Three boys – graphic designer, animator and some guy who knows how to get people to give business – one day quit their jobs. They worked for a sour man who ran a multimedia agency in the lower parts of town, around Tom Mboya street. They had been planning it for almost a year. The idea started with one of them, the smooth talker, who one day over lunch in a grubby fish and chips full of smoke, said, “why do we have to slave for this guy when we are the ones making his clients happy?” And just like that, the rolling stone was pushed over the edge and it started gathering no moss. You might have realised that this is the wrong usage of the proverb “a rolling stone gathers no moss.” But this goes to show that these gentlemen were swimming upstream, disrupting, going against all norms, including turning proverbs on their heads. Anyway, one day they simply don’t show up to work. And they never go back. This is because their employer saw it fit not to give them contracts in case he needed to fire them without notice. (Look at how the universe works)
They started off by renting a small office space on Mombasa Road. Actually, it was at the back of a furniture repair store, the noisiest place you can think of setting up an office with the sounds of furniture dragging and carpenter’s having very loud conversations amidst whirring machines. It made you wonder about Jesus stepfather, Joseph, was he also noisy? Anyway. They printed out some cheap cards in River Road and they were in the game. The smooth talker, with a card designated as Business Development, went out daily to shake the city for business. The “Chief Graphics Designer did all the work of designing because even though he was the “chief designer” he was the only designer which made the word “chief” redundant. But who knew? The “Director of Animation” drew cartoons that talked and ran and kicked balls. Business was tough but they were happy that they were their own bosses. They dictated their own time. They drunk in the office after hours whenever they could, something they couldn’t do in their former jobs because the owner was a Jehovah’s Witness who didn’t drink. They were struggling, sometimes going for a whole month without business and with rent to pay. But they were young – 25-years – and bold and nothing was going to stop them because remember they had even trashed the proverb “A rolling stone gathers no moss.”
Then one day the Business Development walked into the office excited and clapping his hands loudly said, “This could be it, ladies! This could be it!” (They often called each other “ladies”, something they picked from The Wire, a series that you might not have heard of. It was the 24 of the 2000s). They had landed a contract through a second party to produce digital animation and merchandise for a soft drink campaign targeting the youth in the slums. Only one problem; they had the know-how but not the financial muscle to pull it off. They needed Sh 2 million. Between them they had Sh.12,900.
So they made calls. They animator sold two cows in shags. They pleaded with their parents. The Business Development wore his own suit and tie and went to the bank with his hat in his hand. They kept him waiting for two hours. These were the dark days when banks acted like giggly brides. Anyway, long story short, they never raised the Sh.2 million and the job slipped through their hands. They were devastated. He won’t admit it, but the “Chief Animator” cried in the washrooms that day. We are talking chief tears, here. Anyway, two years later they hit paydirt and this time they managed to get a loan from their Saccos. Their business grew. They left the carpenters and opened a new office along University Way, and now have 15 employees.
When a newspaper asked the Business Development guy what he attributes their success to he says, “grabbing opportunity when it presented itself, but you can’t grab it with empty hands, you grab it with capital. Money grows money.”
Of course, somewhere in the city, there are three or four other young people like these three guys who have started a business in a seedier part of town. Of course, business is tough as business sometimes should be. (It builds character). But lucky for them should an opportunity that requires funding presents itself they will not even need to wear suits to go kiss the butts of any bank because there is Loop by NCBA which you can open an account online via their app in 4 mins, get a debit card in less than 10 mins and get loans up to Ksh 3-million and overdrafts of Ksh 100,000 for young business minds running shop. It’s mind-boggling.
When you tell the three guys this, that they could have gotten a Sh 3 million loan in under 10 mins they look at you like you are a piece of wood.
By Biko Zulu