Michael Kabiah’s background is humble. He was orphaned at 16 and never made it to college like his peers. He, however, did not cast his fate to the wind and defied all odds to become an established entrepreneur.

After his secondary school education, his grandfather, who was left to care for him after his mother passed on, was adamant that he joins the National Youth Service (NYS) but Mr Kabiah was not for the idea.

Without much to do, he started planting flowers and trees on a two-acre piece of land allocated to him by his grandfather. His interest was not surprising to his extended family because since the age of six, he had been collecting and planting flowering plants at his late mother’s homestead.

He says he always wanted to make the environment beautiful through use of colourful flowers. He began selling flower cuttings but at the time, proceeds from his venture were not enough to put food on the table.

Mr Kabiah then went into construction and later got a job as a security guard.

“There was no satisfaction in those jobs and I was there for the money, which made me feel like my life was purposeless. It was not a good feeling,” said Mr Kabiah.

He decided to quit his security guard job. “Everyone thought I had gone crazy, but my heart was elsewhere. All I could dream of was flowers and making beautiful gardens.”

In 2011, he sought space on Outering Road in Nairobi where he began selling flowers.

“Aware that my survival relied on my marketing and sales skills, I would sell the flowers and ask the clients if they needed anyone to plant or care for them,” he said.

It was not long before he earned the trust of clients, and slowly his business began to stabilise after securing landscaping contracts. His first big job was at King’s Medical College in Nyeri.

“I used the photos of my first contract in landscaping to pitch to the clients buying flowers from my nursery. It was not easy because not many believed that I was capable of such flawless work. However, I managed to convince a number of them and slowly I built my portfolio, which did most of the marketing for me later,” he said.

This marked the genesis of Mika Landscapers. Four years later, Mr Kabiah is a happy man mostly for achieving his dream of owning a landscaping company.

“Most of the times, people resign themselves to fate which should not be the case. I am glad that I was bold enough to go after my passion yet everyone else made me feel like I was making a huge mistake,” he said.

Mr Kabiah has compensated for his lack of formal training in gardening and landscaping by reading widely. He regularly buys books from which he gets inspiration. He also gives attachment opportunities to trained landscapers, a platform he uses to learn more.

He says the number of contracts that his company has worked on since 2011 are more than 250. He acknowledges that the market is growing and that Kenyans are increasingly seeking landscaping experts.

His portfolio includes residential homes in posh areas of Nairobi, Ikon Gardens in Muthaiga and Nextgen Park on Mombasa Road, to name but a few.

He uses site plans to determine the layout of the gardens. Then a design sketch follows after which he consults a landscape architect for a 3D design.

Mr Kabiah says landscaping is an art of creativity because each project is unique.

“Landscaping is not an interior designing and decorating job where an empty room can turn beautiful in a matter of hours. As such, I make sure my clients are psychologically prepared for the wait it takes for a garden to take shape,” he said. “For instance, it takes three to six months for a new lawn to be lush with green foliage.”

He advises property developers to consult landscapers eight months to the completion date of a house. This ample time ensures the compound matches the standard of the house by the time owners are moving in. Besides, it increases property value.

A comprehensive project involves ground preparation, levelling, installation of garden lights and automatic irrigation system and planting of grass cuttings or seedlings. Once the grass is mature, various garden features like water fountains and man-made falls are installed.

For good practice, Mr Kabiah advocates for the use of processed organic fertiliser instead of animal manure to avoid transferring diseases to the garden. His monthly visits on projects he has worked on before ensures weed and pest control is carried out at all time.

“It is our policy to always keep in touch with our clients until we are sure that they are in a position to take care of the garden independently.”

For pieces of land with resident farmhands, MrKabiah trains them on how to best care for the gardens. A crusader of eco-friendly landscaping where clients are open to ideas, Mr Kabiah installs bio-digesters to recycle used water by channeling it towards irrigation and solar garden lights.

The cost for half an acre landscaping project lasting six months ranges from Sh500,000 to Sh3 million depending on design requested, desired flowers and number of garden features.

Although he has 10 permanent employees, when working on a number of projects concurrently he can have up to 100 people working on various grounds.

– source

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