Francis Karanja has made a career out of turning old dilapidated commercial and residential buildings across the country into eye-turners. Starting as a mason in 2015, he has fashioned himself as a talented interior and exterior decorator specialising in refurbishing walls and ceilings.
It was at a construction site first where he worked as a right-hand man when he realised a gap in the interior and exterior finishing business in the real estate sector. Most of the finishings, he says, seemed impersonal and their owners were eager to give them a facelift.
However, penetrating the real estate business was not a walk in the park. Without the massive outlay required to set up a company, Mr Karanja knew he had to get creative. With only Sh500, Karanja started by purchasing some basic tools used in construction and fabricated others from scrap in a junkyard.
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Then in 2016 he firmly planted his feet in the industry by founding Platinum+ Mouldings, a firm that focuses on renovations and face-lifts that entail moldings, gypsum ceilings, wainscoting, water fountains, natural stone cladding, and other construction finishing services. The company also offers consultancy services.
“When I joined the industry, most people just followed the already existing patterns of construction, leaving everything purely basic. This gave me an opportunity to express myself artistically by offering customised artistic finishes,” he says.
His first project earned him such positive feedback that the neighbours of his client invited him to work on their houses too. "This included re-doing previously designed finishes by other designers,” he says.
Since then, Mr Karanja has worked on more unique designs that have earned him a steady stream of customers.
“We focus on offering quality, customised residential and commercial interior and exterior designs that stand out at affordable rates. We are always keen to produce ideal classic designs that reflect clients’ tastes and requests,” says Mr Karanja of his company which has a workforce of 20.
To improve his business visibility, he has embraced online marketing where he posts most of his works on social media platforms.
With the demand for unique well done houses being high, Karanja says, “Clients are ever looking for someone to deliver quality professional products and service.”
The entrepreneur designer has worked with many clients whose properties range from small one-bedroomed houses to high-end mansions and hotels around the country.
These include commercial and residential structures in Karen, Muthaiga, Runda, Migori, Busia, Nandi Hills, Utawala, Syokimau, Juja, and Rusinga Island among other areas.
“Most of the designs are customised, meaning that we might not have done them before, and so we draft different quotes depending on the client’s design,” he says.
Pricing according to Karanja is highly dependent on many factors, among them: materials to be used, design, the type of finishing, duration of time to be spent on the preparation work, and during the task.
Karanja explains that redecorating a pillar can range from Sh8,000 to Sh40,000 while a simple face-lift can range from Sh50,000 to Sh3 million.
“Our team targets those who understand the power of an overhaul makeover, and what good detailing entails,” Karanja says.
On average, Karanja deals with one client at a time to give his best service.
“These projects cost much, so I always serve one client at a time to ensure that as a team we deliver the best within a good timeframe and still be in a position to serve other booked clients,” he says.
To still make some extra income Mr Karanja offers site consultancy to other clients as their projects take shape in readiness for them to do the finishing. So, what does one require to succeed in the sector?
Other than passion, Mr Karanja says one needs to be very patient. He advises: “The design phase is not easy. One needs to be very creative to come up with designs that will set him or her apart. Again when it comes to the execution of the task, a lot of patience is required to work flawlessly on aspects that require time and steady hands."
Though a success today, Mr Karanja says that a smooth sail never made a skillful mariner as he has had to experience a good share of challenges from clients who fail to honour their word and in the end fail to clear the balance.
“It's also not easy to find young people with the zeal that is required to be in this business. Quite often, one keeps on following up on people, which is a challenge,” he says.
In the future, Karanja aims to further his artistic works in a way that it can serve as a tourist attraction.