Dansean Mugambi opened an interior design business in 2015 in Mombasa without any academic background in the field.
Yet the lack of formal education did not hinder him from becoming a pro in this line of business. His enterprise relied heavily on a wealth of experience gained on the job. He later sharpened his skills through relevant online courses.
Mr Mugambi is now the CEO of his venture, Dankiz Arts & Creations Limited, that deals in interior design,3D wall art, project management, finishes and CAD drawings. He is also an abstract painter and occasionally holds art exhibitions.
Even before founding the design company, Mr Mugambi had set up his first startup while in high school. He printed t-shirts from his mother’s house and later in a bedsitter he rented.
“I was an art student in high school. By the time I was in Form Two I was doing screen and fabric printing. I would buy plain t-shirts then custom-make them. I would sell to my classmates and school clubs,” he says.
Despite his good grades and getting an admission letter to join the University of Nairobi his mother could not afford it.
“I got a B+. We were not doing so well financially and could not afford to continue schooling. I decided to continue printing t-shirts from my mother’s house,” he says.
In 2007 he rented a bedsitter which also served as his workshop, where he worked aggressively and tirelessly to grow his brand known as Dankiz.
Working with celebrities put his work on the national map.
“I have worked with many artistes in the t-shirt printing business including Juliani, Eko Dyda and Jua Cali,” he says.
His orders would soon grow to more than 3,000 t-shirts in a month.
Although the business was doing well, he exited to follow his passion in interior design.
“People loved my work as I was not just printing, I am an artist and my work was art. That was the unique part,” he says.
“But at some point I stopped the t-shirts work as I felt it was not where my heart was. It was also stressful without good money.”
His interior design venture did not take long to pick up.
Mr Mugambi has decorated homes, offices, restaurants, stores, and business premises in Nairobi and Mombasa.
Initially he depended on friends who trusted him with their spaces, something he says helped him to build his name.
“The first client as a friend who gave me his house in Changamwe to revamp,” he says.
He did not have an office then and often met clients in restaurants.
His big break came in 2015 through the Tony Elumelu Foundation where he was mentored and got a seed capital that enabled him grow his business including importing and selling 3D Panels.
“After research I introduced 3D panels. I was among the first people to import it in Kenya. I began selling them from my house and later got this showroom in Nyali,” he notes.
Online courses, he says, have helped him a great deal.
“I have not sat down in an institution to learn design. I did simple courses. For example, I would decide I want to study kitchen design and look for a course,” he says.
“ I would do courses on colour, space arrangement and planning for six months. I started with a diploma then a degree.”
His firm has now made great strides, handling a long list of customers including bars in Nairobi, hotels in Mombasa, shopping malls such as Nyali Links Arcade and various residential homes.
“In the interior design awards held this year, my project Barberique Barbershop came number three in the whole country. The two projects that were ahead were massive with big budgets,” he adds.
His business also provides earnings to more than 50 people.
But like any business, Mr Mugambi’s venture is not short of challenges, the key of which is getting enough funds for expansion.
“We have never taken a loan. It is a slow but sure way of growing a business. It has taught me to save and have discipline about money,” he says.
He also does online consultation for clients in the USA, Germany, Canada, Nigeria and South Sudan. He plans to bring more countries into the fold. “We have a two-year plan which begun January last year to now diversify. We outsource a lot of stuff. We want to bring our own machines and make things from here. We also want to expand to make lamps as well,” he says.