One of the most common sayings you hear from everybody; parent, teacher or friend is to never give up on a venture and that patience is key.
One might argue that’s cliche advice that has been passed down from generation to generation but persistence and patience is just one of the many common characteristics the most successful and wealthy people share.
I have compiled a list of some of the most successful people in Kenya and beyond,. Let’s take a look at their journey to fortune and what lessons we can pick from their lives.
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Manu Chandaria is a Kenyan household name. He is the chair and CEO of the Kenyan-based steel and aluminum group Comcraft. I have been doing my due diligence and following the chandarias, and these are some of the habits I have come to notice.
According to a past interview with The Standard, Manu thinks Money can be good or bad depending on how you use it. Stating that if you invest your money well, it will multiply. He also points out to not spend beyond your means.
He is in the habit of learning, he is always open to learning and believes in ‘getting your hands dirty’ and learning not just standing by the sidelines, plunge into the action and ask questions. Find out what’s happening, that’s how you learn.
Like many successful people, Manu Chandaria has a strict schedule; he has every activity planned out and allocated a time slot. This ensures that his day is well spent without wasting any minute because time is money.
Warren Buffett provides some intriguing ideas about how to acquire and maintain wealth. To begin with, he opposes debt and advocates for living below your means so that you can save money.
Despite massive wealth, Buffett has spent decades in the same home in Omaha, Nebraska, that he purchased in the 1950s for $31,500 (Ksh4.3 million). He is known to drive modest cars and keep them running for as long as possible.
He doesn't see the point in upgrading when a car or a house is functioning perfectly. Buffett's discipline can serve as a guide for minimising wasteful spending. Spend less, save more. Additionally, he believes in lifelong learning.
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Buffett, whose net worth according to Forbes is $106 billion, raised his wealth from his company, Berkshire Hathaway Inc, a diversified holding group. It focuses on insurance and reinsurance, freight rail transportation, utility and energy generation and distribution.
Much of Buffett’s job as an investor consists of limiting exposure and minimizing risk. And “risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing,” Buffett once said, according to Forbes.
The more you know about personal finance, the more security you’ll have as you minimize risks. The lesson from this Buffet remark is to actively educate yourself about personal finance.
Kirubi sat atop one of East Africa’s most successful business empires until the time of his death in 2021. According to a 2011 edition of Forbes Magazine, Kirubi’s net worth was valued at Ksh30 billion and may have risen over the years.
His story into the limelight can be traced back to 1971 when Kirubi embarked on the business of buying rundown properties in Nairobi through his savings, renovating and selling them for a huge profit.
This move was the launch of his real estate career. Through this business, Kirubi was able to obtain loans from financial institutions, allowing him to buy significant tracts of land in Nairobi's affluent neighbourhoods. On the plots of land, he built homes and businesses that were available for rent.
He often gave business advice on his twitter account most still relevant and applicable today.
“One of the most important lessons I have come to learn over the years is that you can't do today's job with yesterday's methods and be in business tomorrow. You must keep learning new methods and ways of doing things to keep abreast with the world's ever-changing trends,” one of his tweets reads.
Nelson Muguku is an example of starting small and reaping big rewards. One key lesson we can take from Muguku is diversifying your investments.
His journey to becoming a multi-billionaire started when he quit his teaching job at a local college and ventured into poultry farming.
The poultry farmer turned billionaire invested hugely in Equity bank. By 2014, at the peak of a bull run on the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE), Muguku cut his Ksh10 billion stake in Equity Bank and ventured into real estate with Ksh3 billion investment in the Karen Waterfront project.
According to investment analyst Aly Khan Satchu, this was part of an optimal portfolio strategy for diversifying risk.
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Narendra Raval, also known as guru, runs the largest manufacturer of steel products in East and Central Africa, the Devki Group. The group makes cement, reinforcement bars and barbed wire.
In 2015 Forbes placed Raval's net worth at Ksh54 billion, joining the list of some of the richest individuals in Africa.
Raval is in the habit of looking at the brighter things in life and insists on planning. He stated during a past interview that every difficulty is a big lesson and a big opportunity.
When there’s a problem, there is something which can make you bigger.
In a recent interview on Citizen TV, Raval stressed on the importance of planning your money and shared how he has to look for money from the start of every month, so he can pay his 11,000 employees (yes, you read that right).
The man who is frequently referred to as Zimbabwe's richest businessman, Strive Masiyiwa, is according to Forbes 2023 estimates worth $1.9billion (Ksh139.2 billion).
Strive’s rise to riches is one that teaches us about patience and not giving up.
According to Forbes, when Masiyiwa attempted to launch Zimbabwe's first independent mobile telecoms network in 1993, the Zimbabwean government fiercely opposed him.
The government-owned Zimbabwean Post & Telecommunications Corporation (PTC), which had a monopoly over the nation's telecommunications industry, was adamantly opposed to giving Masiyiwa a mobile operating license.
If he ventured to carry out his plan, the government threatened to prosecute him. Masiyiwa took the dispute to court, where it dragged on for five years. His patience paid off.
By 1997, Masiyiwa was able to start Econet Wireless after the court ruled in his favor.
The lesson here is to develop a tough skin; be relentless, and be patient. Success hardly occurs in a split second; you need to learn to wait for your moment.
