Savvy varsity student breaks into security industry at 21

Sunday November 4 2012

PHOTO | SULEIMAN MBATIAH Kelvin Macharia demonstrates how his tracking device works in his Nakuru office.

PHOTO | SULEIMAN MBATIAH Kelvin Macharia demonstrates how his tracking device works in his Nakuru office. He set up a security solutions company two years ago at about the same time he was entering university.  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By RACHEL KIBUI [email protected]

At 21 Kelvin Macharia should be busy juggling his studies with his social life like most university students. But the second year biological science student at the University of Nairobi has a lot more to worry about.

He is an accomplished businessman in the security sector. He runs Sunrise Tracking, a company that makes a profit of between Sh100,000 and Sh150,000 against an average monthly turnover of Sh350,000. Mr Macharia already employs seven people on a full time basis.

Very few people in school know about his entrepreneurial achievements as he prefers to be seen as just an ordinary student by his lecturers and classmates.

“They are often surprised when they see me driving to campus or when they find out I can afford to rent a house in South C. A few of them who know about the business are curious to find out how I manage my classes and business,” said Mr Macharia.

Alphonce Omondi, one of Mr Macharia’s friends at the university, describes the entrepreneur as mature.

“He does not show off ... he has a car and offers to drop students at various places as he heads out of class. Of course sometimes the girls chase after him, but Macharia has a way of keeping them off and concentrating on his business and studies,” he said.

Mr Macharia started his company two years ago at about the same time he entered university and has so far installed CCTV systems in at least 50 homes at a cost of Sh80,000 each. His car track client list includes 300 individuals, car hire companies and five corporates.

Sunrise Tracking, which is based on the fourth floor of Windsor House in Nairobi, recently expanded to Nakuru.

“I was brought up in Nakuru and wanted to give back to the society so I opened a branch there,” Mr Macharia said.
He credits his business successes to his determination to find constructive ways to spend his free time.

He chaired the Research Club of Kenya while at Nakuru Boys’ high school, which gave him the opportunity to network with the country’s top market research firms. After completing his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education, he got a job at one of them.

He earned a monthly salary of Sh18,000, and by the time he was ready to enter university, he had already saved Sh300,000.

He then started researching security related business ventures and suppliers in countries like South Africa, the United States and India. He also attended a leadership and entrepreneurship course at the African Leadership Academy in South Africa to hone his business skills.

When he felt he was ready, he registered his company and started importing security equipment.

“I invested on marketing my services. I had to enlighten people on the need to boost security, which has not been easy outside Nairobi,” he said.

Felix Otieno, the director of Samash Tours, a car hire company in Nakuru, admits he had initially been reluctant to buy Mr Macharia’s device, especially after being disappointed with a gadget he had previously installed.

“Macharia told me so much, including how to use my phone to track my cars and even listen to conversations among the occupants,” said Mr Otieno.

He installed the gadget in one vehicle, and five months later, he not only installed six others but also convinced some of his friends to buy the device.

And in 2011, Mr Macharia was one of eight finalists in the Next Big Thing, a programme run by the Business Daily that aims to bring together great ideas and investors.

Mr Macharia was pitching an organic insecticide he had invented while in high school.

He has chosen to focus on security solutions and hopes to have an office in each East African country in two years.