James Kihenu is the proprietor of Jimmy’s Choma Bite, a restaurant located at the heart of Nakuru Town in Nakuru County. The establishment is regarded as one of the best Nyama Choma joints in the region.
Mr Kihenu, a class 8 drop out always wanted to be an accountant while in primary school, however, he never got to see the inside of a high school class room due to the lack of school fees among other factors.
After years in employment, the businessman decided to quit and venture into the highly competitive hospitality industry. He setup Jimmy’s Choma Bite with the aim of targeting families and revellers who are looking for a wholesome dining experience.
The eatery today employs tens of people and catapulted Kihenu to one of the most respected traders in Nakuru Town. Here is his story as narrated by WoK.
Due to the lack of school fees, Kihenu could not achieve his dream of being an accountant and so he resorted to doing menial jobs to earn a living. He laboured in farms among other hustles.
He would later be employed by former Gatundu North Member of Parliament Kigo Njenga to work at his butchery in Ngong Town, sparking his interest in the Nyama Choma business.
“I was employed there for six years. It is from there that I honed my butcher skills. I later relocated to Nakuru where again I found employment at another butchery; I worked there for four years.
“My employment journey in butcheries taught me that one can earn more selling roast or fried meat than selling raw meat for cooking in homes. That is how I got my business idea,” Kihenu told The Standard.
In 2011, he quit his job and decided to set up his own place. He had laboured to save seed capital and managed to only raise Ksh30,000. The businessman pays gratitude to his landlady who allowed him to use her premises without pay for the start.
“My landlady, Beth Wangari, was kind enough to allow me to use her premises without paying upfront during the first months when I was struggling to set up. The licences drained whatever I had but somehow I managed to start in a small way and the business began picking up albeit at a slow pace,” Kihenu recounted.
After a year in operation, the business made a break. He began raking in a profit of Ksh600,000 per month and has since sustained the returns to this day.
“It has been close to a decade now and looking back, I can say it was worth the gamble.”
On a good day, Kihenu notes that they can slaughter up to 100 sheep. With the good returns, the businessman reinvested the capital rather than stash it in savings accounts and opened a second location still within Nakuru Town. The two have a combine workforce of over 70 employees.
“I have come to appreciate that each individual has varied personal attributes. Every employee may not have good working relations with fellow co-workers. I try my best to train and counsel employees on the importance of teamwork.
“Also when it comes to hiring, I carry out background checks to ensure my workers value professionalism,” he stated.
Apart from the Nyama Choma business, Kihenu is a farmer. He grows potatoes, rears pigs and is also big into mixed farming.
“I also practice diary farming which brings in extra income. The potatoes I grow are mostly for the local Nakuru market. At the same time, we include potatoes in our menu at Jimi Choma Bite. They help me cut costs since if I had to buy in the market, my expenses would go up.”
Kihenu notes that the most important business lesson he has learnt to date is that there is not little capital when starting any venture. With the right model and determination, he believes one can succeed.
“I thought the seed capital would not see me through in my venture. But I was wrong. You can start small and grow. It is advisable to take risks. Risk-takers are the eventual winners in business.”