Today, she has built a successful group of companies that employs over 600 people
Esther Muchemi is one of Kenya’s most outstanding and seasoned entrepreneurs. She is the Chief Executive Officer of Samchi Group of Companies. She quit her 16-year audit career in search for greatness, which led her to establish a telecom company. Today, she has built it into a successful outfit and diversified into other business segments including microfinance,
hospitality and real estate. There is no doubt that Esther is an innovative entrepreneur seeking to put Kenya on the map by creating long-term solutions through business and social impact. When Esther and I met for this interview at her office, she recounted on her journey as an entrepreneur, spoke about her take on business and the fundamentals of starting a business.
Who is Esther Muchemi?
One of the things I know is that I love God with all my heart. I don’t like defining myself outside who God has made or called me to be, because it impacts on how I relate with people. I refer to myself as a common village girl, and am a living example that people can come from a local setup and become successful. I went through the hustles of a village girl,
schooled in local institutions and tarmacked like anyone else. I am a value-based person and manage my businesses based on values. I believe in success based on hard work and investing in businesses that are both scalable and bring change to the society.
What’s your academic and professional background?
I graduated from the University of Nairobi with a Bachelor of Commerce – Accounting option. I then got a job in an audit firm, where I started off as a junior auditor. In my sixteen-year audit career, I worked for top audit firms where worked my way up to become a salaried partner.
Looking for greatness?
During my working years, I realized there was a greatness I was not realizing. Something within me was being curtailed. I needed to discover who I was, since I was the only one who could determine my destiny. Time and opportunity are given to us equally; it is how you choose to deal with them that makes the difference. That was when I made a daring move by quitting on something that I had heavily invested in—my career.
How did you get started as an entrepreneur?
I initially founded an audit firm, where I faithfully worked for five years. That gave me the best exposure to succeed in business. That line of business was however not leading me to the kind of greatness I desired. It was also not scalable and did not sit well with my family since it was based on professionalism. I therefore quit the business and started Samchi Telecom.
It initially started as a one shop business that engaged in selling airtime and mobile phones. Through a journey of sacrifice, the company has grown in leaps and bounds to become one of the leaders in the telecommunication sector.
After fifteen years, I decided to diversify to other sectors including hospitality (After 40 Hotel), real estate, microfinance and agriculture. Plans are underway to open a fast food restaurant along Tom Mboya Street dubbed Heavenly Wings, since it will offer a heavenly experience to our clients. I always ensure every venture is stable prior to investing in new
What can you say you have achieved so far?
Man was created to take care of the land by improving it. One of my greatest satisfactions is that I am part of making the world better by providing solutions. My greatest achievement is being able to influence and bring change to the society. I have created employment for the youth, currently with a staff base of 600. This is what makes me feel good. I am proud of my
entrepreneurship journey, and still aiming to do more.
What’s your take on business ethics?
Ethical issues in business can only be eliminated by doing the right thing. People should have a personal conviction of doing things ethically. At Samchi, ethics is at the heart of our business. We have maintained a strong ethical culture by identifying and integrating core ethical values in everything we do. That’s why Samchi has previously been recognized as
the best ethical dealer. We want to be honest and do our business with integrity as this is what governs our relationship with our clients and dealers.
I however regret that many people have become a bad example to the youth. It is a pity and so unfortunate that they have lost their moral authority. The behaviour is unacceptable and we should find a way of undoing it. Parents have a responsibility of bringing up the society in the right way. The youth should also know that there is no shortcut to hard work, since it is the only way of building a solid foundation to wealth.
Could you tell us some of the fundamentals of starting a business?
First, people must identify what they want to do and focus entirely on it. Focus and consistency are very important. Don’t leave anything to chance to make it a success. If the first idea doesn’t work, go back to the drawing board and start all over again. There is nothing as good as getting an opportunity to reconstruct again with the information and knowledge gained from the first failure.
Another important thing is your name and what you stand for. Can people trust you as their business partner? My name is what has made me who I am. We were the pioneers to be given credit by Safaricom. I recall being given a one month credit worth 64 million, which I repaid to the last coin. Finally, is advertising your business to your friends. Small businesses start with the circles you know.
Who are some of the personalities you admire?
The people I quite admire are Manu Chandaria and Richard Brandson. They are wealthy, yet so human, humble and passionate about their families. I also admire Duncan Ndegwa in terms of succession. He has done it so well. This is how I want to be perceived. To be admired because of my values.