In the corridors of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, five bright minds came together after their graduation in March 2003.
United by friendship and ambition, computer scientists Samuel Njenga and Joseph Mwaniki, alongside their three colleagues, embarked on a remarkable journey that turned a simple savings scheme into a colossal venture worth approximately 500 million Kenyan Shillings.
Their story began modestly, with each member contributing 5,000 Shillings monthly to their chama, a decision made to maintain their connection post-graduation.
Little did they know that this decision would spark a series of strategic financial moves, transforming their lives and the landscape of their investments.
Their first leap into the world of investments took them to the Nairobi Securities Exchange, where they wisely put their funds into stocks.
“We each went different ways but maintained contributions to our group (chama) investing the funds in stocks at the Nairobi Securities Exchange,” says Mr Njenga, who is the managing director of Itrade, the company they later set up.
After a fruitful two-year stint, they liquidated their shares, yielding a substantial profit of 800,000 Shillings. With this capital, they ventured into real estate, purchasing two plots in Membley area, Kiambu County.
The group’s foresight and business acumen led them to success.
They sold the Membley plots at a profit, allowing them to reinvest in a one-acre plot in Kitengela, Kajiado County.
This land became the cornerstone of their real estate ventures. Subdividing the plot into 10 smaller parcels, they sold them, providing the initial capital for their subsequent ventures.
However, it wasn’t merely luck that propelled their success.
With a keen eye for opportunity and a knack for strategic decision-making, they continued expanding.
They diversified their investments, delving into house development and construction projects. Their expertise grew, and so did their profits.
“As the business grew, we realised remote owner-managed model of management cannot work. We registered Itrade company and opened an office. I was requested to take up the role of MD while my long-time friend, Mr Mwaniki took up the finance director’s role,” he says
The success of this venture not only brought in substantial earnings but also inspired them to dream bigger.
To fund their ambitious projects, they wisely sought financial assistance from reputable institutions like the Kenya Commercial Bank Group and HF Group, leveraging these loans to finance their developments.
Their success also stemmed from their ability to adapt and expand their team.
Recognizing their limitations, they incorporated experts from various fields, from interior design and banking to auditing and accounting.
This diverse skill set strengthened their business operations, propelling them toward even greater accomplishments.
The key to their success, as emphasized by Samuel Njenga, the managing director of their now-established company Itrade, lies in their unwavering focus on the big picture.
In an interview, he stressed the importance of patience, trust, and a commitment to realizing strategic goals within a chama. According to Njenga, avoiding petty disputes and maintaining a steadfast focus on the long-term growth of the business were essential.
Their success story also extended beyond their immediate circle.
They tapped into the potential of the Kenyan diaspora, engaging them in investments and providing valuable information on investment opportunities back home.
Through this outreach, they not only expanded their network but also facilitated a flow of resources into the country, contributing to its economic growth.