Engine behind Cheki


Resian Leteipan, CEO, at the company's offices in Riverside on September 2, 2020. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

Resian Samoire Leteipan is a name with its own story. Resian means peace, in Maa. Samoire means a star and Leteipan means people of the late evening.

She runs Cheki Kenya, a motoring marketplace for buying and selling cars. She has ten years of experience in leading and building customer experience, professional services, and customer support teams.

Before Cheki Kenya, she was at Brighter Monday, a job recruitment portal, for seven years and Kencall for six years.

Cheki Kenya, she says, has not had a terrible Covid-19 period so far as she thought it would.

For that she is grateful. She is in a season of transformation, for self but mostly for others, as she tells JACKSON BIKO.


Are you loving yourself?

(Laughs) I’m always loving myself, Biko.

How has loving yourself changed over the years?

I have a son turning 19 soon. Yes, I started early. (Grin) Starting early was the best thing that happened to me. I don’t think I would have been where I am in life had I not been a mother that early. I became more focused on him because he was ‘the It’ for me.

As a baby, you are loved as someone’s child and the people who love you, love in the way that they think you should be loved.

When you grow older you learn by yourself to love yourself based on what you think you bring into other people’s lives. It has been an interesting evolution and it hasn’t been easy. But I also think that when you are older you have to find ways of entertaining yourself. You are your own best friend.

What questions are you asking yourself this season of your life?

Impact. Who am I a hero of? Who am I empowering? And empowering is making someone recognise an ability he or she is unaware of.

What was your last ‘aha’ moment?

(Pause) That’s a difficult question. I think the realisation that most people do not believe in themselves as much as they should. It’s about perspective when you get down to it. How do you see yourself? How do you, as a leader, see others?

In your long career, do you get to a point where your gender becomes inconsequential in how people relate to you professionally?

First, can I tell you how I got into marketing? I got a baby and took some time off. Do you know how people say they have a plan? I didn’t have one.

Some people think I should have been a lawyer, I thought of being a psychologist. One time, I took a friend to a job interview and they heard me speak and offered me a job on the spot.

(Laughs) So I stumbled on this career by accident and over time I have sold everything from telephone services to funeral plans for the elderly in the US, all via phone.

To your question, I don’t think your gender can become inconsequential because it still shapes a lot about how you view things. But after years as a professional, I’ve realised that the more you know stuff the fewer people focus on your gender.

They start seeing you as a knowledge hub, not as her or him.

Did the funeral business shift your thoughts on mortality?

No. (Laughs) I was in my 20s, very few things will move you in your 20s. (Chuckles) In your 20s, you don’t think you will never age. People in their 40s look extremely old.

Do you miss your 20s?

No. I’m really enjoying where I am now. I’m a big component of non-stagnation. I’ve never been worried about age, I look at age as a season.

What’s your most important possession now?

My life. I think people take for granted the ability to just be, to take in all experiences. There is learning behind every experience, the question is how you apply this learning. It’s miraculous that we just are here.

What are you struggling with now?

(Long Pause) I wouldn’t say struggling, but more of leading a company at this moment where all-around companies are sinking and people are losing their livelihood. Thankfully we have stayed afloat, we are doing great but it’s hard to celebrate when all around you things are crumbling. You don’t want to celebrate in an environment like that, because at the end of the day you want to be a part of an economy that is thriving.

What are you very good at?

(Laughs) Oh boy! (Very long pause). Are there people who answer this question right off the bat? (Pause) You know...(Sigh)...isn’t that a lifetime discovery? Isn’t it seasonal? Today I’m good at this thing but yesterday I wasn’t, I was good at something else. That’s a difficult question, now I won’t rest until I answer it.

Do you think people buy certain kinds of cars because that’s how they see themselves? Are we extensions of the cars we drive?

Absolutely. Last October, we hosted a Car Awards and the most aspirational vehicle voted by the attendees was the Toyota V8. Many people said they will buy that car when they ‘make it.’

They look at the car as a status symbol. People don’t think of cars as things, they think of cars as who they are and what they represent.

That’s why you have groups like Mercedes or BMW or Land Rover groups. People want to belong to a community of people with the same aspirations. Kindred spirits, if you will.

What have you learnt about selling cars to people?

A car is not bread. (Laughs) You think about it for so long before you buy it.

Are you currently reading something interesting?

‘Originals’ by Adam Grant. It’s a powerful and very interesting book that explores what makes great people great. Are you a genius because you are stuck on one idea through thick and thin? A lot of people who did great things did it over and over again; Ludwig van Beethoven wrote, was it 1,000 songs?

The book is changing what I have always thought to be true, of working smart not hard. It says, in many words, that there is great merit in doing something so many times because the more ideas you churn the more opportunities do you have at making a hit.

Doing much more makes you an expert, it also shows you more opportunities to improve the process and feedback because more people are interacting with your work.

What car do you think you are?

(Giggles) Let me go off on a small tangent here, Biko. When I worked at a call centre, the largest in the region, we’d ask interviewees to tell us what animal they are. So I realise the psychology you are using here. (Smiles and taps on the side of her head) What car am I? Hmm…(Pause) I think I’m a BMW Sport.