When Anthony Kahinga was still studying Chemistry at the university, he and his friend did what most young people would do to survive -- start a side-hustle.
As he generated some income to supplement his pocket money, he had no idea that the side-hustle would grow to be a serious venture, currently worth about Sh10 million.
“I enrolled in the University of Nairobi to study Chemistry, but I had no passion for this. Mine was a passion for entrepreneurship,” says Mr Kahinga.
“But since my parents were paying for my school fees, I had a tough decision to make between carrying on with school, or dropping out altogether to focus on my passion.”
He says it took a lot of convincing for his parents to agree not only to let him drop out of school and run a business, but also to divert the school fees money into his new venture. Part of the deal with the parents was that once the business picks up, he would return to school to complete his studies.
Having received the blessings of his parents, Mr Kahinga and his friend opened an accessories outfit in Nairobi which would supply mobile phones, computers and other smart devices.
While running the accessories shop, the entrepreneur realised most of the brands whose devices he sold didn’t offer after-sale support services. Many of the customers he received would come to them with concerns about the functionality of their devices.
“People would come to us asking: Can you refer us to a technician we can trust to fix my device, or should I just buy a new one? And I would tell them why would you buy a new device for more than Sh30,000 when the current one only has an issue with the battery or mouthpiece?” says Mr Kahinga.
Like the entrepreneur he was, Mr Kahinga saw a business opportunity where his business WeFixTech would not only be an accessories outfit, but also a repair shop. But he knew full well that this transition would not be easy, and that he would have to take a radically different business approach for it to be successful.
“The notion that repair guys are conmen who could steal your parts, destroy them or use sensitive information on your device to their advantage remains embedded in people’s minds. To change this, we had to invest heavily in building trust amongst our clients,” notes Mr Kahinga whose firm has grown rapidly and now has 12 employees.
Years later, adopting this approach of professionalising the gadget repairs industry has seen WeFixTech successfully fix and repair thousands of devices.
Individuals make up a majority of their clientele, but the onset of Covid-19 saw SMEs, corporate organisations, schools and non-governmental organisations also seek their services.
“When we started the business, we were focusing on B2C clients, but during Covid-19 when technologies were widely used, we started getting enquiries from corporates and companies looking for fast and affordable service.
Somebody would call and tell us ‘I am supposed to do a presentation tomorrow but my laptop has crashed and the presentation is on the computer, how you can help?’,” says Mr Kahinga.
Also, businesses like SMEs which cannot afford an in-house IT department because of the vast amount of resources required to set up and manage it can approach them for support on a need basis.
They also do data recovery in the event you lose your data to hackers or perhaps if you have damaged your hard drive, or your mobile phone, making it impossible for you to access it.
The firm also offers electronic waste disposing of solutions by looking at how they can repair used items and thereafter sell them as opposed to discarding them.
If you have a gadget in your house which you would want to get rid of, the firm will buy it, fix it and resell it.
Mr Kahinga says although they have experienced tremendous growth as a business, they still face various setbacks.
They, for instance, have to source for repair parts from countries such as China and the US because they are not locally available, making the repair process take longer.
They also face scepticism from in-house IT personnel of some of the companies they work with, who see them as a threat to their jobs.
Even as they work on debunking this narrative, Mr Kahinga says he is proud of the strides his business has made, such as the recent opening of another outlet in Mombasa which has created employment for more young people.
They plan to do the same in other towns such as Kisumu, Eldoret and Nakuru soon.