Guy Guillemard was intrigued by the number of Kenyans joining his club in Dubai. It was the continued increase in non-resident members at the Capital Club, Dubai that awakened him to the opportunity that existed for a similar facility in East Africa.
“Our members would tell us of the many fine clubs in Kenya, but wanted one that offered quality service and was centrally located,” says Guillemard. After researching and getting a feel of the market, Capital Club East Africa was born.
Guillemard’s relationship with private clubs began at Signature Club International, a company that develops and manages high quality private clubs. SCI began operations in 2005 with the launch of two Capital Club outlets – one based in Dubai and the other in Bahrain.
Nairobi is not lacking in its share of exclusive members only clubs. But there is a new kid on the block. Capital Club is making its debut in the Kenyan market with a group of newly-recruited 250 pioneer members. The first of the Signature Club International managed group to set up in East Africa, the club also seeks to strengthen the Middle East’s ties with East Africa.
Signature Club’s entry comes as exclusive business clubs frequented by high profile individuals and corporate executives continue to gain popularity in Nairobi as Kenya positions itself as East Africa’s business hub. Its Gold Founder Members are made up of 250 companies and individuals, who are owners, directors or senior executives.
Guillemard says the exclusive club is targeting the elite business community with the need to conduct their business and social affairs in a ‘controlled’ environment. Membership recruitment is by invitation or personal application and is subject to the management’s decision. “As members join, they also have the privilege of proposing suitable colleagues, friends, family members and business associates for membership,” says Guillemard. Applications are considered by the Membership Committee, after careful screening by the Membership Department, when references have been taken up. Any corporations and individuals found to meet the set criteria are invited or approved by the Membership Committee. Membership falls in five categories; corporate, individual, non-resident corporate and individual, and diplomatic.
Club premises are for the exclusive use of members and their guests. Evidence that the club is a reserve for the crème de la crème of Kenyan society, Signature Club boasts of having in its membership roll some of the top most corporate executives.
Its board of governors is made up of executives such as Bob Collymore of Safaricom, Martin Dunford of Carnivore, Brenda Mbathi of EABL, Bharat Thakrar of Scan Group, and Patricia Ithau of L’Oreal East Africa among others.
The range of services includes a health club, a business club and a social club. Currently under construction, Signature is set to open its doors to members in 2013.
Taking shape in the heart of the city’s Westlands area, the club will occupy the 5th, 6th 7th floors of Imperial Court and a roof top that affords a view of the Nairobi Skyline. The choice of location is meant to attract business owners and executives who work within the city limits, saving them the inconvenience of travelling to the outskirts and suburbs to transact business.
Guillemard says that the essence of the club is to create a haven for members to meet and entertain their guests in comfortable surroundings, while enjoying fine food and personal service.
“It should allow members to network in an environment where they are comfortable,” he adds.
Signature’s tradition of excellence means members can look forward not only to prestige, exclusivity and comfort but also an opportunity to meet and network with other professionals and business leaders.
On offer are elegant lounges, different dining options, private meeting and conference rooms and a variety of special events and business forums. Kenya is not alone in its enthusiasm for exclusive members’ clubs. Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov recently broke new ground when he set up a Facebook-style networking website known as Snob – purely for the world’s richest people.
“Ours is a business focused, contemporary club with a combination of all nationalities plus good food and events,” said Guillemard.
The Signature Club is essentially a facility that seeks to meet the official and social needs of businessmen and women for entertainment, meetings, networking and exchange of ideas.
“It is a place where they can work, rest and relax. It is private, secure, prestigious and yet fun to be - at the same time,” he says.
Beyond the name and use of the SCI clubs and over 200 other clubs during travel, members are able to enjoy a social circle made up of the crème, club amenities managed by international clubs, entertainment and a meeting spot that vets its clients.