Harnessing the Kenyan entrepreneurial spirit
Who are you and what is your background?
My name is Kyai Ivuso Mullei (35) and I am based in Nairobi, Kenya. I a gained a BA degree in Economics from Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, USA in 2000 and followed it with an MBA/ MS Computer Information Systems, Georgia State Unversity, Atlanta, GA, USA, in 2006.
What is your business and where does it operate from?
My business is called InfoSystem Solutions Limited and it has its headquarters in Nairobi and is registered in Nairobi and Delaware Corp, USA.
What are its products/ services?
InfoSystem Solutions is an information solutions provider dedicated to helping small and growing businesses. Since 2006, we have served our clients with customised solutions to enhance their information systems infrastructure and online image. The company’s services include: web hosting design & development; custom software development; site maintenance & content management; data encryption & storage; development of strategic IS / IT resources and business process reengineering.
How did you get started?
I founded the business in 2006 after identifying a niche for information system solutions for small business in Kenya. At that time, there was a gap in the market with information systems providers focusing on large clients only. Internet services and demand for online service from small businesses was just beginning to grow at the time as connectivity prices fell.
Did you have any help such as financial/general business advice?
My MBA programme gave me the necessary tools to conceive and start a business entity. There were no upfront costs in setting up the business apart from registration. There were no initial investors
How many people were employed when you started and how many are there now?
Only one person was employed at the onset and that was me, the founder. However, currently the business is based on a contracting module on a pay per demand basis; consequently up to eight developers have been hired for particularly large projects. For normal size project I have employed between two and three developers.
Can you give details of the company’s success in terms of profit/turnover/assets?
In 2011, InfoSystem Solutions recorded a turnover of Kenyan Shillings (KES) 5.5 mm, a profit of KES 300,000, and assets of KES 1.5mm.
Why did you want to set up your own business?
I decided that I wanted to be self-employed and I felt I had the skills necessary to do so. I also wanted to make an impact in any way I could to help developing Kenya. It takes everyone, entrepreneurs, teachers, doctors, policemen, to collectively advance society, I wanted to do my part and the rewards of providing gainful employment to a poor nation with high unemployment was a goal of mine. I also realised while Kenyans have a strong entrepreneurial spirit, there was an acute shortage of entrepreneurs in the country willing to take the risks of setting up their own “official” business entities.
What sort of attributes do you think are necessary to be successful in business?
Patience and perseverance are the top two in my book. Great businesses are not built overnight as it can take years for a business to gain traction and become profitable. Businesses also start small; it’s natural for a business to start as in idea and have the owner as the only employee. The will to take risks is important, unlike employment, businesses income is not guaranteed on a month to month basis, and therefore as a business owner, the ability to withstand fluctuating income is necessary.
What drives you to succeed?
Making a difference and making an impact are my main motivators. Creating something which was not there before and from which society can benefit from. I am a true believer in the old saying “everyone must do their part.”
What advice would you give to a youngster wanting to set up their own business today?
While it is not entirely implausible, anyone starting a business should not plan on it being an overnight success. Great businesses are built over time.
Is it harder or easier to set up in business when you are young?
I would think easier, younger people generally do not have the responsibilities of a family to support. It is easier to take risks and deal with any set-backs when you have no dependents. However, these risks usually have great reward.
What sort of help would you like to have been able to access when you started out that wasn’t available to you?
I would like to have seen more networking services that would bring together like-minded entrepreneurs to exchange ideas. These were not available when I started my business, although they are now in both the public and private sector.
What are your goals/aims for your business?
I want my company to continue to be a solution for small and medium sized enterprises seeking customised software solutions to drive their businesses forward.
Where would you like your business to be in 10 years’ time?
In ten years time, I envisage my business will have a presence in all countries in East Africa, through partnerships or directly, providing solutions for the 130-million strong market that is currently growing by six percent a year.