Gervase Jeneri Wakoli candidly shares his personal story of failures in business. Founder engoho.com, Zinake and Engoho Kuku Farm, Gervase Wakoli is a Kenyan award winning entrepreneur with a passion for social entrepreneurship, agribusiness, value addition and economic empowerment.
This article is adopted from a Facebook update posted on his personal timeline titled “Failures in Business”. Minor edits have been employed for style and alignment with our editorial policies.
Allow me to narrate to you my business journey. I started farming sukuma with with my big brother after high school. We would sell to ladies who resell at the local market centers. That is when I learnt the hard way that in business, anyone can screw you.
These ladies, my first business partners, would come in the night and harvest our vegetables in gunias (ganny bags) and hide them. We would show up in the morning and they would play us along by harvesting one or two sacks. Our mom knew, but she didn’t bother to tell us. To her, our dabbling in agribusiness was more of hobby.
Cheekily, she would later admit, us braking sweat on the farm made her sleep soundly at night as it kept us away from people’s daughters. A time came and we left for university without a penny from our farming ventures.
Failures In Business: Bigger Play, Bigger Loss, Regulatory Risk & The Burden Of Entrepreneurship
Two years into my studies at the university, I was deported back to Kenya.( I will write about this one day to help those struggling with depression, today’s post it is just about hustling). Later, after picking up the pieces, I got admitted into a local university and there, the hustler bug bit me again.
Once again, I partnered with my two big brothers. We managed to rope in a third partner – our dad – after we convinced him to invest in a bus. Our old man took a loan from **** bank. The things parents can do for their children. We made the first mistake. We bought the wrong bus.
There were these guys in Nairobi’s industrial area, **** motors, selling second hand Swaraj buses, passing them off as brand new. Haki the bus had the power of a tuk-tuk. We tried to sue as a group of customers…. but you and I well know that Kenya has its owners. Undeterred, we obtained all transport licensing requirements and put the bus on Ngong route 111.
That place is far. Couple the distance, a bus with a tuktuk engine and notorious Nairobi traffic… hello failure.
First day of business and we were informed that we needed to pay 50k for the route. We did. In the evening we are also to pay Kanjo (City Council Enforcement Police), the police and mungiki Kenya shillings one hundred each per day.
Funny enough, the collector for all the three taxes is the same guy. A fat, short, dark fellow who I still see ‘at work’ whenever I pass by the railways stage. When the first loan repayment fell due, we were short by 50k. That’s despite the hours put in – I used to wake up at 3am and come back to the house at 10pm. I was a walking zombie.
The Burden Of Entrepreneurship
Our parents urged us to delegate daily management of the bus to the driver and conductor but I refused. This was my idea and I had to see it succeed. One day I fell sick and while i was hospitalized, dad returned the bus to the sellers. On discharge from hospital, the University long holidays were over and so I went back to class.
Once again, it was the end of another business cycle and I had no penny from my sweat. But I at least got an opportunity to spend over eight nights in police cells, and one night in mungiki custody, all in a period of less than three months. Not everyone has achieved that. All thanks to the bus.
Have I have even talked of being robbed at gunpoint? Or serving strange clients like a well known politician dressed in raw cow hide only? My driver used to say: Money is money, the guy smiling at you on the other end of the exchange is the problem. Please, don’t fear to smile at me as this is all behind me now.
Overcoming Failures In Business Is Being Good-Crazy
When I ventured into business again, it was after university. I understand everyone thought I was crazy. But for me, the failures helped me learn how to cope. Truth is any business can fail. But the lessons you draw from these practical failures are better than any Ivy League business class. Don’t argue with me, I have been schooled in entrepreneurship in both.
If you think my story is worthy reading, take a moment next time you are out and about to talk to a street hawker, tout, mkokoteni guy etc about their hustle. You will realize that it’s not what you sell but how you sell it. Now let me tell you about my current hustles :
- If you need a pre-verified, competent temporary worker, we have them registered on our platform. Download the zinake app on playstore. We guarantee you quality service.
- If you are in agribusiness, we offer a free record keeping platform (engoho.com). We also help source quality farm inputs and sell your products at fairest prices.
Merry Christmas fellow hustlers