Former Shop Attendant Behind Multi-Billion Shilling Empire

  • Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying 'I will try again tomorrow'.

    This adage best describes Irene Wanjiku, founder and CEO of Rexe Roofing Products Ltd.

    Hers is a story of resilience and pure grit, coupled with an unflinching will to succeed.

    Rexe Roofing MD Irene Wanjiku at her office.

    During a past interview with The Standard, the business mogul gave a gripping tale of how she rose against all odds to run one of the most successful roofing companies in the East African region.

    "I got my first job after completing KCSE in 2002. My salary was about Ksh 2,000. My second job was in a clothes shop with a salary of Ksh 5,000. As little as the salary was, I managed to save little by little since one of my relatives had subsidised my accommodation," she narrated.

    Her 'eureka' moment came soon after, when she realized that she needed to get a better paying job in order to raise enough capital to venture into the world of business.

    She settled on a plan that landed her on the blacklist of one of the telephone service providers.

    "Rather than write endless resumés, I decided to collect business cards with the aim of writing to the individuals with the hope of getting a better job, she revealed.

    "I remember writing text messages to about 200 people and one mobile telephone provider blocked my number after what they termed as 'some unusual activity on my line," she added.

    Her resilience finally paid off as one of the 200 recipients decided to give her a chance by offering her a job where she was earning Ksh 12,000 per month back in 2004.

    She worked diligently for four years while saving with the discipline of a monk, before quitting and plunging into the unpredictable entrepreneurial space.

    Irene Wanjiku managing director of Rexe Roofing, at her Kilimani office, Nairobi October 7, 2014.

    “I was working in the construction industry when I saw the opportunity to supply quality roofing products. The few that were available were too expensive and not of the best quality,” she once told Business Daily during a past interview.

    Her aggressive nature helped her secure space at the Annual Homes Expo in 2012 (held at Sarit Centre), where she finally got her very first client.

    "Two brothers who were constructing in Kitsuru approached me with a deal to supply roofing materials and gave me a deposit of Ksh1.5 million," she stated.

    It has been a meteoric rise since then, with the mogul going on to realise an annual turnover of Ksh100 million.

    Her firm won several awards including the Environment Sustainability Award in 2014 from Construction Excellence Organisation.

    She has overseen several mega-projects such as the Mt Kenya Holiday Homes in Nyeri, which signed a Ksh7 billion deal with global hospitality firm Swiss International back in December 20, 2016.

    Mt Kenya Holiday homes in Nyeri country. Irene Wanjiku firm was part of this mega-project.