Julian Kyula, a Kenyan preacher, entrepreneur, and business leader, became an inspiring figure in the world of business through his journey of overcoming setbacks and building successful ventures.
From failed business ventures to financial setbacks, he has weathered the storm and emerged stronger than ever.
Here is his story as told by WoK.
The Early Struggles
Julian Kyula’s entrepreneurial journey began with a series of challenges.
After 11 years in the United States, where he faced failure in the real estate business, Julian returned to Kenya in 2005.
“I tried a real estate business and it flopped completely. I lost a lot of money and I have lost a lot of friends,” he recalled during a past interview.
His first venture, a financial risk and debt management company, encountered significant difficulties in the Kenyan market.
Capital and equity constraints made it tough to gain traction, and the business performed poorly.
In spite of the disappointments, which he refers to as unsuccessful endeavors, Kyula possessed an unwavering determination to continue pursuing his entrepreneurial ambitions, as he firmly believed that entrepreneurship was an intrinsic part of his identity.
Expanding Horizons and the South African Merger
Despite the initial struggles, Julian’s tenacity pushed him to expand his business beyond Kenya’s borders.
Within a year, he successfully extended operations to Uganda and Tanzania.
Seeking investment and partnerships, Julian struck a major deal with a South African group for a merger.
However, Kenya’s 2007 elections and subsequent post-election violence created a climate of uncertainty.
The South African partners decided to delay the merger, leaving Julian in a precarious position.
Moreover, the global recession in 2008 further hampered the business prospects, causing the prospective partner’s stock prices to plummet and resulting in the loss of contracts and call centers
The Debt Burden and Support from Chris Kirubi
With the failed merger and the impact of the recession, Julian found himself burdened with a debt of Ksh100 million.
Among his creditors was the late Chris Kirubi, to whom he owed Ksj40 million.
Facing financial distress, Julian approached Kirubi and candidly explained the situation.
Kirubi, recognizing Julian’s potential and empathizing with his struggles, displayed remarkable generosity.
“At first, he reduced it to 20 million. The following day, I returned and he expressed surprise, asking, ‘You again?’ I replied, ‘Yes, it’s me again. What’s the update?’ I explained to Chris that I couldn’t afford the 20 million, and he then reduced it to 10 million. On the third day, I admitted my inability to pay, and eventually, the final amount came down to 1.2 million. That’s how I settled the debt.” Julian recounted the negotiation process.
Restructuring and Debt Resolution
Determined to overcome the remaining debt, Julian Kyula returned on a comprehensive restructuring of his business.
He engaged in open conversations with shareholders, presenting the true state of the company and its earnings of Ksh 60 million per year.
Julian proposed a share trade, offering his partners the opportunity to exchange shares for one dollar each.
This creative solution garnered their agreement, allowing Julian to settle the outstanding debt and reposition the business for future growth.