Thursday, August 9, 2007

Light at the end of ..............

Ooh my God! Its August. When is the last time I was here? June? Damn. Hey, who said blogging is easy!

But am back -again- and with mad psyche. Revamped business and its starting to catch up. Redid my site so its no longer "Mteja". Things are looking up :-)
Hey, check out the site. Am not offering web-design services to clients so don't think I'll be judged harshly coz of aesthetics. It'll do for now. Check out the News section to keep upto date with the latest in the Kenyan ICT news.

Remember the back to school initiative I had in June? The results are out, and am in!! Well God is great. Got a call from the university. So every Saturday am in class. That gives me time to work on biz all week. Never underestimate your parents intuition.

So am still here. For you who thought I was just another statistic, well, am not going down easily. Am here. Thanks for those who posted comments (1!) and for the emails. Keeps me going.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Step 4 (In Betweens)

In between there is a lot of stuff going on. My website is yet to be made, there is hightened insecurity in Kenya so traveling home late is really not the best of ideas.
Other in betweens. I mentioned my grades were not that bad. So, my folks thought I could easily get a job. But hey, straight from college, I sent only 5 application letters, then decided that was not for me. So they don't understand why and how I can go on living frugally when I could easily get a job. Well, lets say, jobs no matter how bright you are don't come easily and two, I was -and still are- not feeling that vibe. We've discussed time and again but they still insist. But when the see the fire in my eyes, they know they are fighting a loosing battle.
At 24 really, what do I know. I was so in to business that I decided further education could wait. Bill Gates got his degree from Harvard Last week! After 30 something years! So, with the counsel of a wise old owl, my parents bemoaned how important further studies were. So yes, I listened and I decided to do something about it. So, some scholarship thing came up and as I write, am waiting for the results. I am really praying it goes through. One, so that my parents know am back in school, and two, for my own sake. I admit, yes, we all do need further education.
Other in betweens. Another lecturer I met in Japan. Prof. -will ask if I can put his name here- heard of what I was doing and said he had an idea which he needed someone in Kenya to assist him with. And so, he sold me his idea. We troubleshot it and decided to go ahead. That also is now on going. Its in its infancy. Its waiting for a few details here and there and hopefully by September, it will have kicked off.
It looks like a tall order. Two businesses and a masters degree. I know I might be asking a lot from me but as I said, start somewhere. The rest will take care of itself.
So there you have it. That is my story so far. There is so much more to say but I believe all details will fall in place when time comes and we will write on about it. I believe this blog will form an outlet for my evening stress! But I pray it will help someone who is in the same position as I am, or is thinking to go the same way I have chosen. Better yet, I hope someone has nothing to do and they just come here to read what I've been up to! That is the ultimate Encouragement. You might get to read this a few months from now, but let me know what you think.
Its 20:00 hours. Am out!

Step 3 (Keep it close)

With my new idea in my head, I sat down. A lot of patience was required. I had to come up with a system. This system uses special hardware which is not available locally! Once the system is done, I have to package it into a business format and then I have to sell it. This is not done overnight.
Keep it close. If you've got an idea that you think is unique. Please unless its your business partner, don't tell anyone. I decided I will stick it out and develop my idea and when its done, that is when I'll announce it. For people to clone it, they'll take the same amount of time that I took and thus I'll always be ahead.

I sat in front of my computer and day after day I clicked, selected, cut, paste, read, asked questions etc. I used (still do) get into the office at 06:00 hours and left at 20:00 hours. Eyes and back straining. In the mean time, Ryan walks in, we chat a bit, he goes about his business. Day in day out- Weekends and and public holidays too.
Once the program was done, it was time to bring in the hardware. Three weeks ago, I imported the hardware. I configured them and made sure everything was running. Finally, the last component -locally available- remained. It was expensive but God has mysterious ways of enabling people.Thomas Edison -I think- said that "The harder I work, the luckier I get". I'll say amen to that. Because, during this time, blunders by my stock broker -selling my last remaining stock when I hadn't said so!- gave me the money I required just when I required it!
The world will create way a way for a man with a mission. That mission does not have to be shared by anyone else, its you who's go to know what mission it is, and then believe in it.
So, I got the last item and stuck it in and watched my system respond. But alas, if everything were that easy, everyone would be rich.
The gadget failed. Totally. For three weeks I redid my program, asked questions, tried all possible scenarios but it just refused to work. So, now, change of game plan. As we speak I have made an arrangement -same favors I was talking about- and I have one last option this coming weekend. I pray to God it works. Because from there, the IT ends, the business begins.
In the mean time, am doing more research and doing small time IT stuff by the side to cater for transport costs etc. My friend -name to come later- I owe you big time. If it were not for you, I wouldn't be sited here. If you were not there to give me directions, samples and just plain old pep-talk, I don't know how I would have managed. So yes, Keep your Friends Really Close.

