In 2007, Jane Mugo made a decision that to many of her friends was a sure-fire way to dim her career prospects. She ventured into the risky business of private investigation.
“The investigations market was slim and you really couldn’t make anything out of it. But I knew that I had to risk. I saw a lot of potential in it. It was still largely a new and unexploited concept,” she says.
Six years later, her company, Trimo Security Services, is a leading private investigation firm in Kenya going by her customers, who include law companies and business entities such as Equity Bank, the Kenya Revenue Authority, Bhachu Industries, InvesteQ Capital, Herbatullah, Victoria Furinitures, Keroche Industries, and CRADLE.
So good is she in her business that she has earned accolades from the Kenya Police for investigating and rescuing abducted children in Nairobi, she told Money. Her success, she says, has been fostered by her ability to fulfil 90 per cent of any investigation assignment.
“I believe that to be successful, you have to be fruitful in the services that you offer,” she notes.
But her entrepreneurial journey to the top has not been a walk in the park. “I started as a salesperson at a hardware store in Nairobi in 1999.” However, her eye-opener came during a short stint at the Kenya Police as an undercover agent after training as a detective with the Criminal Investigation Department.
“Kenya Police has been key in my operations. In business, you have to reach out to those who will enrich your venture. People are the money, people build you and your business,” she says.
In 2003, she was hired by former CID director Joseph Kamau as a security officer for Khaman Securities Company, where she was promoted to the post of chief investigator. And for three years, she honed her skills working on forensic investigations, VIP protection, fraud, and security consultancy.
It was while at Khaman that her journey into the world of private investigation started. “I developed a great love for my job. But I wanted more. I felt that I could be my own boss,” says Ms Mugo, who holds a degree in criminology from Kenyatta University.
In 2007, she quit her job at Khaman and started her own security outfit offering private investigation, debt recovery, and surveillance services, which include busting cheating spouses.
“I set off with Sh200,000 seed capital.” Today, this operating capital has grown to Sh4 million. She has six permanent employees and 15 other workers on temporary terms. Her firm has also spread to South Africa and Tanzania.
Backed by police
In one of her biggest cases in 2009, she caught thieves who had stolen government equipment meant to detect HIV/Aids in children.
The gadgets cost Sh1 million each and she managed to recover nine of them. “Four of the machines had already been sold at Sh280,000 to a Kakamega health centre while two others had been sold to a government hospital in Mombasa,” she says.
Depending on the nature of her operation, each assignment is usually backed by the police, auctioneers, and lawyers, especially in deals involving bad cheques, debt, and agreement defaulters. “I charge based on the weight of the case,” she says, adding that her fees range between Sh50,000 and Sh500,000.
In debt collection, she charges 15 per cent of the total amount to be recovered. Charges for surveillance jobs depend on the case.
And in order to preserve the reputation of the innocent in surveillance cases, she takes as much time as possible to verify her leads before declaring her findings. Many of her corporate jobs involve investigating business strategies of competitors, upcoming products, and prevailing weaknesses.
The single mother of a 12-year-old boy says that her secret to success is commitment, quality, and timely delivery of services.
“My clients always come first. I always make sure that I give each case my utmost attention, whether it is on surveillance of a cheating spouse or collection of debts worth millions. Each customer is important to me,” she says.
She advises those willing to venture into new business territories to confront their fears boldly. “I could have held back, first because I am a woman and second because there were high chances that the market wasn’t ready for an investigation business. But I didn’t. In business, you must be willing to confront your fears and make key decisions. These are the ones that either build or ruin you,” she says.