Trip to Nairobi Kibandaski Changes CEO’s Life

  • A kibandaski in Nairobi, Kenya
    A kibandaski in Nairobi, Kenya
  • A majority of Nairobi’s suburbs have vibandas (kiosks) that sell food to casual labourers. The singular for vibandas is kibanda, but the sheng lovers call it kibandaski. 

    You’ll find people from all walks of life enjoying lunch here, reminiscing on good old times, contemplating the future of the country, discussing politics and bantering each other. 

    The mathe (madam/the kibandaski owner), whose business is listed as a Small and medium-sized enterprise (SME), is usually the focal point. She walks across the whole kibandaski making her customers happy with face to face delivery. 

    She laughs, cracks jokes with them, offers them discounts, introduces new recipes simplified to suit her taste which the customers are accustomed to.

    At times, she listens to their personal issues. A majority of them pick up counselling from years of experience. 

    Hata Njoro alikua na io issue na tukasolve (Even Njoro faced the same predicament and we solved it).

    Kukua na shida ni shida, lakini kukua na solution hauna shida (You only have a problem when you do not have a solution)” they’ll always say. 

    I learned all this during my campus years.  

    As a young CEO of a startup in the city, I was so immersed in my work. Startups require a lot of dedication and sacrifice. My tech company was competing with the blue chips and our rating was rising day in day out. 

    After graduation, I sought to create employment and the first people I hired were my schoolmates. I mixed that with a few experienced staff who were in senior positions as employing my peers only was a recipe for disaster. 

    Friends can build or break you. But that lot understood that we were building something for the future. We all learnt to separate business from friendship and two years later, five of them have started their own business, two are employed in senior government positions. 

    We built each other and we remained in partnership. 

    Motorists driving along Mombasa road on October 14, 2019.

    It was on a Friday evening, the day I passed by the kibandaski in my suburb (note that this was not my first time at a kibandaski like many of my CEO friends I later took to these kiosks). 

    However, it was my first one at this particular one as I had relocated to the estate two months prior. 

    But a particular incident here changed my life. 

    You see, our youth have ideas. A lot of them. Some lack the opportunity to share, optimize, convert and develop them. 

    For some, it's a lack of capital. As much as it's great to have ideas and dreams that are valid, not acting on them makes them worthless. 

    While starting my company, I started with a desk only and my seven friends. We had a 5 Mbps internet connection and a secretary who would cook and clean. 

    We sought capital from our savings and harambees and later on raised funds through seeding, pitching and funds drive.

    All these need a strategy and to be calculative. Know when to strike, when to pause, where not to invent etc. 

    I decided to pass by the kibandaski to pick the minds of customers around. I knew I would brainstorm on a few ideas too. 

    I met Musa, a young graduate who had started his own online retail business as a side hustle but was also working as a videographer for a content company in the suburbs. 

    “We are so far proceeding well but a few challenges here and there with the payment,” Musa stated, explaining his work model, his vision for the business and expansion plan.

    In him, I saw the younger version of me. Ambitious and a go-getter. 

    “I also had similar issues when I was starting my company but I realized that there is nothing better than Co-op Banks Chapa Pay. For online payment for businesses, you can get more customers by accepting online card payments via Chapa Pay, which is Co-op Bank’s eCommerce solution! 

    “With Co-op Bank eCommerce you receive a unique link (Pay-By-Link) that you’ll use to invoice their customers. The best thing, Musa, is you will not incur any cost to get the Pay-By-Link solution as it is free to get on board.

    "If a customer makes a wrong payment, you can reverse the payment without calling the bank for a reversal,” he added, stating that he was also setting up an online website for his wife soon and he would consider Co-op Bank’s Chapa-Pay,” I explained to him. 

    A Co-op bank e-commerce advertisement
    A Co-op bank e-commerce advertisement
    Co-op Bank

    He wrote the notes and asked for my contact and business card. Musa wondered what I was doing at the kibandaski. 

    “Fate had it that I met you maybe. We don’t know what lies ahead but I believe in your business idea,” I responded. 

    Two months later, I received a call. I was in a business meeting and I did not pick.

    “Evening Martin, kindly call back. It’s urgent. Thanks. Musa,” a text followed. 

    I excused myself and called. 

    Musa had struck gold. He found an investor who was ready to spend a fortune in transforming his company and he wanted me aboard as a partner. 

    “Your tech company can handle the IT side of this project and let's extend the frontiers of our businesses,” he stated. 

    “And by the way thank you for introducing me to Co-op Banks Chapa Pay. It opened our business more than I had imagined. 

    I guided him, we went to meet the investor and it turned out it was a firm that had turned down my company’s own proposals three times. 

    What a meal of less than Ksh200, a 15 minutes discussion and belief in a young man with a plan did? I wonder, up to date.