Entrepreneurs who stood out in 2016

Jade Collections founder Banice Mburu, African Cotton MD Khalil Anjarwalla and dairy farmer Loise Marangu. PHOTOS | FILE
Jade Collections founder Banice Mburu, African Cotton MD Khalil Anjarwalla and dairy farmer Loise Marangu. PHOTOS | FILE 

“If you’re not a risk taker, you should get the hell out of business,” said Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s.In 2016, Enterprise interviewed dozens of individuals who have taken risks, including quitting lucrative white-collar jobs, to become entrepreneurs and job creators.

We covered entrepreneurs who are making inroads in sectors such as farming, manufacturing, and fashion among others. 

There was even a young lady who left her job at the country’s leading telecom firm to start a funeral home. Here is a non-exhaustive list of the risk-taking entrepreneurs we featured this year.


Suzie Wokabi, Suzie Beauty               


Suzie Wokabi started 2016 on a high – she sold her cosmetics business of seven years to Nairobi Securities Exchange-listed Flame Tree Group. She raked in Sh45 million from the deal which was one of the biggest takeover this year in the local cosmetics industry.

Suzie Beauty offers a range of facial cosmetics, including foundation, concealer, eye-shadow and liner, mascara, lip-gloss, blush, lipstick, powder and a full line of applicator brushes.

In February, Ms Wokabi told Enterprise that it was tough balancing the “yucky” demands of finance and operations and still maintain a creative edge. This prompted her to search for a suitable business partner.

Suzie Beauty founder Suzie Wokabi at the cosmetics brand’s Valley Arcade outlet in Nairobi on Friday. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA

Suzie Beauty founder Suzie Wokabi at the cosmetics brand’s Valley Arcade outlet in Nairobi on Friday. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA

When the suitors came knocking, offering her the position of chief creative officer in the business in exchange for full ownership of her company, Ms Wokabi did not resist their offer.

Flame Tree Group also offered her royalties and promised to absorb her key employees.

Ms Wokabi told Enterprise that giving up the company that she had grown to post Sh15 million in revenues as at 2013, and which was evidently headed for greater heights, required sober interrogation and decision-making.

Under her role as creative officer, she is tasked with the product design and development as well as assume the position of the brand ambassador at Flame Tree’s latest subsidiary.

Flame Tree Group estimates that the colour cosmetics market is worth approximately Sh5.4 billion and is expected to grow to Sh6.6 billion by in the next two years.

Banice Mburu, Jade Collections

After working hard only to lose millions of shillings in a collapsed banking institution, many people would get demotivated, not knowing how to pick themselves up.

Banice Mburu, 45, however, resolved that despite Sh18 million of her savings going down the drain, she was going to recover.

And that is exactly what she did; growing her business from a stall in Nakuru to Jade Collections, a renowned fashion house in with presence in Thika, Eldoret and Nairobi. The multimillion- shilling business has 300 employees.

In May, we featured her story soon after she opened Jade’s second branch in Nairobi -at the junction of Tom Mboya Street and Haile Selassie Avenue. She recently opened a third Nairobi store on Kenyatta Avenue.

Next year, Ms Mburu says the plan is to open branches in Kisumu and Westlands. She also plans to introduce online shopping and open a factory in Thika for local production and warehousing. 

The media-shy Banice quit her teaching job 11 years ago and, despite spirited attempts by her parents to send her to the United States to further her studies, opted to go into business.

Ms Mburu is holding her own in a highly competitive clothing and apparel market whose other players include Tuskys Essentials, Deacons, Woolworths, Kings Collection and Mr Price and other stand-alone shops.

Her plan for the years ahead is to open 12 more branches across the country.

Ogle Ali, Mobityres and Autoservices

Between 2011 and 2015, the number of cars registered in Kenya rose 70 per cent to 107, 701. Ogle Ali saw a business opportunity in these numbers.

Slightly over a year ago, he opened Mobityres and Autoservices, a mobile mechanic business which seeks to change where and how car owners service their vehicles.

MobiTyres’ proposition is that it will eliminate the hustle of getting your car serviced.

MobiTyres and Autoservices Limited managing director Ogle Ali during the interview at the back of one of his vans. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU

MobiTyres and Autoservices Limited managing director Ogle Ali during the interview at the back of one of his vans. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU

The business operates three well-kitted vans which serve as mobile mechanic workshops. Ogle goes to his clients, not the other way round.

He wants to save motorists the time spent getting to a mechanic and waiting to have their cars fixed. Some of the services which MobiTyres offers are oil and air filters, tyre and battery changing as well as wheel balancing.

They can also fix a vehicle’s braking system.

Some of the business charges include a minimum Sh3,500 for oil and air filter changes, clients part with a minimum of Sh3,500 while spark plugs go for between Sh350 and Sh2,000. Brake changes cost clients between Sh6,000 and Sh13,000 for genuine brands.

Next year, Mr Ogle is considering venturing into emergency repair services even as the company opens its second shop and expands its fleet to four.

Victor Rasugu, Ahadi Movers

Nobody enjoys the hassles of moving house; over and above than the energy expended in the exercise, some of your valuables may get damaged or even lost.

Through his company Ahadi Movers, Victor Rasugu, a mechanical engineer from Technical University of Kenya (TUK), is promising to ease this important, but intensive event.

