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Leap of Faith: I Quit My COO Job After Just 8 Months to Start Afresh 
Leap of Faith: I Quit My COO Job After Just 8 Months to Start Afresh 
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Leap of Faith: I Quit My COO Job After Just 8 Months to Start Afresh 

Money254
Money254 Team
August 30, 2021

I have seen people take leaps of faith before, but not quite like this.

Jumping off a 100-foot cliff would look cool for the cameras, but doing it without any sort of safety net is not for the faint hearted.

That's probably the best way to describe Kavata Kiaro, who tells me she ditched a lucrative job as the Chief Operations Officer of the social enterprise, Arielle For Africa, just eight months in.

A month later Owthen, a company focused on building financial literacy skills for children and teenagers, was incorporated. 

The mission? To empower generations to make sound financial decisions and achieve excellent stewardship of financial resources through practical, fun and creative learning solutions.

When does one know it's time to quit? Is it any different for someone with a family? All these questions are running in my head as I doodle on my notebook in preparation.

Let's get right to it. Why or rather what prompted your decision to quit a well paying job to venture into entrepreneurship?

Ha ha . I think for me, Owthen, was in my heart for a very very long time. Anyone who knows me would perhaps have heard me say on many many occasions that financial education should be taught from a very young age in schools and in very practical ways. 

I'd say time had come. Were all the circumstances right? Certainly not. Was I afraid? You have no idea just how much.  We were smack in the middle of a pandemic, but I decided to take the plunge and go for it. I was also working for an organization that equipped entrepreneurs with the skills to run their ventures, I talked to them and even trained in their entrepreneurial finance module. 

Basically what we covered was what financing options are available, how to be investor ready, how to streamline their finances and keep proper records to make it easier should a day come when they need external funding. Here they were living their dream, taking the risk, I think they too encouraged me to go for it even without knowing.

It also allowed me the luxury of spending time with our daughter as now I can plan what needs to be done for work and factor her in there as well, something that is very important for me. I consider Owthen my training ground to give back to entrepreneurs in a small way through my own journey.

Tell me about Owthen. Why children and finance?

Owthen is a financial literacy hub whose focus is to provide financial literacy skills to children from the ages of 4 all the way to 18. We do this using creative, fun, well thought out techniques and programs. Our aim is to raise a financially literate generation, one child at a time.

Children... because I am a believer of the Swahili saying: Samaki mkunje angali mbichi.

We interact with money from a young age whether directly or indirectly from a very young age, we also form habits and perceptions quite early. What would happen if we learnt about saving from a young age and actually practiced it? What if kids are taught for every 10 shillings they get, to put aside 7 shillings and actually grow up doing the same?

When you teach children the simple aspects of money, you teach them more than just money. You teach them patience as they learn to save, you teach them delayed gratification, learning to wait, you teach them goal setting or planning as they save a little for that toy or that sweet. I could go on and on but the bottom line is lessons on money are more than just about money.

Did your childhood influence your passion for teaching kids about finance? If yes, how?

The answer to this is an indirect yes. My dad in particular was and still is a great financial planner.

My earliest interaction or lesson with money was walking up to my dad and saying I need money to have my hair done. I remember him sitting me down and saying  you know what Kavata, it's good to plan so that I can plan as well. Check and see on average how many times you have your hair done and give me a heads up so that I can plan for that as well.

I think the conversation went something like that.

To date that lesson has stuck with me. The importance of planning for your money. I think it's Benjamin Franklin who says ‘tell your money where to go instead of wondering where it went’.

I think also seeing my dad live such an authentic life guided me. We have always lived within or below our means.

Children learn more from what they see of us than what we tell them. It would help if what we say is who we are. I am grateful that my parents taught us to work with our hands, to never give up and to be content yet ambitious. My mum always encouraged me to pursue my goals, to not give up even when many times I felt like things were not going my way.

Is there a particular finance lesson or principle that stands out for you? Which one and why.

From my upbringing? I am not sure there is just one. However I can highlight one here, I think for me the key thing has been that it is not so much the money one saves or the amount  but the discipline of saving.

Saving before you spend, budget for saving. Make it difficult for yourself to access the money that you save. Get standing orders, whatever you need to do. I suppose that’s why piggy banks are locked, otherwise every time a child wants something they would jump in there. 

