These rising stars have shaken Kenya, and the world too

Evelyn Njambi, Eric Muli, Maureen Koech , David Kyalo and Geoffrey Mulei. PHOTOS| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • They have taken into modelling, film, music and entrepreneurship with the verve of duck to water.
  • They are driven by insatiable appetite for success, their consistency keeps them grounded in their quests, while their copious desire to revolutionise their industries has seen them cheat odds and achieve what is otherwise viewed as impossible for young people.

They are multi-award winning personalities, chief executive officers and movers and shakers in their various fields. Without doubt, these young achievers are forces to reckon with. Arguably, 2016 was a prodigious year for them as they were honoured and awarded for their exemplary exploits, shaking the country, and for some, the world too.

They have taken into modelling, film, music and entrepreneurship with the verve of duck to water. They are driven by insatiable appetite for success, their consistency keeps them grounded in their quests, while their copious desire to revolutionise their industries has seen them cheat odds and achieve what is otherwise viewed as impossible for young people.

While they believe that the job market still has attractive jobs for graduates, they hold a collective view that the solution to the problem of unemployment among the Kenyan youth ultimately lies in entrepreneurship. They also have a conviction that exceptional talent and arts industry makes an equally fulfilling career.



Age: 22

Occupation: Model,  (Miss World Kenya) and a student (Interior Design and Information Technology) University: Maseno


What was your first reaction when you emerged among the top five beauties in the world?

 I was greatly overjoyed because I had made history for my country. Also because I knew I had made my dad and mum proud.


To who or what do you owe this great victory?

I owe this victory to God’s unfailing love and amazing grace, hard work and humility.


From interior design to pageantry. Describe your journey in modelling....

I started out with my university’s beauty pageantry while a fresh woman. My first stab though was unsuccessful. Later, I tried enrolling at an agency which demanded for money, which I couldn’t afford. When the search for Miss World Kenya Kiambu County began, I was prepared. And that would be the beginning of my journey to being crowned Miss World Africa.


Do you want to pursue modelling as a fulltime career?

Not really. But I love modelling especially because I get to champion causes that uplift others. I wish to model on a part-time basis because I already have my eyes trained on interior design.


What lessons did you draw from your participation in the Miss World beauty pageantry?

I learnt that the world can be a better place if we all used our voices not to discourage or tear others down, but to amplify the issues that face those in need. Again, it’s good to seize the moment when one knocks at your door as it might never come again.


How do you navigate the balance between your private life and life in the public glare?

I live everyday just as I would if no one was watching.


Have you won any other recognitions and awards?

My proudest moment was being mentioned among the top five out of 118 other Beauty with a Purpose projects at Miss World 2016. It will be an honour hosting the reigning Miss World in Kenya courtesy of the project I spearheaded. 


What’s the way forward after this win? How do you wish to transform this success?

I plan to continue with anti-female genital mutilation campaigns together with the Anti FGM Board of Kenya. Our sole intention is to promote girls’ education. I also intend to be a role model, whom young girls can look up to for inspiration, motivation and mentorship.


Do you have any other interests outside modelling? How do you unwind?

I love swimming. Apart from that, I find dancing quite relaxing. I also unwind with a movie (preferably a James Bond one) or a medieval series (Game of Thrones or Reign). And you would still catch me watching fairy tale movies!


What’s your advice to young men and women who want to pursue modelling as an occupation?

Be•You•Tiful. Be sure of yourself and stick to who you are, because that’s where your greatest treasure lies. Don’t lose hope either with just one attempt at something you love, keep at it and doors will open for you.




Age: 24

Education: Babson College, US

Course: Finance, Economics & Political Science

Organisation: CEO, Odyssey Capital


You were nominated among the Top 40 under 40 men in 2014. What was your reaction?

It was exciting, humbling and overwhelming. I was only 22 then. I did not know how to react. After the initial shock and excitement, the victory served as an impetus for me to explore the business world further. 


Briefly describe your entrepreneurial background and journey…

I have had an entrepreneurial mindset for as long as I can remember. Nonetheless, I moved into actual entrepreneurship when I was in university. My friends and I started an ‘Action Marketing” company called Jossle that that hired students as brand ambassadors and marketing managers for companies targeting millennials. We did marketing for firms such as Microsoft, Uber and Chipotle. That saw me ranked among the top 16 entrepreneurs in universities across the US. After university, I came back home and established Alpha Force Security, which served as a stepping stone to what my team and I are now doing at Odyssey.