In August we featured an article about his three-year-old firm which helps move staff of corporations like MultiChoice Kenya, Kenya Airways, cement firm Lafarge and micro-lender Real People.

Ahadi Movers chief executive Victor Rasugu during the interview. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA

Ahadi Movers chief executive Victor Rasugu. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA

In a month, Ahadi Movers does between 70 and 100 jobs, 80 per cent of which are household and the rest office relocations.

Mr Rasugu’s interest in the moving industry was ignited during a trip to the Philippines where he saw professional moving companies in action and realised the potential such a business would have in Kenya.

By watching YouTube clips of Canadian-based firm Mayflower Movers and doing Google searches, the 29-year-old learned the ropes of the industry.

Ahadi Movers is headquartered at Transnational Plaza on Wabera Street, Nairobi. It has 55 employees. 

The company recently acquired a third truck which has since been deployed to Eldoret where the entrepreneur says there is growing demand for the service he offers.

Chintan Thacker, Vivek Investments

In July, we featured a story about Chintan Thacker, the managing director of diversified consumer products manufacturer Vivek Investments.

His father started Vivek in 1994, a company of 10 employees which at the time traded in kitchenware and plastics.

Mr Thacker, 35, returned to Kenya from the US in 2004 armed with a postgraduate degree in jewelry studies. His father appointed him as a salesman at the family business.

He traversed the country selling, and over time learned other skills, including recruiting staff, book­keeping and dealing with feedback from business partners and customers.

The company, which has since increased its staff count to 120, has diversified its portfolio to include stainless steel items, furniture, PVC flooring, homecare products as well as window blinds and curtain rods.

Vivek Investments MD managing Chintan Thacker displays his products during the interview. PHOTO | JAMES KARIUKI

Vivek Investments MD managing Chintan Thacker displays his products during the interview. PHOTO | JAMES KARIUKI

In 2010, Vivek ventured into the jewellery business, bringing things full-circle for Mr Thacker.

Two years later, the company built a factory to produce household goods, primarily for their business partner Nakumatt Supermarkets under the ‘Blue Label’ brand.

Mid this year, Vivek started manufacturing the Ezee brand of liquid, powder soaps and dishwashing pastes. It also repackages methylated and surgical spirits, castor oil and glycerin under the brand name Vivek.

Mr Thacker heads several companies that collectively record more than Sh700 million in annual revenues.

Loise Marangu, Mbeere Farm

Loise Marangu’s story in October exemplified entrepreneurial stubbornness with a hint of good luck.

The 26-year-old is a highly-successful dairy farmer in Embu, collecting 110 litres of milk every day from 17 heifers.

Each litre retails at Sh60. Ms Marangu has also ventured into watermelon farming and expects to enter the New Year with a harvest worth Sh600,000.

But to get to this point, she ditched three promising jobs, angering her colleagues in the process.

Ms Loise Marangu, 32, feeds her dairy cows. She milks nine of them. PHOTO | COURTESY

Ms Loise Marangu, 32, feeds her dairy cows. She milks nine of them. PHOTO | COURTESY

First, she spent two years at Kagumo Teachers Training College in Nyeri County and proceeded to graduate with a diploma.

Instead of heading straight to the classroom after getting a Teachers Service Commission registration number, the then 22­-year-­old opted for a higher diploma course at Kenya Technical Training College (KTTC).

She thereafter joined Equity Bank where she worked for four years but quit.

“This was not my dream,” she told Enterprise in October.

Her third chance came when the government announced a youth competition jointly sponsored with TechnoServe, a non­-governmental organisation. She was among 7,000 youth who filed business proposals.

She flew to the US for a month of training and, after she returned, ventured into fish farming. It did not take off. Ms Marangu later resigned from the bank to venture into dairy farming on her in­laws’ farm.

Next year, a local self-help group she is part of plans to purchase a nitrogen tank for cow semen storage.

Khalil Anjarwalla, African Cotton

Sixty years ago, a budding entrepreneur named Anjarwalla bought a Mombasa­based cotton processing firm at an auction from a British colonial family that was leaving the country.

The company, Absorbent Cotton, was soon after renamed African Cotton, a name that may not stand out to users of its cotton-­based products under brand names like Tena, Flora, Medicott, Dove or Tendercare.

Mr Anjarwalla is the first generation member of a family that is today well­-known due to Anjarwalla & Khanna (A&K), a leading law firm in Kenya founded by one of his sons.

African Cotton MD  Khalil Anjarwalla and an

African Cotton MD Khalil Anjarwalla and an employee display their Tena serviettes at their factory in Mlolongo on Mombasa Road. PHOTO | STELLAR MURUMBA

African Cotton is now headed by Khalil Anjarwalla. He is a nephew of Karim Anjarwalla, the managing partner of Westlands-­based A&K which handles a majority of big-ticket deals in the country and on the continent.

In the 70s, the company of just 50 employees, was the first company to install a sanitary towels line within the region named Medicott which are still used in hospitals as rectangular maternity pads.

The company also produces Nakumatt Supermarket’s range of tissue papers. It has also partnered with companies like Kronex Chemicals Ltd, the manufacturers of kitchen and bathroom cleaning products, to offer bathroom solutions.

African Cotton, which today has 500 employee, uses approximately 50 tonnes of cotton a month to make its range of products.

The company has an annual turnover of between $10 million (Sh1 billion) and $15 million (Sh1.5 billion).