Step 2 (Reality Check)

Ooh, they preach about business plans. But honestly, its like a weight training. You may know all the reasons as to why you need to exercise, but when it comes to do it, nothing clicks. But its the same with first times. We all have ours :-) -do we?
Anyway, I gave notice at the High Court that I'd be leaving towards the end of February. In the mean time, we had registered a business name -Value Added Solutions (VAS)- with one Ryan Njeru. It was meant for the get rich schemes.
So, another lesson. Keep your friends really close, and your enemies close. You never know who will help you. To open a bank account for business, we had to produce business registration forms. Since we were two people, the bank said we'd need partnership forms. I decided instead of partnership, lets go straight and open up a Company. With no money! So, I made courtesy calls after courtesy calls asking for favors here and there and in a months time, the company was registered! That was Gods hand right there. But I used up a lot of goodwill I had accumulated with people over the years.
Business registered, now business premises! This is a really big hurdle here. But Once again, friends come in. They don't have to be rich ones, but they have to be people who are like minded. People who understand what you are trying to do. Birds of a feather flock together so, my friend Ryan was able to offer the initial office space. And with that, he is Co-Director in VAS. You have to give some, to have some. If it wasn't for him, let me just say even the internet to come up with this blog could not be possible. Ryan's story is another one all together.
So, company registered, premises got. Next, lets do business. Eeeeh, not so fast. What exactly are you doing? Have you packaged it? I hadn't.
The business plan had provided for everything including packaging my services but as I said, unless your really really *, then you will do as the business plan says. But for a start-up like me, the business plan was just that. A plan. So in to doing what i want to do I went. Programming, Networking, Support, Computer Sales etc. But that just made me look like Wekhomba. Wekhomba is a person we saw with Ryan in the papers offering overseas investments with all its risks, when the Kenyan stock market was doing really well. He was just another "Consultant". Someone pretending to know what he does but really doesn't. A stroller pretending to be a professional. And so Wekhomba means "A fake professional".
So, your friends again. I called up my former lecturer and he gave me an appointment. Went saw him and on showing him my plan, he said, "You can't do that. Go and find one product that you will be good at. You can't do everything. Only God is allowed to do everything. Man was mean to be a specialist. And once you specialize, you create a niche for yourself" . Even with all the training in school -create niches, specialize etc- once you get out here, lessons tend to evaporate and you need someone with a sound mind to put you back on track. He/she doesn't need to be your friend, but you need to be have all the respect for him/her.
And so back to the drawing board. And once again, friends and Google came in handy. What is the big thing right now. What is the next big thing. What is being done out there that is not being done in here. How can I differentiate my product. I realized that Google will give you a clue, but its you to to get the glue.
And after searching, I found it. It was really in front of my eyes all along. I had envisioned it but I hadn't put it down. So, put everything down. Any idea that comes to your head, write it down. Any continuous though flow, write it down.

Step 1 (Do something)

Trying to get things into perspective here.
In college, your typical dude. Played soccer and then rugby -am 5.7" and weigh less than 60Kgs! Grades were good so I was pretty cocky about getting a job. While on a study abroad stint in Japan, I took an Entrepreneurship class. This was just for the sake. The lecturer, Prof. Doss, gave us a test to see whether one can be an entrepreneur, I think I got the lowest grade! But I remember the Prof saying "this is just a test, it doesn't mean much. It was just a way to get you interested in the class". But it was in my psych now. No way could I get into business.

On flying back to Kenya in early 2006, there came one friend by the name Anthony Gatungu. He used to read all this self help books (hope he still does) and just as we were chatting he said, "hey, I got some really nice books here. Check out Rich Dad Poor Dad by Kiyosaki and Who Moved My Cheese by Dr. Spencer Johnson". Lets just say from there life would never be the same again.
I won't go into the details of Kiyosaki -some love him (I do) some don't. I got what I could get from the book and never looked back.

Straight from graduation, I did a stint as an IT support Intern at the High Court. The pace was too slow -Did I mention there was no pay? But the advantages were enormous. So a lesson here, It don't matter what your doing as long as your benefiting from it. Fringe Benefits. This could be learning new stuff, making contacts, free meals! etc.
But at the high court, I got some crucial stuff. One, it was kinda slow so I got plenty of time!
Two, there was in internet connection and boy, do I owe it to Larry and Sergey of Google. With the internet, the world is but a mouse click away.
Three Contacts. I met some crucial lads there who I pray we will interact more as time goes by.
But with Google came all this opportunities that could stir me deep down. But then, I remembered Kiyosaki quoting some fellow to the extent that "don't do something if you don't understand (love) it" Think its Warren Buffet.

As I was thinking of business ideas, get rich quick schemes came up. SMS technology was the in-thing. We came up with ideas to do stuff but one after the other they went up in smoke. Phuh!

So naturally, as an Information Systems Graduate, the best service/product I could offer was what I was trained in and luckily, what I loved doing. I was still at the High Court, so in I went into Google and got all this info on business plans. Took me a cool three months to write it. I meant to use it for guidance, and also to borrow funds from family but when I sent it, nobody even read it! Naturally, no money came forth.

The Bank

Its been four months down the road and still the bank hasn't come through. Well, honestly speaking, I hadn't applied. I applied exactly 15 days ago. And to open a business bank account in most banks in Kenya (all?) you need someone to recommend you. So, hey, we recommended ourselves! as we already had bank accounts there.
My company's co-director also had to sign the bank forms. But his signature didn't match the one on his specimen. So there goes another 3 days.
My recommendation approval on the other hand took an interesting turn. I had a students bank account opened 15 years ago in a town 40Kms away from Nairobi. By the 10th day they hadn't responded. I had to go to that specific branch and inquire. They found that the account was still a student account though I had changed it from a student account eons ago.
So today, I went back to check on the progress of the business account. My recommendation had gone through but my co-directors was yet to come through.
Another day waiting. (16)

For Starters

Guess it was a matter of time before this blog bug got to me. Biggest issue was the content. But hey, just like most people, you get an idea, start somewhere and the rest follows! So will take it a day at a time.
What am I on about? aaah, I really don't know -but I have a feeling that it will be a lot about business and business start-ups.
Having just graduated from college last year and gone in to business (4 months), and doing it the raw, bloody way, I think I could tell the few out there some stuff or two about my experience.
Hopefully, the business and this blog will stand the test of time :-)
A toast to that.