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Cleophas Nyagaka: Quit Gov’t Job Now Owns Multi-Million Construction Company

Cleophas Nyagaka is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and lead interior designer at Fine Urban Construction and Interiors, a real estate company in Kenya.

He is among the leading realtors in the country and has successfully undertaken projects locally and globally.

Growing up, Cleophas always wanted to be an interior designer. Even as a child, he decorated his mother’s house with art.

Luckily, he got a sponsor who funded his education in South Africa. He pursued a course in Real Estate.

Cleophas Nyagaka, CEO Fine Urban Construction and Interiors. |Courtesy
Cleophas Nyagaka, CEO Fine Urban Construction and Interiors. |Courtesy

When he returned to Kenya, Cleophas Nyagaka bagged a job at the National Construction Authority. Despite the hefty salary, he had a passion for interior design. His goal was to make homes and office spaces visually appealing.

“Even in professional settings, I would find myself analysing rooms during meetings, contemplating how I would enhance their appeal,” Nyagaka told Business Daily in an interview in June 2023.

He founded a small workshop that designed and sold house furnishings. It would later grow into the company that is today, Fine Urban Construction and Interiors.

Just like many other infant startups and based in Nairobi, Cleophas faced a myriad of challenges before his business finally took off. Creating brand awareness and trust were at the top of the list.

“At times you see the final product looking good, but before that was possible there was usually a lot of work and struggle that went on behind the scenes. I would approach some of the clients who bought items such as furniture from us and request them to redesign or repaint their homes, even if it was on a pro bono basis,” says Cleophas Nyagaka.

His breakthrough came when he was contracted to design the interior of a hotel in Samburu.

He used proceeds from the project on acquiring better office space in Nairobi, hired more staff, and transformed the company from an interior design firm to a full construction company.

“Interior design is closely linked to architecture. If I assess a house and find that a particular wall doesn’t fit well, I have to demolish it. That aspect falls under construction.

“Many of the houses we worked on were outdated in design and functionality, and the clients desired an upgrade. That’s what prompted us to venture into full-scale construction,” Cleophas Nyagaka explained.

Cleophas Nyagaka, CEO Fine Urban Construction and Interiors. |Courtesy
Cleophas Nyagaka, CEO Fine Urban Construction and Interiors. |Courtesy

From a workforce of 2, Fine Urban Construction now boasts over 30 permanent employees and several others on contract. The company has projects locally and abroad.

Cleophas attributes part of the company’s growth to digital marketing. He acknowledges the important role played by social media in popularising the firm and connecting with clients.

“We get enquiries from people in different parts of Africa including Cameroon, Uganda, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana and Rwanda, who from watching our content on YouTube have engaged our services for both residential and commercial property development,” says Nyagaka.

He has travelled to various destinations in Europe, Middle East, and Asia – inspiring some of his designs. Others are locally inspired.

Cleophas noted that the company still has its fair share of challenges. He highlights the shortage in quality and skilled labour in interior design.

He hopes for his company to begin manufacturing interior design furnishings in future.

“The challenge is we want to source materials locally, but the quality here is not always the best. Most counties in Kenya have good raw materials, which through value addition can make good finishes. Kisii, for instance, has very good soapstone. Bungoma also has very good natural stones that can be carved out to make sculptures,” he says.

Cleophas Nyagaka hopes to work with Kenyans in the diaspora interested in investing in Real Estate projects in Kenya.

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