Strive, 61, uses his public Facebook account primarily to mentor aspiring African businesses.
“If you’re working or run a business, you have to set aside time and money to invest in your formal education and skills acquisition,” one of his posts reads.
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If I were to tell you that the company founder of Nice and Lovely started out as a hawker in these rough streets of Nairobi, would you believe me?
Paul Kinuthia, is the epitome of a grass-to-grace story. His journey to the top was not an easy one with just Ksh3,000 as capital he had to conceptualize and manufacture his own shampoo and then sell it to assorted salons.
He was stationed at a shop along Kirinyaga Road before relocating to Kariobangi and then Gikomba.
As of 2012, the company was commanding an annual revenue of Ksh1.7 billion with profits of Ksh200 million. In 2013, he closed a Ksh1.5 billion deal after L'Oreal Cosmetics from Paris, France acquired his then fledgling Nice & Lovely manufacturing Company InterConsumer Products.
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Kinuthia's story teaches us to start from anywhere with whatever capital you have because what matters is the amount of physical work you are willing to put in and record growth, no matter how slow.
We can also learn from Kinuthia about adapting to change, a trait that applies to almost every industry.
After conducting a market analysis, Paul Kinuthia expanded his line of products from shampoo to body lotions and face creams in order to meet consumer demand.
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Sam Gichuru is a veteran in the business industry credited for establishing a number of companies. From Nailab, Kuhustle, Swap Kitabu, he endeavoured to grow his businesses to large scale enterprises.
The serial entrepreneur has in past interviews stated that one should make sure they have a viable business idea. This means asking yourself difficult questions: Who’s going to buy your product? How viable is it? Is there need or an addressable market for what you are going to provide?
Gichuru also stresses on the importance of doing a lot of research. He doesn’t only mean sending out questionnaires and waiting for answers, but also practically feeling out the market.
Having experienced failure himself from his earliest startup at the age of 23, Gichuru discourages the treatment of failure to mean one is a joke or incapable of providing value.
In an interview with How We Made It in Africa, he insists failure has got to be the best teacher.
“There is very little you can teach from success. In failure there are many lessons to be learned. For you to be successful you have to take a risk and for you to take a risk you have to not be afraid of failing,” he says.
Did you know that at one point, Elon Musk, the richest man in the world according to a Bloomberg Billionaires tally once lived on 1 dollar a day? Talk about living below your means. In a podcast interview with StarTalk,the billionaire shares his brief stint where he spent a dollar a day on food.
“My threshold for existing was pretty low. So I figured I could be in some dingy apartment with my computer and be okay and not starve,” Musk said.
Apart from his spending habits, Musk like Manu is a life-long learner. According to Forbes, Elon states that school may end but self education never has to.
“You don’t know what you don’t know. You realize there are all these things out there,” said Musk.
Musk also understands that success isn’t something anyone can predict. When going into any venture there is always a possibility of failure. Musk couldn’t predict the outcome of Tesla Motors, as he explained in a past interview with Forbes.
“If something is important enough you should try even if the probable outcome is a failure. If you care about something, you should put every effort into following your dreams.
“At the same time, be ready in case it doesn’t work out. It’s easier to recover from a failure if you already have a backup plan,” says Elon.
Ever wondered who the richest man in Africa is? Wonder no more because that man is Aliko Dangote.
Dangote has held the title of wealthiest man in Africa for not one or two but twelve years! People probably hear the Ka-ching sound when he enters the room!
Dangote's net worth according to Forbes sits at $13.5 Billion (Ksh1.8 trillion). Did you hear the ka-ching sound?
Aliko wealth stems mainly from manufacturing. He built his wealth from importing and selling agricultural commodities , he later incorporated oil, gas, consumer goods and manufacturing.
The main source of Dangote's wealth is Dangote Cement, which operates in 10 African nations and produces over 48 million metric tons of cement annually.
Dangote's ability to diversify his investments is one factor that led to its success. Beyond its original interests in cement, sugar, and flour, the Dangote Group has expanded to hold investments in real estate, telecommunications, steel, oil, and gas.
Dangote echoes the words of Chris Kirubi with one of his well known quotes:
“I built a conglomerate and emerged the richest black man in the world in 2008 but it didn’t happen overnight. It took me thirty years to get to where I am today.
“Youths of today aspire to be like me but they want to achieve it overnight. It’s not going to work. To build a successful business, you must start small and dream big. In the journey of entrepreneurship, tenacity of purpose is supreme.”
Well, you have heard from some of the most successful entrepreneurs in Kenya and beyond. And to finish off by rehashing Dangote’s quote, it seems success for sure takes time, patience and a big dream - which then means lots of persistence.
And if success has to take quite a while to be tangible, it has to come with lots of mistakes, missteps and mishaps. And as Sam Gichuru argues, mistakes are most probably going to be what teaches you more than access - so it may be wise to embrace your mistakes - learn from and then iterate.
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Finally, I cannot understate the significance of having what is colloquially expressed as a “big dream”. If there is anything to learn from the 10 entrepreneurs in this list, it has to be the fact that to achieve success at their scale, you’ve got to be thinking of solving real problems that impact real people.
No matter how big the dream is, though, you have to start small, learn and work your way up.