Lizzie Muthoni Wanyoike, founder of Nairobi Institute of Business Studies (Nibs), says she wants to make Sh1 billion by 2022 from her businesses.
Were she to achieve the dream, Ms Wanyoike would not be in unfamiliar waters since some of her ‘‘brothers’’ from her native Murang’a County are well known business owners whose wealth is public knowledge thanks to the Nairobi Securities Exchange filings.
They include Jimnah Mbaru (Dyer & Blair), Peter Munga (Equity Bank), James Mwangi (Equity Bank), Chris Kirubi (industrialist), Benson Wairegi (Britam), Gerald Gikonyo and the late Gerishon Kirima.
A former secondary school teacher, Ms Wanyoike launched the business school project in year 2000 with a capital of Sh6 million, half of it being credit from Equity Bank, and 25 students.
After almost two decades of “bad experiences and challenges” that have been “very good teachers”, Nibs’ student population is 6,000 and a staff of 250 professionals that she says, if managed well, will deliver her dream.
The 2015 African International Business and Management (Aibuma) award winner, Ms Wanyoike asks other women to drop indecisiveness that is stifling their business ideas.
“You may not understand the power in your feminine self until you step out,” she says.
So determined she was that Equity Bank CEO, James Mwangi, described her when she won the Aibuma award as a “resilient and focused woman who is a benchmark for any serious Kenyan.”
Ms Wanyoike tells budding women entrepreneurs to compete for space while the “fainthearted grumble and fall away.”
She is expanding into hospitality by lining up a Sh400 million five-star hotel in Nairobi’s upmarket Kileleshwa.
“Fear of failure is rated a top concern for women who launch start-ups. Overcome it and wish yourself well. Remain positive even in the face of failure. Trudge on and cast your fishing net wide,” she quips.
In 1972 the government recruited her as a secondary school teacher and posted her to State House Girls on a salary of Sh961 per month.
By 1975, she had figured out that employment was not her thing. She wanted to start a business and watch it grow.
“That is when I teamed up with my husband and other partners to found Temple College of Secretarial Studies in Nairobi. By 1999 I was sure that the realities of a moving global economy required more challenging ventures to tap in the immense benefits of a globalised economy. I quit that partnership.”
Within less than a year after quitting the partnership, she was starting the city business college.
She started off with 25 students and two staff at rented premises in Nairobi but by 2010 she had raised a capital base of Sh134 million to establish the college headquarters at Ruiru-Kimbo on a 10-acre piece of land.
However, it is in 2010 that her husband whom she describes as “the foundation and inspiration of my success today” passed away.
It was a setback but she focused on building the business “instead of remaining stuck in mourning”.
Martin Onyancha, a businessman in Kimbo, rates Ms Wanyoike as the “mother of this town.”
Ms Wanyoike says she used to buy land and stocks at the securities market while she was a government employee, later business partnerships paid dividends.
“Today, if I want a new car, I only dispose of a piece of land,” she explains. The sixth born in a family of 10, the investor says her childhood was marked with poverty but determined parenting.
An alumnus of Gathukiini Primary School, Kahuhia Girls High School, and Nakuru High School, Ms Wanyoike attained a diploma in education at the Kenyatta University College, now Kenyatta University.
“You see, my father was a colonial chief and his patriotism for a free Kenya saw him double deal through providing intelligence to Mau Mau freedom fighters. He was busted and eventually detained for nine long years, leaving us under the care of my peasant mother,” she says.
Ms Wanyoike says by 2016, she had “spent Sh9 million in educating children from poor families” as a way of giving back to the society.