential. You should have a way of getting things on credit to be paid off later to help you never lack operation money. With where the business is thus far it’s no longer a challenge.
Mhhhhh… Of course, (laughs)
First and foremost, there’s just how things happen and you can’t really explain, and that’s what I like to call, God.
I’d also say my parents. For understanding what I shared with them about the business back in the day. You know, it’s not easy to pitch an idea to a parent and get support especially when you’re still schooling. So those are the biggest sources of my success so far.
And oh, how can I forget this! In the beginning, my first clients who believed in me even before the business had picked up. Actually, anyone who wishes to start a business should utilize their contacts very very well because, for a while, my contacts are what brought business.
I read from somewhere that making money is not complicated as long as you have the right ideas and you’re trying to solve an actual problem.
So I’d tell anyone on campus that innovation wins. Don’t be scared about where and how you’re gonna get the capital. If you have a good idea with a good plan, you can always get support and actualize it.