How much can you know about a person? Like really really know a person?
I’d always heard that money had the potential to corrupt but never really thought I would get to witness it first hand.
It seems like ages ago but the wounds still linger.
After struggling for a year filled with knocking on doors while in search of a job and having them slammed at my face, I knew I had to try something different.
I was at my wit’s end, doing odd jobs here and there such as making deliveries, running errands for friends who just didn’t have time to do the basics such as service their cars etc.
I somehow managed to live off this and even got my savings up to Ksh30,000 at the end of 2015.
I always transferred 10% of what I earned directly from my phone to my account the moment I received any kind of payment.
I knew I’d need the money if the right opportunity came my way. And then it did.
As 2015 came to a close, I ran into one of my closest friends, *George.
We’d known each other for half a decade but lost contact when I got accepted to Makerere University.
For that three-year period, we barely kept in touch as we were both busy trying to figure out this thing called life.
I ran into him during one of my errands along Keekorok Road in downtown Nairobi.
Someone needed some T-shirts printed for a family function, and by then I knew all the right people in that field, and by ‘right’ I mean the most cost-efficient.
As it turns out, George was in a similar line of work, the only difference was the scale. I was drenched in sweat and scurrying to deliver 20 T-shirts which would make me Ksh4,000 at the end of the day, George was chasing a 200 T-shirt order for a corporate client.
Our stars aligned and after a long chat at the end of the day, we decided to partner up and open up our own company.
The timing seemed perfect as the market was ripe.
We went about all the formal procedures of setting up a company, from the name search at the companies registrar to drafting up a memorandum of understanding, engaging lawyers, the whole shebang.
For some unknown reason, which I later chalked down to my own naivety, I okayed the decision to have our company account authorization as ‘any’ to sign – This would end up biting me in the face a few years later.
Anyway, we also agreed on a 50:50 formula when it came to putting something up as operating capital, I handed George Ksh25,000 and he put up a similar amount which we stacked away as our operating capital.
The business soon picked up and I mean really picked up.
George was the ultimate salesman, he could sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo.
I was the hands-on get things done part of our dynamic duo.
He roped them (clients) in, and I delivered.
From branding front-shop windows along Mama Ngina Street in Nairobi, to a full office fit-out for a top airline that had just moved its headquarters to Nairobi’s Hurlingham area, we did it all.
Then the big one came. The opportunity of a lifetime. Our pitch to carry out a branding project for a mall that was just about to open up was given the green light.
By now, our account had been active enough for us to apply for LPO financing if we needed the money.
That’s when the red flags started blowing but I was oblivious to it.
We were set to rake in Ksh6 million in net profit by the end of the project.
I had always seen warnings here and there about the risks that came with starting a business with a close friend or family.
Make sure there are no grey areas, they always said….I should have listened.
George was soon taking meetings behind my back and once I caught wind of it, his salesman tongue always had a way out.
“It was a last-minute thing,” was a common response.
This was how I was left in the dark when the clients paid up and the money swiftly diverted to a personal account.
Remember the “either to sign” account authorization blunder I mentioned earlier, this is where it bit me.
To compound the matter, the taxman was in no mood for my sob story. As a registered director, I was liable to pay them Ksh1.2 million in taxes from the mall job.
My partner had simply vanished into thin air and left me in a world of trouble.
Hindsight is 20/20 but I embraced the fact that my own naivety had gotten me here and I was the only one who could get myself out of it.
Just how much can you really know a person? You really can’t, when it comes to money, it’s best to play it as safe as humanly possible. No grey areas.