Joseph Wainaina is the proprietor of Queens Garden Hotel in Eldoret among several other businesses. He was also nominated to the 13th parliament by President William Ruto-led United Democratic Alliance (UDA).
While Wainaina embarks on enjoying the “mheshimiwa” tag for the next five years, he can only reflect on the journey he took to be where he is. From a young man who had to hawk mandazi to get by, he is now an epitome of hard work and success.
In 1970, while in Standard 7 at Race Course he was expelled from school for hawking mandazi to his fellow pupils, despite repeated warnings from the school administration.
“I would cook mandazi and hide them in my school bag. During break time as others played, I would go round school selling mandazi to other pupils,” Wainaina told Bizna Kenya during a past interview.
At the time, he used to make around Ksh10 per month from hawking the mandazi. From humble beginnings, he has risen to become one of the most renowned hoteliers in Eldoret Town, Uasin Gishu County.
From a young age, Wainaina had the business acumen in him, and today operates a vast business empire with over 120 employees.
Wainaina’s grass to grace story is a definition of hard work and success.
“I was born a businessman and more so a hotelier,” he said.
On several occasions, he was caught by teachers while he hawked his mandazi, and despite being warned, he did not stop.
He revealed that his mandazi were so delicious that other pupils stole money from their parents just to buy from him.
“One day the head teacher caught me selling mandazi, he called me, canned, and then told me to go home and never come back. I picked my books and left but in my mind, I knew I would still do the same no matter the place,” he recalled.
Wainaina’s father enrolled him at a driving school and later he was employed as a taxi driver in Eldoret. He worked in the transport industry for three years and was employed alongside Eldoret Express owner.
In 1979, he quit taxi and returned to his mandazi business.
“I now did it without fear. I cooked mandazi every day in my kiosk and went round the town selling it. I would make up to Ksh300 per day but my dream was to one day be a large-scale trader,” he said.
Wainaina later scaled up after saving enough money and went into the buying and selling of maize. He acted as a middleman and would buy the grains from farmers and sold to cereal boards at a profit.
He plied the trade for two years, and in 1982, returned to the food industry where he opened a butchery and a restaurant. The butchery business was a success and it enabled him open five other restaurants within Eldoret.
“I saw God propelling me to achieve my desire and my determination grew in leaps and bounds,” he said.
Wainaina opened the first 24-hour restaurant in Eldoret in 2000 known as Queen Chick.
“It is here that I really sold mandazi, tea and other food stuffs until I saw my dream become real.”
He operated the Queen Chick restaurant for about seven years until the 2007/2008 post-election violence which he says was a turning point in his life.
“The post-election violence was the worst experience in my life. I saw a lot of suffering among many people including my own family. But God still used my business to save many people and then bless me in turn,” Wainaina recounted.
While the violence resulted in the closure of multiple businesses, he was lucky after the government approached him with a deal to supply food to security officers deployed to contain the violence in the region.
Queen Chick was guarded by police throughout the chaos. Wainaina recounts being overwhelmed by people who had money but had nothing to eat.
“During that time I was not even interested in the money. I saw life come to an end and I prayed to God that all I wanted was peace,” he says.
Despite making money out of it, he notes that all he wanted was for the officers to eat and go help contain the violence in the region.
“I realized that you can have the money but without peace, it is of no use.”
Most of his friends fled Eldoret during and after the chaos, but he decided to stay together with his entire family.
“At one point I thought of relocating but again all my family members including my parents live in Eldoret. It would have been difficult to move them and I opted to stay on.”
Wainaina sold Queen Chick restaurant after the 2007-2008 PEV. He topped up the money with savings to establish the multi-million Queens Garden Hotel which located near Eldoret Polytechnic along Kisumu Road.
The popular hotel has played host to some of the most prominent people in the country including outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta and President Ruto, among others.
“Owning such a hotel was my dream even in the days I sold Mandazi but I never saw myself achieving this dream and all I can say is that God is great because when the door of education was shut for me. God opened another door for me in life.”
“At times people think the president or politicians gave me money to invest but there is no such money. I struggled with determination and God uplifted me to where I am,” Wainaina stated.
The businessman has grown to become a respectable figure in Eldoret and has on several occasions been consulted on issues affecting the region.
He was nominated to the 13th parliament by the UDA Party and took his oath of office on September 8, 2022.