In an exclusive interview, Mugambi told us about the impact they hope to have across Africa through the other company RAWSON AND ABERDARES AFRICA LIMITED which is a FMCGC. Alot of girls drop out of school due to menstruation since they can’t afford sanitary pads. The aim is to change this though their product.
Tell us more about yourself, who you are and what got you into business?
My Name is Mugambi Muraguri, I am a businessman based in Nairobi Kenya. I am the Managing Director of a Construction and real estate Company called Fort Hall & Fort Hall Kenya Limited.
I am also an investor in other businesses and other sectors. I am a founder and former Managing Director of Fast Moving Consumer goods company called Rawson & Aberdares Africa Limited which is headquartered in Nairobi and deals in beverages ( Drinking Water & Juices), Baby Diapers & Wipes ,Women Sanitary Pads etc. I am also an investor in other sectors like consultancy, Agribusiness, Fintech etc.
Just a background on your business, what kind of sector do you focus on? What’s the name and where do you operate from?
This company has been in business Since 2015. We primarily deal in Roads, Bridges, Water Dams and Single/ Multiple Dwelling Construction.
Before I became an entrepreneur, I was a civil servant in the government of Kenya.
I always wanted to have my own business so that I can implement my own ideas. My entrepreneurial journey started way back when I registered my first company in 2006. At the time it was simply a trading company and i used to run it as a side business because at the time I had just been employed by the government. As years progressed with a career in civil service, I started getting a lot of consultancy work especially from foreign investors and institutions. Then in 2015 together with some associates we noticed Kenya real estate sector was bent toward expensive properties which the majority of Kenyans couldn’t afford. We researched and understood the market even better. we decided to register a construction company which will also be a real estate development company. Initially we focused on buying out old worn-out properties and refurbishing them and selling them at a profit. We did that for a few years but changed our business strategy to primarily focus on a design, fund and build property approach, where instead of renovating old properties, we design, solicit financing and build them ourselves. We are now focusing on the Affordable Housing Projects which the government of Kenya has given first priority and it has enormous potential. That doesn’t mean we are not focusing on high end residential properties as well as commercial properties. As a fully registered construction company we do water engineering projects, road construction projects (civil engineering projects) and building.
What kind of an impact do you hope your company will have in Africa?
We are looking for potential investors interested in investing the real estate sector in our company Fort Hall & Fort Hall Kenya Limited.
Apart from that we are seeking to expand our FMCG company RAWSON AND ABERDARES AFRICA LIMITED to more countries in Africa,namely Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa , Rwanda, DRC Congo, Tanzania, Uganda and Ethiopia.We are also looking for potential investors who might be interested in that kind of investment.
Initially i was the Managing Director of Rawson & Aberdares Africa when the company started but a substantive full-time CEO was appointed since i was still a civil servant and was working part-time but i remained a director. I finally left civil service to fully concentrate on working full time as the Managing Director of Fort Hall & Fort Hall Kenya Limited.
Lawrich Technologies Limited: I am positive my company fort Hall & Fort Hall Kenya Limited will have a bigger impact across Africa. One of the greatest challenges in Africa today is home ownership. The majority of Africans live in shacks and slums which are rented. There’s no clean drinking water, there’s no social amenities like sewer, paved roads, lighting. Simply saying, they are not organized. The few who can achieve those kinds of properties are rich people by common standards. By Fort Hall & Fort Hall Kenya Limited engaging in affordable housing projects, we hope to expand our business concept across Africa. We build affordable houses which nearly all the people in business or employed at a basic salary, can afford without straining too much. Where there’s clean drinking water, goods roads, garbage collection, security, schools, markets etc.
Another impact we hope to have across Africa is through the other company RAWSON AND ABERDARES AFRICA LIMITED which is a FMCGC. A lot of girls drop out of school due to menstruation since they can’t afford sanitary pads. Sanitary pads which are already dominant in the market are expensive and are viewed as a Luxury, our products are seeking to overturn that. We want to make it affordable at nearly 1/8 the price of the available brands in the market so that going forward, no girl will miss school because of menstruation. We also want to ensure child health is covered by making baby diapers and adult diapers are available across Africa and not as a Luxury but a necessity. We seek to reduce joblessness in Africa and expand Africa’s manufacturing capacity as well as grow our economies. We also have plans to engage in value addition of coffee here in Africa and instead of shipping it raw cheaply and it’s processed in Europe and America and exported back to Africa as a finished product at a premium price.
I hope through all this, I will mentor a new generation of African entrepreneurs who believe in investing in Africa.
What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome as a business owner?
The biggest obstacle i have had as a business owner and entrepreneur is access to capital and not just capital but affordable capital. Being a business owner its too demanding, it demands your time and resources which can even be detrimental to your well being. Alot of expensive capital for expansion or such is available but instead of helping in what you are seeking capital for, sometimes it tends to be the last nail on the coffin of your business. Banks want a lot of securities for the loans they want to advance to you, apart from that they charge very high interest rates for those loan facilities. Another obstacle is lack of hands-on qualified or experienced labour for the job. As a business owner, when you’re recruiting workers to be working with you, some come with good college papers but lack experience. You find someone with a marketing diploma or degree but has no real experience from marketing anything and as a business owner you end up disappointed because they can’t deliver, and you have to let them go after their probation. Finding the right person with the right skills and experience is very difficult nowadays.
What aspect of being a business owner do you enjoy the most?
Well just like being a parent and see your child grow up from a tiny baby to mature man or woman with their own family, the pride and satisfaction that comes from that is the same as that of seeing your company grow from a small business of one staff to a middle-sized company. Other than that, I enjoy the challenges that come from being a business owner and the one running the company. The challenges make you think even harder on the best way to resolve those challenges. Happy and satisfied customers coming back for more products and services makes me enjoy being a business owner. It’s like a doctor seeing his or her patient healthy again.
What do you believe would help your company reach its goals the quickest?
Well i think quality premium products and services at affordable price will help to retain the current customers and bring more customers. Not compromising on the quality of products and always listening to customer feedback and suggestions will help us attain the goals we seek to attain as far as the company is concerned. We are also planning to look for partners in the countries of interest whom we will partner with as far our expansion project is concerned. Vigilance is one of the most important requirements for one to be an investor or entrepreneur, to know and understand the latest trends, tastes, regarding a product, service or laws in general.
If we also get interested investors it would play a great role in helping us achieve what we are seeking to achieve within the shortest time possible.
What advice would you give to someone who would like to start their own business?
What I can advise those who are interested in starting their own business is the time to implement that idea now. No more procrastination. Start by understanding the kind of business you want to engage in. Who are the clients, where to do source goods if you’re not the manufacturer, who are your competitors, what are the government and regulatory requirements. You need to do proper research and totally understand what the market is like and has been like and might be like in future. Once you have done that research, ensure you have enough capital to finance the idea and other contingencies. Capital must be cheap capital. I wouldn’t advise someone to borrow from Shylock to start a business. The best option would be from savings or borrowing from saccos. Starting a business is very satisfying, it gives you financial freedom if it succeeds however in case it fails, it might drain all your financial resources and condemn you to debt and financial ruin. Having said that I would still encourage people to embrace entrepreneurship more and more, advantages are more than disadvantages, after all there’s no gain without pain. Africa is one large market with huge potential to produce good for its consumption and export. We hope Africa governments will remove bottlenecks to make it easier for entrepreneurs to set up businesses across Africa as well as travel. Regularly frameworks based on existing protocols will also make things smoother. Africa must do away with protectionisms, unnecessary levies and double taxation which has been cited as the greatest impediment as far doing in Africa is concerned.