Raymond Cheruiyoit considers himself a successful entrepreneur six years after resigning from his job to run own business. However, the proprietor of Accounts and Financial East Africa Limited says he had a baptism of fire along the way.
At 28, he was passionate about setting up and tried partnerships that did not work. Mr Cheruiyot opted for debt to register a company, egged on by the picture of success, therefore ignoring possible risks, storms, and stories of gloom and doom.
But the storm came sooner rather than later. The result of which was frustration and a debt that was building fast; he almost ended up in jail.
“I was 28 when I resigned as a software technologist having studied for Bachelor of Science degree from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) where I graduated in 2003,’’ Mr Cheruiyot told the Business Daily at his fifth floor office of Vision Plaza on Mombasa Road in Nairobi.
He used his savings to buy a laptop “and was sure one computer, one man attitude and one million dollar ideas could unlock my success.”
“I have always wanted to venture into self-employment through technology business but I was not aware that there is a big difference between reality and wishful thinking,’’ he said.
In a small office at Railway Station in Nairobi, he established and paid a rent of Sh22,000, which was the remainder of his savings.
“The office was meant to give me a corporate touch as I did freelance consultancy jobs waiting to register my business. The opportunities were not forthcoming and I had to seek Sh15,000 from a friend as a soft loan to register the company.’’
This did not work, the banks asked for a guarantor for a loan, he had none and was forced to ask for a private consultancy position from former employer.
“A friend who lent me Sh15,000 to register my firm saw me as a joker who had quit a job where I was earning Sh55,000. I convinced myself that I had to breathe again,’’ explained Mr Cheruiyoit, hardly audible.
He got another chance to work for former employer for six months, during which time he marketed himself as a professional software expert.
The biggest challenge was getting business as a start-up, he said, adding that former employer had informed his clients he had left, “making it a bit hard getting business on my own.’’
Then, one day, one of the clients called and offered an opportunity to compile reports. He would earn Sh20,000 while freelance jobs raised his income to Sh80,000 monthly.
This enabled him to set up a website.
A deal that looked good almost killed the business. A multinational company was looking for a supplier to install a software but his company did make the short-list due to limited experience.
“But the ambition was bigger,’’ he said, adding that he sought to work in partnership with a big firm in the deal for a commission. He never got paid Sh1.5 million for the work in a web of debt. “I became the sacrificial lamb and all my earnings were used to settle the arrears,’’ he said.
But he used the difficult times to scale the heights of entrepreneurship.
His “turning point” came when Sage International appointed him as their authorised partner in Kenya in 2009.
Quality and credibility
Today, he makes more than Sh10 million per month. Some of his clients are EABL, AAR, Catholic University, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (Kephis), Express Kenya, and Crowne Plaza.
“We advise customers on business process management where we identify the needs and implement.’’
For a lesson, he told the Business Daily that “I have learnt to appreciate passion, the drive, and patience.’’
His firm has satellite presence in Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda and is now targeting South Sudan early next year. He employs 20 people and runs a foundation that pays school fees for needy children in his rural home.
“My upbringing was humbling and I pay the school fees for the poor children from secondary to university. We have seven beneficiaries of the fees programme.’’
Mr Cheruiyot says he works smart and believes in quality and credibility.