In what looked like a big joke to his workmates, John Maina quit his job in 1999 as a casual at the cargo unit of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to start his shipping and export company.
To most of his colleagues, his dream was a wild shot. However, Mr Maina believed in himself and the viability of his dream and set up Young Line Kenya.
Despite his unshakeable confidence, he knew it wasn’t going to be an easy ride, as he faced big rivals with well-established networks both global and locally.
Mr Maina says his line of business relies heavily on connections, which he did not have. Nevertheless he remained unfazed and started aggressively marketing his company.
“I was lucky that some companies including Turkish Airline bought my idea and believed in me. To reciprocate their trust, I worked hard to live up to their expectations” says Mr Maina, a University of Nairobi Bachelor of Arts graduate who majored in Kiswahili.
“I thank God that I have been able to keep my promises to date.”
Initially, his ambition was to be a TV news anchor, but that was never to be as no job in this line of career came his way.
Although it was initially tough, his efforts at selling his new venture slowly began to bear fruits. He started getting clients who trusted him to handle their exports.
Among his first clients was Mauritius Airlines which gave him a job few months later and paid him about Sh100,000 making it the first huge amount to hit his account. This gave him a reason to believe.
His hard work was also recognised by his new clients.
“The (Mauritius) airline believed in me so much that they would even lend me some money that I would use to boost the business. I owe the airline a lot. I think I wouldn’t be where I’m today without them,” says Mr Maina.
Todays, Mr Maina has 20 employees earning an average of Sh25,000 each per month.
His list of clients is also impressive. Aside from Mauritius Airlines, his other customers include the Kenya Airways, Etihad Airlines, Suriz Air, Sabina Airline, Saudia Airlines, Kate Freight, Alpharama and Afrikiko.
Mr Maina told Enterprise that he has also succeeded because he always liaise with tour operator companies to transport cargo on their behalf moving them from resorts, camps and lodges to the customer’s preferred destination.
According to the businessman, shipping and export business is anchored on quality service delivery.
“In business, it takes determination to achieve a target and results. For you to carve out your market share in the market, you must be ready to offer better and quality services compared to your competitors,” says Mr Maina.
Some customers, he says, choose big names over start-ups even if the latter provides better services. In some cases, he says, the customers end up getting a raw deal after choosing an established firm to handle their business.
Mr Maina is leveraging on technology to enhance efficiency of operations as he eyes expansion. He has adopted an online system where customers trace goods from one destination to the other through the use of 24-hour service on line service.
The entrepreneur says one of his key reasons for success is his focus and determination
“The problem with people is that when they start businesses, they shift their goals along the way. They abandon the reason that motivated them to start the business,” he says.
“I wouldn’t advise someone to shift goals because his or her business is doing well. Each business has core intentions and one has to live with them to the end.”