Nicky Koge, 28, grew up watching his father work with a chisel and hammer to create some of the most beautiful aluminium art pieces he had ever seen.
Though he admired his father’s creativity and was fascinated by the end product, he was not interested in learning the craft. Fast forward years later, failure to secure attachment after completing a diploma course in purchasing and supplies in 2010 pushed him into his father’s workshop.
The two would spend most of the day chiselling and pounding aluminium sheets to make décor items such as lampshades and mirror frames.
With time, what had solely been a way to keep himself occupied became immensely interesting and enjoyable. Within three years, he had perfected the art he had grown up watching and felt ready to start his own business.
“Seeing my enthusiasm, my father encouraged me to go it alone, and assured me that he believed that I had what it took to succeed on my own,” he explains.
And so he plunged into the uncertain waters of entrepreneurship, and like many first time business people, Koge soon found out that starting a business is not as easy as he had thought it would be. To begin with, it wasn’t easy to get his own clientele base, and the few that he got wanted to dictate the price of the items he had worked so hard on.
“I established my business in 2014 using savings of about Sh25, 000. The money went into buying the tools of trade that I needed, such as chisels and hammers. I also rented a double room, which was my house as well as workshop. I was 25 years then,” he says.
His initial items were decorative lampshades, mirrors and portraits. He would peddle the items from one shop to another, looking for willing buyers.
“As you can imagine, it was laborious work, made even harder by the fact that mine was a one-man show - besides being the manufacturer and marketer, I was also the customer relations manager, the accountant – everything,” he says.
After working this way for about one year with very little breakthrough, largely because he did not have a ready market, relatives who had witnessed his struggle advised him to rent a showroom, which would give his products better visibility.
“My relatives, who were keen to see me succeed, gifted me Sh50, 000, which I added to Sh30, 000 I had managed to save. I used this money to opened Koge Creative Arts and Designs in 2015 at Gcrafts Market, located in Galleria Mall,” he says.
It was a good decision. Today, his business enjoys a diverse clientele, with most of his clients being interior designers and hoteliers, even though he sells to home owners too. He reveals that unlike before he started, most people appreciate the value of the items he creates and do not grumble at the mention of price.
“All my products are handmade, and are created using aluminium sheets, which are resistant to rust and very durable. When need be, we customise products to suit a client’s preferences,” he explains.
Koge is no longer a lone ranger in his business, he has six employees who perform different roles, including those of marketing his products on social media as well as keeping proper accounts.
“I am now able to manage my earnings better and have embraced a saving culture, unlike before. I am no longer a spendthrift,” he says.
On any given day, he and his team create at least six décor pieces - lampshades are the most popular. Depending on the size and design, it takes about six hours to create one. Portraits, which are labour intensive, take about three weeks to complete.
“Our prices are affordable with some of the items going for just Sh1, 000,” he says. On an average, Koge makes around Sh50, 000 in profit every month, an amount he is positive will grow with time as he gets better and as his business grows.
“I am in the process of establishing another branch at the Village Market. Once it’s up and running, I am optimistic of better returns,” he says.
Though on a firm footing, he explains that the business weathers challenges from time to time. The biggest one, he explains is lack of raw materials.
“We get our aluminium sheets from a certain company in Industrial Area. Sometimes, the sheets go out of stock for even two months, a factor that drastically slows the business.
To counter this, we are forced to buy surplus sheets, which is not good for business because it holds money that could be utilised elsewhere. Also, once in a while, employees fail to report to work due to various reasons, which affects our output.”
For someone who did not formally study what he earns his daily bread from, Koge is certainly doing well.
“Occasionally I draw inspiration from the works of others in this field, especially during art exhibitions. Most of the time though, I rely on my imagination and creativity to come up with new designs.”