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No magic in my journey to Forbes’ Africa list

Friday December 6 2019

David Kyalo

David Kyalo, 29, is the founder of events company Koncepts and Events Limited and a 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 finalist. PHOTO | COURTESY 

SIMON MBURU
By SIMON MBURU
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David Kyalo is a 29-year-old entrepreneur, and founder of an events and marketing company by the name Koncepts and Events Limited. This year, he earned a place in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list which recognises the most astute African businessmen and women who are below the age of 30.

GROUND UP

David started his events management business in 2014 after many failed attempts at securing a job.

“I was really frustrated at that time, and I happened to remember that when I was a student at Moi University, I really enjoyed my role as student leader in charge of events and communication. I started dreaming about opening a business in events management.

“I pitched my business idea to one of my former classmates, and he agreed to join me in building the company from the ground up,” he says.

But starting the enterprise was not a stroll in the park. At that time, David was unemployed and therefore severely handicapped in terms of financial resources.

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“My first investment into the business was some Sh1,500 which I used to print brochures and business cards. I did not even have enough money to register the company’s name. Through donations from family and friends and advance payments from supportive clients, my partner and I raised some capital and within nine months, the business had gained ground and we started realising some profits.

EXCESS BAGGAGE

But even after raising the requisite capital and establishing the business, David encountered many challenges, including corrupt individuals who demanded bribes before offering key services, clients who refused to pay for services, and lack of support from some of his friends.

“I learnt that many of the people we call friends are nothing but excess baggage. They conveniently disappear when we need them.

“However, I am glad I managed to overcome all my challenges and create a blossoming start-up that has so far partnered with many acclaimed organisations such as the World Bank and Uber.

“I have also learnt that jumping off the cliff is not so bad, provided one has built a parachute to help them on their way down,” he said.

But among all his achievements, making it to the prestigious Forbes list ranks as his greatest, most prized milestone.

“It was a major breakthrough for me, and an indication that indeed I am a good entrepreneur. That was the icing on the cake for my journey to entrepreneurial excellence, and the award came at the right time – when we are looking venture into other African markets,” he says with a broad smile.

MANY LESSONS

But this was not his first accolade. In 2016, just two years after starting the business, David was listed in the Business Daily’s Top 40 under 40 men alongside other heavyweights such as Darshan Chandaria and SportPesa CEO Ronald Karauri.

His deepest regret so far, is that he spent so much time and energy looking for a job instead of starting the business immediately after he completed his studies.

“But this should not be interpreted to mean that I am perfect. There are moments when I have been tempted to quit this business due to challenges with suppliers and clients. Also, I have never fully overcome the occasional feelings of self-doubt, and fear of the unknown.

“I have learnt so many lessons about life and business. I now know that in life, some will embrace you and others will reject you based on their interests and preferences. You should also expect to get into debt or be broke once in a while, and to be abandoned by employees and friends. However, if your idea or business is viable, your dawn will certainly come. Nothing comes easy. Not a well-paying job, and certainly not a successful business.

PROVIDE SOLUTIONS

David also believes that patience is required of any entrepreneur who wants to succeed.

“You may get stressed especially during the formative years of your business, but this does not mean that your product is weak or your business idea is not feasible. Be patient and make the necessary adjustments. It will be worth it in the long run.

“However, you must avoid clinging onto a product that does not provide the solutions that your clients need. Many of us sit around waiting for that perfect time to start a business, but the truth is that there is never a perfect time. Just step out of your comfort zone and do something that will help you move in the direction of your dreams,” he says.

MENTOR & EMPOWER

David plans to expand his business and venture into all East African countries within the next five years. He also plans to host a series of career expos and entrepreneurship conferences to mentor and empower young entrepreneurs.

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