What does Odyssey Capital do? And do you have another organisation?

We are a micro-financing company with a key focus on consumer financing. We make essential technology more accessible to  Kenyans by allowing them to pay for items in installments. I also own Alpha Force Security, but the general manager is charged with the everyday operations of the security firm. We employ a team of about 60 people. 


Any lessons learnt along the way?

Good things will never be handed to you. If you’re not willing to put in the work, time and effort, then it’s safe to say that you should not hope for any rewards.


What are the qualities that set you apart from others?

I don’t believe I am special in any way. Nonetheless, what I can say is that I am just that guy who goes over and above to get things done.

What inspires you? Any role models? 

Progress inspires me. My real role models are my loving and hard working parents; but on a more relatable scale, my role model would be Richard Branson. His strategic appetite for risk is simply phenomenal.


Describe the business landscape in Kenya…

Opportunity for clean business is rampant. However, as a young man slowly learning the ropes, the biggest challenge we have is the widespread complacency among business people.


Your aspirations for 2017?

We’re trying to turn the financial industry upside down, positively of course. That’s my chief goal. I will not rest until I do so. 

Is there an overemphasis on the importance of entrepreneurship today?

Entrepreneurship is very important. However, it’s not for everyone; Odyssey Capital would not operate without our great employees. Some people are better off in employment than as entrepreneurs.


Where are young people going wrong?

Assuming that success will come easy. Life is not a movie and fairytale endings are not guaranteed.

Message for graduates and potential entrepreneurs?

Find what you love and do it every day. For potential entrepreneurs, remember that entrepreneurship is a big risk; but life is itself a bigger risk.




Age- 21

Education- HELP University School of Business (Malaysia)

Course - International Business

Company – CEO, Inkisha


What does Inkisha do?

Inkisha began as a start-up in December 2014, with a big dream: to make it possible for every African consumer to access free eco-friendly packaging products. By selling advertising options on our bags, we are able to supply small and medium-sized retailers with the bags for free, which enables wide distribution. While charging only for advertising, we are able to discourage retailers from using plastic bags. Presently, Inkisha employs 17 young persons. We’ve distributed over 5.7 million free bags so far.


Where else have you worked?

I haven’t had any formal employment before. My previous engagement was as a volunteer at the Junior Achievement Kenya. Before that I was a cashier at a bookshop in Machakos.


You have worked with major brands in Kenya. How  was the experience?

It has been quite rewarding to work with brands like ACCA, Coca Cola and Durex. I get to meet some incredibly gifted and open-minded individuals who believe in and support Inkisha’s cause. It also gives you a stamp of credibility when you work with leading brands.


What are the key attributes that have propelled you to these conquests?

Persistence has been my key attribute. I’ve always persisted even after being turned down by potential clients.Consistency is the other element that has kept us going.


Do you think Kenyans have fully embraced business on the digital front?

Yes, we have.  More than most African nations. Kenyan consumers are very supportive of innovative and progressive brands, which explains why brands such as Safaricom have grown exponentially. But the journey is still very long, and a lot needs to be done to get there.


Some of the challenges for the Kenyan business scene, particularly startups?

Business-to-business start-ups do not easily win tenders from larger businesses. Competitive marketing that reaches the desired customer base is also an expensive initiative for start-ups. Besides, Kenya has a higher taxation rate compared to other regional countries.


How do you balance between work and social life?

I love my work, which offers me the opportunity to travel around the world, therefore I rarely feel overwhelmed by my work.


Where do you see Inkisha in five years’ time? 

Inkisha aspires to reach a target of 100 million consumers across Africa by 2020. We have set up elaborate strategic plan to achieve this goal.


Any recognitions and awards?

Most recently I was nominated among the Top 40 under 40 Men in Kenya. This year, Inkisha was also nominated by Anzisha Prize among the 12 Most influential Social Enterprises in Africa. We were also one of Intellecap’s Game Changers in 2015, and the Global Impact Award 2014.


Advice for young people who are just starting out in their careers, businesses?

