Timothy Kitonga from Nairobi, Kenya shares how he became filled with passion for his advertising business, which help bring him success. Africa #000222
Getting Started With Passion
By Timothy Kitonga
My name is Timothy Katonga, I am in Nairobi, we do our business in the branding digital marketing and advertising, and the name of the business is Keystone Group Limited, and this is my story. So I began Keystone Group way back in 2014, but instead I incorporated it in 2015 after realizing that there was a gap in the branding and advertising agency, but after some time, I realized that I wasn’t able to do a lot because of my financial capability, so I decided to approach different people to do their business cards for free but soon someone came and believed in whatever I was doing who happened now to become a mentor. His name is Jojo Sheeree, he’s in the real estate industry. So, 2014 December we did the dairies but of course there were challenges, whereby we had to go to talk to our supplier to give us the products but now I had to try and convince them to to have my idea as the collateral, but they said Nairobi is quite small, so we’ll just give you the products but after you go get your deposits, we are going to start working together. Luckily enough after two days, we managed to get the products, and we took the products to the client, but we were trying to outsource everything. Doing the design work was outsourcing, doing the branding for the dairies was outsourcing, and that was my turning point because the dairies gave us some good margins and from there I decided now it’s time we start doing everything for this guy.
But that wasn’t all, I was also trying to talk to other few friends here and there but it was quite hard because they weren’t really believing in whatever I was trying to do. I don’t have a background in design work, I don’t have a background in web design and all that, but I had the passion because I was tired of seeing things being repeatedly done over in a very mediocre way. So, I decided to talk to a guy that I saw him doing the business cards that I was doing for the client, and he said “Okay, I can join you but you have to be paying me on a monthly basis.” That was the first time that I tried to pay someone, so personally I had never seen a pay before that was on a monthly basis but I said, okay now this is the high time I believe in this guy, and we decided to work together. For the first three, four months it was quite a challenge to even get money to pay him, because even having money to pay the office was also quite a challenge. So because of the support that I got from this gentleman by the name Jojo Sheree He told me, “Now I’m going to give you a lot of work to make sure that you’re going to sustain yourself.” But I came to realize that because of the good relationship that I built with him, it was also easier for me now to gain confidence and for him to give me deposit some like 30% before I began the work. So, that way it was also easier for me to negotiate with my suppliers to give me credit for around a week, two weeks, and even others for a month because of the good relationships that I had built with them for the past like six months or so. So over time it created confidence with me because at least I had an in-house designer and we could create designs for him and we could also sell to his friends, and through the word of mouth I decided now it was time now to get the word out there that this is whatever I usually do. I told him “Now, I’ll be accompanying you on every networking event that you will be going to so that I tell people whatever I usually do.” And God gave me favor with him and every event that he was attending, I was usually like his messenger. Whatever he needs I have to be there, despite I knew that I have a business, but I was always by him to make sure that whatever needs, I am there, and all along he could introduce me to some of his friends. It was through that that we managed to get other accounts normally we call them accounts in business. We managed to get big accounts in the motel industry, in the hotel industry, in the hospitality industry as well, and also hospitals. So from there we decided that now we are not going to go back. We are going to negotiate with this guy the way we tried to do with the first guy, and from there it has been not easy, but we realized from the jobs that we’re getting we needed to get more designers. So I said, okay now this is the high time now to expand my business.
But of course, the banks were trying to give us a lot of headache because we didn’t have the collateral to get a loan. Like for example, I needed to have a title deed, I needed to have a notebook to access loan, I needed to have good books of accounts. I didn’t have that so they had now to train me for a couple of six months waiting for them so that I could access even the smallest of facilities that they normally offer. It was quite a long wait, but eventually I managed to get the facility because I needed the facility to help me move around and build my business to become sustainable. So eventually I remember the first loan, I used the loan to pay the rent, It wasn’t easy, it was one of the hard decisions knowing that you’re going to pay the loan with money that you’ve not even taken out there to work for you. So it was quite hard to pay the loan because I paid for nine months. Afterwards, the guys for the bank told me now because you’ve managed to pay this loan, we are going to give you another facility but on a shorter period and we’ll see how you’re going to perform. I really pushed myself because I remember I used to work for like 12 hours a day. This time around I had to add two more extra hours so that I could even manage to sort out this loan with tenure that I was given by the bank. So within that period I was also trying to do more networking, I was also trying to market my company out there it is whatever we do. I remember like everything I used to outsource, except the design that I had said before.
So, like from the transport I used to sometimes even walk for like two three kilometres trying to take work for clients, but afterwards God really gave me favor with some of these clients so that they could even give us bigger contracts. So, overtime I’ve managed to add a team, I have managed to have a guy who normally does websites and is an assistant, right now we have guys that are in the digital industry, content creators we have someone who is in charge of operations, we have someone who is in charge of the Accounts Department and the office assistant as well, and so far it has been a journey but I encourage that especially the young guys who normally think that there is something like a miracle of success. It doesn’t happen that way you have to work hard, you have to work smarter, and you have to build the relationships from your clientele, from your service providers, to also the people that you least expect that they can give you good service with out even pay. For example, here in Kenya we normally call them like buda-buda people. The people who normally take you from one point to another, even then you need to have a good relationship with them because you need to go to point B, but you don’t have the transport to take you there. Who are you going to talk to? It is the person whom you’ve been talking to all along. So it’s the high time that as young guys that we come together, raise ourselves up, and tackle the opportunities out there. Like for us for instance, we realize that there is a lot of traditional marketing that is happening. It’s the high time that we decide to bridge the gap, providing digital marketing, providing the best skills that any company can ever get out there that are the best affordable rates. So, thank you for this opportunity, and I know this is going to impact someone out there and it will be my joy and I’ll be glad if someone will be impacted. Thank you.
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