I’ve also learnt that if you track your expenses over time you will realise what you value most. It could be eating out, could be saving, investing, checking the trends in your numbers reveals a lot about who we are and also provides an avenue for adjusting and doing better.

One of the mistakes I made earlier on was to save or to think I was saving in a current account. There is the principle of compounding that works wonders.

Save in an interest bearing platform. Whether it’s a Sacco, money market funds, just do not save in a current account.

A number of things inform where we put our money, as long as it is growing for me then at least one is making something. For instance a Sacco allows you to borrow up to three times your savings. If you have a project you are eyeing, one and you think you will need some money at some point and perhaps do not have collateral, a sacco allows you to save and borrow against your savings. 

Your risk appetite also informs where you put your money or what you invest in. What one should steer off is the seemingly quick wins and ponzi schemes. Due diligence is very important.

From your experience, What would you say is the most challenging aspect of entrepreneurship?

Wow, entrepreneurship as a whole is challenging.

One, at the start up stage for instance, more often than not you are the accountant, marketer, strategic manager, the salesperson and everything else in-between.

The ability to see the entire picture of what you are working towards and working backwards to see how to get there becomes very important. At least it has worked for me.

The big task is remaining on course and not wasting time on what might not be so important. There has to be a way of going back and checking if you are still on course. Break down the goals to quarterly, monthly and even weekly goals. That way you wake up knowing what needs to be done. Because a lot needs to be done and one can get overwhelmed.

Entrepreneurship can also be a lonely journey. It's important to find a community of fellow entrepreneurs. You might think that your challenges are unique to you, until you talk to a fellow entrepreneur and they say, ‘you know what we also went through this and this is what we did’. 

Working long hours into the night, or very early mornings are synonymous to entrepreneurship. You see, you either have a team depending on you for income, or your own family. There is no guaranteed paycheck waiting for you at the end of the month. Even in the lows you have to get up and go.

How do you balance your family life and work?

I am not sure the word is balance, as it is figuring out what’s important to someone and making the necessary adjustments.

For me, family is important and so is my work.

Empowering  and trusting those around me has helped.  Realising I do not have to do everything, neither do I want to. Our nanny thankfully is a fast learner, she knows how to plan her chores and what to do when. She has seen how we talk and treat our daughter and emulates the same.

I have learnt that it's okay to ask for help and take it when it's offered.

We recently took a few days off for the first time without our daughter. Our peace of mind came from knowing she was with friends of ours who are essentially family and their children are practically her siblings.

I am fortunate to have a spouse who is on the same page. He is always excited when it comes to watching our daughter, when I need to handle some tasks. He made me realise what a 'life partner' truly means.

What motivates you and how do you handle the 'bad days’?

There is a quote that I read once that really spoke to me.

It says you won't always be motivated, therefore you must be disciplined. Running a young business, family, school, etc. can be a daunting task. I am not always motivated and so on the low days, I engage the discipline gear and keep moving.

It helps to establish a sort of routine as it becomes a part and parcel of a person. I tried the gym and I’ve realized it's not for me and that’s ok. I have started taking walks and I do that with our daughter as well, which helps me unwind.

When you feel like quitting , close that screen , take a break, sleep it off and start again. Talk to someone.

Another thing that works for me is to plan and set targets. When I am down and feel like I have not made any progress I go back to my checklist. As I start ticking boxes, I realize that I have actually made progress. I read books as well.

I try to keep my eyes on the goal. Sometimes when the sea rages and the ship is being tossed around, one can lose sight of the shore and think they are drowning. I have to constantly remind myself what the end goal is, that strides are being made towards that and that no sea is turbulent forever.

I have a great support system particularly with my husband in this case. He remains very grounded and steady.

He always reminds me to write down what I need to do, what timelines I am looking at and arrange them in terms of urgency, then attack one at a time. It always helps. I'd say having colleagues, friends or family that you can pour out your heart and mind on matters affecting you helps.

Last but not least, I have found the Bible has answers for all of life. Sometimes the answers might not be what I expect them to be or what I want them to be. God is my anchor

What would you tell 20-year-old you?

What would I tell my 20 year old self hmmmm…

The sun will come up, everything will be ok, keep walking, don’t be so fast to move out of home, save save save, and trust the process.

Just because there is an opportunity to spend money does not mean you have to spend money. Plan and work with a budget.

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