By Prudence Minayo
With over three decades of experience in the world of marketing, Jeniffer Barasa is what you would refer to as a ‘marketer extraordinaire’. She founded Top Image Africa Ltd, a below the line agency, after leaving McCann Erickson in 1995. After forty days of fasting and armed with a business plan worth Sh30, Jeniffer founded her company with the aim of being the best.
The company first began in her living room before she turned it into a big brand with tentacles spread across Africa. In a previous interview with KTN, she revealed that the company employs 4,000 people across Africa with over half of this being permanent employees.
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Currently, her daughter, Bidanya, serves as the company’s managing director. Here is the story of Jennifer Barasa as told by WoK.
Jennifer, now in her late 60s, attended Dr Kraft Primary School and joined Ngara Girls for her O-levels between 1968 to 1971. For her A-levels, she attended Asumbi Girls (1972 to 1973) before joining Kenyatta University in 1974 for her bachelor degree in Education, which she completed in 1977. Later, she got a Diploma in Marketing from the London Chamber of Commerce. She was the head girl when she was at Ngara Girls and deputy head girl at Asumbi.
According to her LinkedIn page, she taught English and Literature at Lenana School from 1978 to 1980. She went on to become a sales representative at Kodak Kenya Limited for five years. Afterwards, she proceeded to work as a products manager for Boots Healthcare and later on took the role of a business development manager at Johnson & Johnson. She joined Sterling Health in Tanzania as a country manager before returning to Kenya to become an account director for McCann Erickson.
In 1995, she founded Top Image Africa Limited which went on to set the standard in marketing and advertising. Interestingly, she started the company in her living room. In an article that appeared on the Standard in 2013 titled Marketer extraordinaire, the entrepreneur recounted how she started her business with only Sh30.
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“I started it in my living room in Hurlingham. It was a one-woman show, but thanks to my networking, doors started to open,” Jennifer told the publication.
“There were no computers back then. Therefore I wrote a handwritten proposal, which I paid Sh10 to be typed, and made two copies for Sh20,” she added.
Some of the most popular advertisements they have had a hand in include:
- Nderemo ya Mabingwa Promotion by EABL, a beer promotion where beer drinkers won four houses, two trucks and three limousines
- Bambua Tafrija Promotion
- Vuna Chapaa
- Shinda Dinga
- Chakaza Ushinde Nyumba by Celtel
- Coca Cola Wahi Kuwahi promotion
The accomplished marketer has also worked with brands like Safaricom and MTN.
She has won awards including Africa Businesswoman of the year 2012 award by All About Africa Business Leaders Awards (AABLA). The Eastlands bred entrepreneur has also sat on numerous boards including:
- Board Member Business Advocacy Fund for the Danish Embassy
- Chairperson of women in Business Kenya National Chambers of Commerce and Industry
- Board member of National Council Women of Kenya (NCWK)
- Trustee, Kenya National Chambers of Commerce and Industries (KNCCI)
- Trustee, College of Insurance
Jennifer Barasa is a lover of all sorts of jewelry and she is almost always adorned with rings. She said in a past interview that while others are into shoes and clothes, she spends on jewellery. During a 2013 interview with Business Daily, the award winning entrepreneur revealed that if one sold all her jewelry, they would be able to buy a Mercedes.
Daughter Bidanya Barassa
Jennifer’s daughter Bidanya Barasa was a former M-Net Face of Africa supermodel. She did her Masters in the US before returning to the country where she worked for her mother for six months. At the time, she felt her mother was dismissive of her ideas and she needed to gain her respect. She resigned from the company and proceeded to secure a job with McCann and Erickson before moving on to other multinationals.
After a while, she felt it was time to return and help build her mother’s empire. She spearheaded the change of Top Image to Top Image Africa.
Mother and daughter have a wonderful relationship with both being very spiritual. More than 12 years ago, Bidanya had colon cancer which caused her mother great distress. They would both pray a lot and after 12 sessions of chemotherapy, she beat the cancer.
Today, Jennifer Barasa leads Top Image Africa with the help of her experienced mother.