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Ikigai: Meet the Sisters Behind Multimillion Co-working Spaces Taking over Nairobi

Wachuka Gichohi and Nyambura Gichohi are the founders of Ikigai, a coworking office space promoting wellness by creating workspaces that blend into the natural environment.

They have a private office, an open office setup, a place to hold a meeting and a secluded place to hold events, all within a green space.

Other than the garden locations in Westlands and Lower Kabete, the two sisters have three commercial locations in James Gichuru Road, Riverside Drive and Brookside Drive.

Here is their story as told by WoK.

Before their entrepreneurship venture, Wachuka worked in real estate development while Nyambura worked at Microsoft.

Wachuka mentioned that although their careers blossomed, they always wanted to set up a business together.

“Nyambura was thinking about setting up incubator containers in Kibera under the time she was walking with an incredible shoemaker

“That, and our combined passion for design, spaces and the outdoors, our love for entrepreneurship, people and connection, are where the business idea started to form, she said.

Wachuka adds that she and Nyambura had thought of setting up a coffee shop but then they shelved the idea as they did not have any experience with food and beverages.

The sisters settled for co-working spaces as they had come across them while travelling abroad.

The idea of Ikigai came to life when they came across an old stand-alone house in a two-acre plot on General Mathenge Road.

“Most co-working spaces in Kenya and across the world are located in commercial buildings, but when you saw the house we immediately knew it was right for us. We were not sure what it would look like, but we took a leap of faith and great risk,” Wachuka said.

The initial capital was Ksh 10 million which was used to renovate the house, pay the designer and beautifying the garden among other works.

Ikigai PHOTO/Instagram

At one point, Wachuka said they had to work on the space themselves with a small construction team when their designer disappeared.

“We were left to our own devices, just the two of us, and that was the important part of our journey and learning. We jumped in and did most part of our project with the help of a great construction team,” she shared.

Luckily, before the project was completed, they got two referrals from their networks who helped them design the remaining part of the space.

After completion, they signed up their first ever members, two organisations which were looking for a co-working space for their teams.

Ikigai started with 3,000 square feet of space and three staff, including the two sisters, but it has since expanded to four locations and 45,000 square feet of space.

The company runs on a membership model which comes with refreshments, conference rooms, mother’s rooms, kitchen appliances, coffee bars and receptions among others.

Members also have outdoor yoga and spin classes.

Their memberships include Daily Membership (Ksh 2,000 per day), Corporate Communal Membership (Ksh 15,750 per person per month), Individual Communal Membership (Ksh 21,000 per month) and Dedicated Desk Membership (Ksh. 25,000).

All memberships come with high-speed Wi-Fi, complimentary parking and house tea, coffee and water.