Name: Mkamboi Mwakale
Business: Sheera Agengies, customized promotional items
Location: Nairobi, Kenya
Reason for starting: I have always been amazed by global brands such as Coca-Cola and how they have managed to maintain customer loyalty — this began my my interest in branding. However, my choice to create executive-branded gifts was nudged by remembering when my former employer was traveling to a conference in New York and desperately needed some cool elegant products that were customized to the organization’s brand to share with delegates who would visit the company’s stand. In essence, he wanted to create meaningful relationships with the visitors and have his brand recognized. With my business, I look at ways of helping the business owner foster lasting relationship with key stakeholders such as esteemed clients, high-performing employees and high-profiled guests, whilst increasing their brand visibility.
How do you define success? Success is a journey of challenging myself to accomplish more than I set to achieve and overcoming obstacles and failures with renewed confidence and vigor. Success to me is also being able to comfortably provide basic needs to a family living in poverty without my very own basic needs being affected.
Biggest Success: The first step I took; believing in the idea, and registering the business was the biggest success to date. In the beginning, I had fears of not being able to get a client, and that was the case for the first two months, but I did not give up. I love what I am doing, and I knew soon somebody would like my work too, so I kept at it, while polishing my sales skills. I would also like to add that, as I started out, I had envisioned the kind of customized branded gifts I would be focusing on, e.g. customized men cuff links, gift pens, ladies bag hangers, lapel pins, executive lanyards, thermal mugs etc. That was until I met a marketing executive of a five-star hotel at 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit. After doing my elevator pitch, he asked if I could supply customized notebooks, diaries and gift baskets, and that was the beginning of a great expansion for Sheerah Agencies.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it? Most organizations would prefer a supplier who can give them an extended credit period, which may not work well for startups who have not yet built a reputation with vendors and banks. Fortunately, I discovered a special product from Jamii Bora Bank that takes into account LPO financing of up to 70% without security. It is truly a bank keen to see startups grow.
Who is your most important role model? I look up to many enterprising women who make sacrifices and create something great that we are so proud of, not to mention who help to alleviate poverty in our societies. However, closer to me is my pastor Rev. Julian Kyula, who wears many hats, including running a successful entrepreneurship business believing in infinite possibilities. He has an endearing personality that inspires you to go out and achieve your dream no matter what your current circumstances dictate. His business acumen and the Kingdom principles he lives by leaves much to be admired, having witnessed the phenomenal growth his startup company accomplished in less than 3 years.
Edited by The Story Exchange