Kenyans Who Built Multi-Billion Business Empires With Less Than Ksh5,000

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Kenyan Billionaires Who Built Empires With Less Than Ksh5,000
From left: Nelson Muguku, Peter Munga, and Paul Kinuthia. |Courtesy|

Everybody loves a good ‘rags to riches’ story; they offer inspiration, hope, drive, and influence several other factors. For this reason, WoK has made an effort to bring you the stories of various individuals who have come from nothing and grow to inspire society.

In Kenya, a few billionaires are famed for how they overcame obstacles, rise from nothing to build empires. These businesspeople hold investments in various sectors of the economy ranging from real estate, banking, agriculture, and hospitality, among others.

To inspire you further, WoK has listed three Kenyans Kenyans who built multi-billion business empires with less than a Ksh5,000 investment.

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Paul Kinuthia

The billionaire businessman rose from a mere hawker selling perfumes in the harsh streets of the city to founding popular cosmetics brand Nice & Lovely. He sold the company to France’s L’Oreal for Ksh1.5 billion.

Kinuthia used to load coffee at the then flourishing Kenya Planters Cooperative Union (KPCU) in the 90s.

He then moved on to hawking perfumes and on his first day made a tidy sum of Ksh600, which was good money back then. While the money was not bad, he wondered if he was doing the right thing but went back the next day and made the same amount.

To avoid his learned friends who mistook him for a beggar and would offer to get him a job, Kinuthia changed strategy, and began selling to salons and offices.

The salons began asking him to also supply them with shampoo. Seeing a golden opportunity, he researched and found out he could make his own using a charcoal stove (jiko), sufuria and blending stick. Armed with Ksh3,000, he began making his shampoo in a small room in Kirinyaga road, Nairobi.

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His business grew and he moved to Gikomba. Officers from the Kenya Revenue Authority and police officers were his constant customers and they took advantage of the fact that he did not know much about business laws.

Kinuthia formalised his business in 2001 and hired professionals to help him run it.

Steadily, his products infiltrated the Kenyan market with the affordable prices attached to the brand attracting multitudes. His flagship Nice & Lovely was especially a major hit.

Interconsumer was headed for success and there was nothing stopping him. The company grew and made profits amounting to hundreds of millions. They even won Business Daily’s Top 100 SME competition before crossing to revenues of more than Ksh1 billion and joining the Club 101 competitions.

According to the entrepreneur, the deal with L’Oreal was an opportunity to harvest his investment and give him the muscle to go big into the sanitary care market, which he ventured into in 2008.

The Mugukus

Nelson Muguku was one of the wealthiest people in Kenya. He began his entrepreneurial journey with a poultry farm that transformed into an empire, serving major markets in the country.

He also invested in several stocks on the Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE). Notable was his 6 per cent stake in Equity Bank before its listing on the NSE, making him the majority  individual shareholder at the time.

Muguku began his journey with a cock and a hen as he worked as a teacher. He later quit his job and moved back to his home in

Rukubi home in Kikuyu. At the time, he only had a rickety bicycle and some old furniture.

He only had personal savings of Ksh2500. This was too little to buy more chickens, structures and feeds required to start a successful poultry farm. However, he remained focused and motivated. With the money, he took care of the urgent business needs and soon, he was selling eggs in Nairobi.

He reinvested the profits in his poultry farm, and slowly, his profits began to increase.

In 1963, Wanjiku quit her job as a teacher and went to help her husband in poultry farming.

Muguku had sold eggs in Nairobi for about 10 years when he decided to take his business to the next level. He realised that running a hatchery could be more profitable than selling eggs. He took a loan from Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC) and bought a 22-acre land at Limuru for Ksh100,000. He also acquired a 9,000-egg incubator with which he started a hatchery. Luckily, the land he bought had good infrastructure including access to electricity and water.

After a while. Muguku was forced to up production due to the increase in demand for eggs in the market. As a result, he acuired more incubators with a capacity of hatching 42,000 eggs in a week.

Currently, Muguku Farm is not only the best poultry farm in Kenya but also the largest with a capacity to hatch more than 200,000 chicks per day. About three quarters of the 22 acres he bought in Limuru are occupied by the poultry farm. He also opened a subsidiary poultry farm in Ngong.

Muguku died at the age of 78 in 2010. He was worth an estimated Ksh10 billion.

Form a humble background, he rose to become a 6.08 per cent shareholder of Equity bank by the time it was listed at the Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE).

He owned a prime property along Nairobi’s Mfangano Street and was the dominant property owner in Kikuyu Town. His family also runs two primary schools; Kikuyu Township and Kidfarmaco and a high school – the former Greenacres School – now renamed Tumaini School.

His family also owns the multi-billion Waterfront Mall located in Karen, Nairobi County. The property is valued at over Ksh20 billion and rests on 50 acres of land.

Peter Munga

Billionaire businessman Peter Munga is the founder of one of East and Central Africa’s largest lenders, Equity Bank; with operations in Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and DRC.

Born in 1943, Munga founded Equity Building Society (EBS) in his hometown of Kangema, Murang’a County in 1984 before it was renamed to Equity Bank in August 2014.

He founded EBS with about Ksh5,000 (about US$100 at that time) as starting capital. He convinced the Kenya government to issue him a license.

In 1993, Munga, as chairman, working in collaboration with the CEO of EBS, hired James Mwangi at a time it was making loses and managed to turn around their revenue. Equity has since grown to become Kenya’s largest bank by market capitalisation.

Hailing from Rwathia Village, Munga is estimated to be worth $300 million (Ksh32.3 billion).

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