Anthony Maina has achieved in a span of less than two years what most don’t achieve in a lifetime.
At the age of 17, he was the CEO of a school-run bank. At 18 and still in high school, he had transformed more than 10 dwindling businesses into profit-making ventures and is now eyeing shares at the Nairobi Stock Exchange at the age of 19.
Meet the young entrepreneur with the magic hands and creativity to bet on.
His journey dates back to 2009 when he enrolled at the Strathmore School as a Form One student.
His passion for entrepreneurship saw him at the age of 16 asking his parents for a soft loan to start a business. But they declined; they wanted him to concentrate on his education.
“My parents have been my greatest inspiration and my achievement is when I create a solution that not only benefits me but also uplifts other peoples’ lives,’’ said Mr Maina in an interview with Business Daily last week.
Mr Maina was among the top-performers from Kenya selected to join the prestigious African Leadership Academy (ALA) late 2011.
The academy based in Johannesburg admits Africans aged between 15 and 18 years, and it targets students who exhibit optimism, entrepreneurship spirit and impeccable academic achievements.
Founded in 2004, the school has a two-year curriculum touching on African studies and entrepreneurship leadership.
Early last year, ALA was going through a phenomenal journey on how best it could create a platform for its students to pitch ideas to revive the struggling Gigavault Bank, a school-owned and controlled financial institution.
Mr Maina, then a Form Three student, was burning with zeal to transform the bank. He had seen its potential, and he knew what was needed were well-calculated measures to unlock its potential and bank on students’ savings.
“Here was the opportunity presenting itself on how best one can turn around the situation and create an avenue for more resources. What was needed was to streamline the management strategies and work with more able minds.
“The remedy involved studying its performance in back years, research on the best practices and identifying its leadership weaknesses, ’’ he said.
At that time, he was inheriting the leadership of a bank that was merely worth around Sh10,000.
Mr Maina introduced loans to the students and advisory information on account management to enable his comrades deposit more as an enabler to quick and easy borrowing.
The concept worked out well and within a month, the bank employed five students and withdrew voluntary services.
“The grants were meant to inspire the students on the need for teamwork and critical thinking to supplement their businesses. The bank enabled other students’ businesses to borrow from us and pay back at a minimal interest,” he said.
“Challenges are important in every situation. They make you go on overdrive and discover the inner potential in you. I have read and heard about billionaires, but their success stories are mostly underlined by persistence, hard work, challenges and strategies,’’ he added.
The bank is now worth nearly Sh1million and Mr Maina is optimistic that the next leadership will take this to greater heights. Mr Maina completed the programme in June this year.
His former teacher and a mentor at Strathmore School describes him as a go-getter and perfectionist who blends well with other students.
“Anthony was a hardworking boy with enviable academic performance. He has a deep passion for others and always saw opportunities even when confronted by challenges.
He had a business sense and more importantly, he believed in his abilities,’’ John Paul Fiboe, the deputy principal at the Strathmore School, told the Business Daily in a phone interview.
So inspiring is Mr Maina that he has on different occasions shared platforms with renowned business moguls both locally and internationally.
At the Equity Foundation, he has a huge following that refers to him as a business mentor; in the US, he has given motivational talks on what drives success.
“Business mentorship is a recipe to new ventures. It gives you an open mind on emerging opportunities and creates illusions of what to achieve. I have shared sittings with potential and successful entrepreneurs and shared insights on what defines success,’’ he said.
During his leadership tenure at ALA, he was once awarded for the Best Financial Investment of the Year in 2012 by the school administration.
“The experiences are humbling but what is important is to take the mistakes as the stepping stone and appreciate other people’s weaknesses and strengths and push together for a common goal’’ says Mr Maina.
At ALA, Mr Maina spearheaded numerous initiatives that made school-based enterprises thrive. The enterprises are coordinated through the institution's Entrepreneurial Leadership Department, which is the student’s enterprise umbrella body.
“I am passionate about finance and computer science. Next month I will be pursuing engineering at the US-based Vanderbilt University on a four-year scholarship programme, but I am keen on Africa developments and in particular Kenya. Kenya is very dear to me; the country is rich but the biggest challenge has been lack of accountability, but despite all this I am optimistic about the future,’’ he said.
Maina says he is in discussions with former students at ALA to join hands and register an investment company later this year.
“The investment group will see us invest in land and real estate; one thing I have learnt in life is teamwork,’’ he says.