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Enterprise

How I’ve kept the fire of family hotel business burning

Mr Leonard Kamau
Mr Leonard Kamau. PHOTO | COURTESY 

Leonard Kamau took over his family businesses when his father passed on. Not only has he run the businesses well, but he has also expanded them and the prospects are even looking brighter for the enterprises based in Nakuru town.

Under his stable are four hotels — Midrift Hotel, Mainstreet Barbecue, Lennz Pizza and Kahawa Lounge. His father left him with Midrift Hotel but through hard work and sound management, he has added the other three.

The growth of the business under his stewardship has served to show that he is not only a chip off the old block, but has also underlined his own prowess as an entrepreneur.

The hotels, with a total of 72 employees, rake in a gross income of between Sh5 million and Sh7 million.

His father owned Plaza Inn, which was the first club in Nakuru. It was rebranded to Gituamba, and later Midrift. All the hotels are situated on Kenyatta Avenue in Nakuru, housed by the famous Gituamba Building.

His father was a trailblazer in his own right in the hospitality industry having set up the first rotisserie chicken in Nakuru. He also introduced a cappuccino machine in the town.

When his father died, Mr Kamau, 60, had already attained some experience in entrepreneurship having joined the family business after completing his diploma course in animal husbandry at Egerton University. This enabled him to successfully steer the businesses as he learnt more about the nuts and bolts of the hotel industry.

“I joined the family business after university and have never been employed since. I also ventured into farming in Bahati,” he says.

“After the demise of my father in 1983, I took over the businesses which included rental houses, a cafeteria in Nairobi and Gituamba building in Nakuru, among others.”

Before joining Egerton University, he had attended Molo Primary School before joining St Xavier’s High School.

Mr Kamau entry into the hospitality industry was largely motivated by his father who was initially employed as a steward at the Merica Hotel, which is under African Tours hotels.

The father later retired, having attained managerial position, to focus his energies on running his businesses.

After developing an interest in the hotel industry, Mr Kamau enrolled at Utalii College in 1984 for a two-year course in hotel management where he honed his business skills.

Mr Kamau was not just satisfied running the hotels that his father had left behind. He wanted to start something of his own. So in 2016 with a capital of Sh4 million from his savings, he opened Mainstreet Barbecue, the first 24/7 fast-food eatery in Nakuru.

The joint did so well that a year later, he started Lennz Pizza Joint, putting in a Sh13 million capital, part of which he obtained from a French company which had noticed his entrepreneurial acumen.

The pizza outlet was also an instant success, something attributed to the fact that it was the first such establishment within the central business district of Nakuru town.

Having set up to businesses within a year, Mr Kamau felt like he could conquer the world. This high level of confidence drove him to set up Kahawa Lounge a few months after establishing Lennz Pizza.

While entrepreneur has certainly tasted success, he says this has come from determination and the resilience to surmount tough challenges with high taxation and huge electricity bills topping the list.

He has big plans lined up for the businesses. He seeks to open more branches across the country targeting small towns with vast opportunities for growth.

Mr Kamau desires to maintain his father’s legacy and pass on the business to his children.

To keep the entrepreneurial fire burning in the family he is working closely with his children.

“I have my two daughters and nephew working with me,” he says.

“My three siblings ventured into different professions but I get their moral support.”

What has been his secret of success? He says he always seeks new ways to improve the standard of services by thinking outside the box.

He also keenly follows local and global hospitality trends.

Mr Kamau’s marketing strategy is mainly referrals from his customers, social media, franchising with multinationals — he has approached a Chinese company as well as tapping online platforms AirB&B and Bookings.com to woo tech-savvy customers.

He says to succeed in any venture, you have to have a vision and ensure that what you are doing has meaning to you.

Owing to his hard work, Mr Kamau was appointed the chairman of housing and catering at the Nakuru Sports Club for eight years.

Some of the highlights of his work is getting an opportunity to offer catering services for a three-day Council of Governors conference in Naivasha.

He was also among the top 10 in the Kenya Breweries Kilele awards in 2007 as the best retailer in the western zone.

Mr Kamau advises entrepreneurs to be innovating to keep pace with the changing global trends.

He says original ideas win the day in the face of constantly changing global trends.

“Do not copy paste ideas but come up with unique ways that will make your business stand out. Focus on one big goal and work towards it.”

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