Young people in Kenya are proving to be resourceful when it comes finding creative ways of generating income. This is the case of Eric Kinoti, an entrepreneur who started out small and is now running one of the most successful business in the region specializing in the supply of tents, gazebos, shades and bouncing castles.
Here is the story of the founder and CEO of Shade Systems Limited as told by WoK.
Eric Kinoti Background
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Eric Kinoti was born on 8th March 1984 in Mombasa, Kenya. He attended St Martins Primary School and Abothogochi Academy for his primary school education and later joined Nkubu Boys High School from 1998 to 2001 for his secondary school education. Upon completion, he joined Tsavo Institute of Business where he graduated with a Diploma in Business Administration.
After college, he got a job as a Cashier in Malindi where his entrepreneurial journey began. He used to work the night shift and during the day, he started a side hustle of buying and distributing eggs in Malindi town. He quit his job and relocated to Nairobi in 2007. It is in the city that started distributing milk to hotels. During a past interview with one of the local dailies, he revealed that his breakthrough came when he was challenged by a client not to supply him milk but tents.
“My breakthrough came from an unlikely meeting with a client who did not want me to supply him with the usual foodstuffs or milk. He wanted a tent for an outdoor event. I did it successfully and got a business idea out of it,” he said.
Establishing Shade System Limited
At the time he was aged 24 years old and with savings of Ksh 60,000, he was able to secure a Ksh 2 million loan from a shylock in 2009 which he used to establish Shade System Limited. The company specializes in making military and relief tents, branded gazebos, restaurant canopies, car parking shades, marquees, luxury tents, wedding party tents, canvas seats and bouncing castles. It has gone to make a name itself one of the best tent making company in the region. Shade System Limited majorly works with non-governmental and humanitarian groups across six countries in Africa including Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Somalia and Congo.
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According to Forbes, Shades System Limited generates USD 1 million annually. Kinoti has since diversified to establish Shade Group Limited, a conglomerate with interests in the manufacturing, Management and Technology sectors. Some of the companies he operates include Bag Base Kenya Limited – a company that manufactures bags using a cutaway canvas that comes from the process of making tents, Alma Tents – a tent hiring company and Safi Sana Home Services – a professional cleaning company.
Kinoti was featured by Forbes in the 2014 ’30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs in Africa.’ He has been listed twice in Kenya’s Top 40 under 40. He was also voted as the most influential SME Personality in the 2014 SOMA awards. He is the current Kenyan Youth Patron in the Kenyan Chamber of Commerce and has received recognition as a youth entrepreneur from President Uhuru Kenyatta. As a way of giving back to the community, he has been organizing workshops for young entrepreneurs across Africa under the brand name ‘Entrepreneurs’ Boot Camp’ which is graced by influential speakers from all corners of Africa.