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Enterprise

Why I swapped engineering for credit venture

Job Muriuki
The founder of Momentum Credit, Job Muriuki. PHOTO | FRANCIS MUREITHI | NMG 

As he interacts with his sales team, Job Muriuki could easily pass as a new employee in an upbeat mood.

Clad in a black polo T-shirt and a matching pair of blue jeans, it does not instantly register that he is the founder and chief executive of Momentum Credit that mainly targets individuals and Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) with loans.

Interestingly, the youthful entrepreneur is a trained engineer from the prestigious University of Cambridge in United Kingdom and holds a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and has a masters’ degree in Sustainable Development and Business Management from the same university. He is also one of the few globally recognised Chartered Financial Analysts (CFA) in Kenya.

“I am an engineer converted into a finance man and a self-taught economist,” says Mr Muriuki, 34. “This (conversion to finance) started in 2006 when I was in third year at the university during my 21st birthday. A good friend bought me the popular book, Rich Dad Poor Dad by American businessman and author Robert Kiyosaki which differentiates between being educated and having practicable knowledge.”

The book, he says, inspired him to do something practical and he picked on finance to execute his dream of being an entrepreneur.

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“I related to the insights in this great book. I realised there is a frenzy by Kenyans to acquire academic papers,” he says adding that he wanted to deviate from the path of just amassing theoritical knowledge and instead focus on something that could bring about practical solutions to societal challenges.

“ I thought on venturing into practical financial solutions and this led to the birth of Momentum Credit in March 2017,” says Mr Muriuki who was an executive at Centum Investment company where he was responsible of managing assets and financial services.

“It’s now exactly two years since the firm was founded and the reception has been amazing.”

The first branch is based in International Life House in Nairobi.

At the age of 29 he was sitting in the Centum’s board of management meetings that crafted multi-billion shilling deals, expansion, and negotiated with the Central Bank of Kenya on a number of issues.

“It is that experience and confidence that I gained at Centum that I am replicating by setting up a trail blazing credit company,” he say.

So why did he pick credit firm? “During my time at Centum I noticed a gap in regard to SMEs and what disturbed me is that our economy is more focused on the blue chip companies, forgetting that all the challenges we have in our economy in regard to creating employment and growth could only be sorted out by the SMEs,” Muriuki told the Enterprise.

“I thought of doing something to create job opportunities to young people of my age and that what motivated me to start this company.”

The company has since helped individuals and SMEs access credit by dishing out million of shillings in loans.

It opened its second branch outside Nairobi in Nakuru and hopes to spread its wings to eight more counties before the end of this year.

The entrepreneur says he mobilised eight other colleagues with significant experience in the financial services and they pooled resources to start the company.

Mr Muriuki attributes the success of the company so far to a strong financial base, experienced working teams and tapping from a vast experience of a mentor who has been tried and tested in the financial markets.

“Statistics have shown that having a business idea is not enough to make your company succeed. The basic foundation for successful startups is strong mentorship and financial base and having leading minds and influencers in the financial sector in your team,” advises Mr Muriuki.

He notes that the company plans to have footprint in the regional market in the next five years.

“We already have a small presence in Kampala and our aim is to go full throttle by 2025 and hopefully create a million jobs to young people,” he says.

The company started with five employees and it has since expanded to 150 with Nakuru benefiting from 30 new jobs.

“It disturbs me that millions of energetic youths are wasting away out there yet they could turn around the economy of this country through SMEs and financial support.”

He advises young entrepreneurs wishing to set up SMEs to get enough capital and have a competent and experienced technical advisor who has been in the industry long enough to fully grasp its terrain.

Although what he does now seems to have little relationship to his engineering studies, he doesn’t regret doing the course saying it is a fantastic field and an eye opener to his present responsibilities as the chief executive.

“Engineering has given me abilities to understand technical issues, and be strong with numbers which are key components in the turbulent financial market,” he says.

To strengthen SMEs in Kenya, Mr Muriuki says “SMEs should operate under different tax regime because the current regime is unfavourable as the Value Additional Tax (VAT) is demanded at the end of the month yet some startups are not paid for the goods and services they supplied to counties and government agencies on time.”

Business registration, he adds, is still tedious and needs to be simplified. Another hurdle he cites is that many SMEs have limited access to credit which is inhibiting their growth, especially in the counties outside Nairobi City.

Also he says, “Educating SMEs owners on the consequences of borrowing and what it means if they fail to repay their loans is critical in this journey.”

His lowest moment since he started, he discloses is when the default rates skyrocket when there are pending loan applications.

“Luckily at Momentum Credit our default rate is as low as 10 per cent and this has given us momentum to expand. We are working hard to push it downwards by recovering all the outstanding loans,” he says.

The highest moment, he reveals, are found in the positive impacts the credit has had on the lives of young people turning around their lives for the better.

“It feels good when a young person knocks on your office and tells you he is excited because he has seen Sh30,000 in his personal account as profit after taking a loan from Momentum Credit,” he says.

The entrepreneur says their choice of Nakuru to host the second branch, which was opened on March 8, was informed by the fact that it is strategically placed as it is within reach from Nairobi, Western Kenya and Nyeri.

“For any serious entrepreneur, this is one town you would like to put your money as it accommodates all interest groups and offers opportunities to expand across all sectors,” counsels Mr Muriuki.

He faults the current education system, which he says creates a wrong mindset in the young persons that the route to success is through white collar jobs.

“Kenya is a country full of opportunities in agri-business, Jua Kali sector, and young people should stop chasing white collar jobs when for instance we don’t have enough wielders,” he says.

“My advice to young people is simple. Use your hands and get vocational skills. It is sad for a young person to hit 30 years and has not done anything to transform his or her life yet there are thousands of opportunities around them.”

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