Dream and take huge risks.




Age: 27

Education: Business IT

University: Strathmore

Occupation: Actress, musician, film producer


From a degree in Business IT to the theatre? Briefly narrate your journey in film…

My passion for arts was first nurtured at Nakuru Girls High School. I was the only representative of my class in the drama club, but that didn’t stop me. After joining college, following my passion in acting was inevitable, so I joined the Strathmore Drama Society. I loved the university experience, so I endeavoured to become a better actress. I eventually lost my zeal for IT and dropped it.


What is your most notable role in your acting career?

Playing Patricia in the TV Series Lies that Bind that aired on KTN is my most memorable experience. Many people resonated with her circumstances. Personally, I had a particularly profound connection with her.


How do you balance between music and acting?

When you love something, it’s not that difficult to balance. I find time for both. I am however yet to fully explore my musical talent, which I intend to  embark on soon enough.


Is there something that most people don’t understand about acting, and generally life in showbiz?

It’s not easy. Sometimes it feels like a fight between reality and destiny. There are lots of ups and downs, getting rejected and sometimes exploitation by some directors. Following your passion enables you to weather all this, drawing you closer to your dream.


What is your take on the Kenyan film scene? What are we not doing right?

There is significant progress, albeit too slow. It’s also a volatile industry. In my view, stakeholders should raise the standards of film in Kenya.  We must improve the quality of products we create for our audiences. There’s no short cut. The government should also incentivise the industry.


Any recognitions and awards?

In 2013, I won the Best Supporting Actress award at the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards in Lagos, Nigeria, for my role in Lies that Bind. That has been a hallmark in my career. Recently, I was crowned best actress for the film — Seed — which also won best film at the Machakos Short Film Festival.


Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

I hope to be doing what I love doing: acting, music, TV production, only on a bigger, better and higher scale.


Do you have any other interests outside music and acting? How do you unwind?

I absolutely love travelling and sightseeing our magical Kenya. I always find an excuse to just go away somewhere. The further I go, the better.


Advice to youth who want to pursue acting as a fulltime career?

Come into it with your full love and armour. It is fun, it is awesome and invigorating. But to get to your  destiny, you might have to fight.



Age: 27

Education: BSc. Human Resource Management

University: Moi

Company: CEO, Afriqque Ventures


Tell us about Afriqque Ventures. How did you start?

It is an events’ organising, public relations and marketing company operating in Nairobi. Our initial capital was Sh1,500 which we used to print business cards and a little for transport. We started off as a website development firm in Thika,  which required lesser capital. I later ventured into events using the experience I had acquired as a student leader in Moi University in charge of entertainment and communication. We have five full time employees and we employ over 50 people on a project basis. Our revenue for 2015 was Sh5 million.


How have you managed to manoeuvre in fields that are already so crowded?

Unique and creative concepts for our clients, lower costs and being consistent in our quality has been our biggest weapon. Being up-to-date with the latest market trends has been helpful, as well as relying on friends to spread the word of our business. You can never underestimate the influence that a satisfied client has on your business.


How has your training in Human Resource Management helped in running your business?

HR management is about people. My skills in HR have been pivotal in managing the business, because I put my people first, and value the role they play to keep the business’s wheels spinning.


Have you had failures along your journey? Lessons learnt? 

Yes. Rejection by clients, not getting paid for services offered and fierce competition. I have learnt that persistence and a clear focus in business always win. Also, putting a business contract in writing eliminates the possibilities of being shortchanged. Initially we put trust on clients based merely on the trust we had on them, which we regretted later.

Key qualities have enabled you to succeed?

Keeping God first and staying humble because no success is bigger than God.


What do you envision for Afriqque Ventures? Do you plan on going into employment?

I want to see Afriqque as a leader in the events, entertainment and communication industry, in Africa and beyond. I do not intend to go into employment myself, but I would love to create more jobs for young people.

Is the Kenyan business scene as hostile as we hear?

It is hostile only if one is impatient. One must put in the necessary effort, time and resources.


Do you think entrepreneurship is the ultimate solution to unemployment in Kenya?

Very strongly. Our system should focus on encouraging entrepreneurship. On the other hand, youth should use their academic and professional skills to start their own enterprises.