At age 29, Mr Brian Randich is among young entrepreneurs making a mark in the business world. Apart from running his businesses he also advocates for a favourable environment for young entrepreneurs. He is particularly keen on how the youth can be guided to benefit from the tenders and funds that the government has set aside for them.
For his effort, Mr Randich is the chairman of the National Association of Youth Enterprises (NAYE) whose key mission is to ensure that young people get the support they need to translate their ideas into reality.
He is also the deputy chair of the Commonwealth Alliance of Youth Entrepreneurs (CAYE, which comprises youth business leaders across the 53 Commonwealth countries. He says the alliance brings together young people in the Commonwealth to share ideas, fight for favourable policies and support each other.
“The initiative (CAYE) works to strengthen and support young entrepreneurs in the Commonwealth both at national and regional levels,” says Mr Randich. “The regional networks ensure the youth have a united voice and representation at key forums in order to influence policy development on youth entrepreneurship.”
Mr Randich’s business journey started proper when he got a government tender, but not before encountering a number of hurdles. “I knew even when I was in colleges that I would be an entrepreneur. The only challenge was where I would get capital,” he says.
After graduation from Catholic University of East Africa with a degree in journalism, in 2010, he looked for a job for a year but failed to get one. He says all he wanted to do was get a job, earn a salary and save as much possible in preparation for entry into entrepreneurship.
It was while hunting for employment that he formed his first company, Acai in 2010 but he had no capital. However instead of sitting idle, he authored a book that motivates the youth to chart the way forward even when faced with tough challenges. He earned Sh150,000 from the sale of the book.
“I used part of the money from my book sales to vie for Kuresoi Parliamentary seat in 2013 but I lost,” he says. “With empty pockets after the elections and having nothing meaningful to do, life became fairly hard.”
He however says he chose to use his low moments as stepping stone into better times by sharpening his focus and fine-tuning his business ideas. It was then that he began to scout for government tenders as an entry point into business.
President Mwai Kibaki’s administration had directed that 10 per cent of all government contracts be awarded to the youth. The policy was informed by the need to create employment among the youth.
“This was my entry point into business. It was tough getting the tenders but I was resolute in my determination to succeed,” says Mr Randich. “Soon Lady Luck smiled on my way and I won my very first tender worth Sh130,000.” The tendering process gave him invaluable lessons on procurement while exposing him to the art of negotiation.
“We had to negotiate first with suppliers for favourable terms to enable us get some profit from the tenders” explains Mr Randich adding that negotiation skills are fundamental to an entrepreneur.
This first tender to supply office material opened the doors for more business. And one tender at a time, Mr Randich saw his company grow and his dream to be a successful businessman began to take shape. Now Acai Holdings Ltd is a thriving business, handling major contracts.
Having seen tenders translate his dream into reality, he urges the youth to take advantage of the government’s current allocation of 30 per cent of the contracts.
He says the uptake of tenders is still low and he attributes this to bureaucracy, lack of awareness, among other reasons. Access should be made easier in order to reach as many young people as possible, he notes. Because of the tedious process involved, he says majority of young business people have given up applying for the tenders.
“Many young people do not have the capacity in terms of capital to apply for government contracts. Some have no clue on the process involved in accessing them. The government should carry out awareness campaigns,” he says.
“Government should set aside budgets at the county level for training the youth on the how to successfully apply for tenders.”
Although he advises young people to fight for government tenders, he says he has learnt through experience that tenders alone cannot sustain a company.
“Yes the youth should do their best to clinch these deals but they should broaden their minds as these contracts alone cannot sustain a company,” he says.
“If you set up a company that solely relies on government you are bound to find the going very tough. The vision of your business should go far beyond these tenders which you are not sure of getting consistently,” Mr Randich says adding that the funds that the government has allocated to support young entrepreneurs have not made a significant impact due to a number of inherent structural challenges.
He says Kenya needs to nurture a thriving culture of entrepreneurship so that more young people can benefit not only from the local tenders and kitties but also global initiatives such as the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES). “Mega deals were struck when GES came to Nairobi but we need to create a momentum so that these gains made are accelerated and leveraged on.”
Mr Randich says one of the missing link among potential young entrepreneurs is mentoring. He blames successful entrepreneurs for not coming out to guide the youth through the trying phase of setting up a business.
With proper guidance, he says, many young people out there who have brilliant ideas will implement them and benefit from the vast opportunities that are waiting to be exploited.
“There is an urgent need to help aspiring entrepreneurs to link their ideas with the market and assist them to look at the big picture of their ideas,” he says.
Kenya, Mr Randich adds, should also create a platform and support systems for potential entrepreneurs. If this is done, he says the huge potential for entrepreneurship in Kenya would be attained.
“If we find a way to tap the ideas that young people have, most of the problems that this country faces would be substantially addressed,” he says. “We would quickly solve the current biting shortage of jobs, lift many out of poverty and build a thriving and sustainable economy.”
Mr Randich has now set his sights on real estate, property and finance sectors and has formed three companies to handle these areas.