He sat for his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exams in 1991, attained 468 marks out of 700, and got an admission letter to the prestigious Njiiris High School.
However, David Mwangi’s education dreams were cut short when his parents said they had no money to enable him proceed to the next level of education. His heart sank and he saw his childhood dream of one day becoming a lawyer going up in smoke.
He, however, soon started picking up the pieces of his seemingly shattered life by enrolling for driving lessons with a relative who had a taxi. It was the only ‘course’ that his parents could afford. Aged 15, he became a driver without a licence in his native Ngurubani Town of Kirinyaga County. Another setback was that he had not attained the minimum age for one to have a driving licence. He, however, drove vehicles anyway and would frequently be found on the wrong side of the traffic rules.
“After numerous arrests by traffic police, I gave up and became a water vendor. His mode of transport was a donkey,” he says.
After he attained 18 years, Mr Mwangi acquired a driving licence and using his father’s connections in the transport sector where he was a loader, he was hired as a driver in a local rice milling factory.
“From my salary, I would only spend as little as possible and save the rest. My starting salary was Sh12,000. And staying with my parents, eating from my mother’s kitchen and taking no alcohol, I would save Sh11,000 every month,” he says.
Within a year, Mr Mwangi had saved Sh120,000.
He was also good at networking and this connected him to a job at the Kenya Breweries as a driver cum salesman. He was earning Sh25,000 a month, which was a good amount then.
In 1998 he switched jobs to Kuguru Food Complex in Nairobi’s Industrial Area. He was appointed a salesman of the now defunct alcoholic beverage, Kibuku Sorghum Sake.
“The company’s owner, Peter Kuguru noticed my top skills in sales. He also took me like his son and kept motivating me to work hard. He constantly reminded me that I had a future and riches awaited me at the horizons if only I saved and invested. I took his words as gospel truth,” he says. By 2002, he had bought three acres of land in Kirinyaga, where he set up a venture focused on selling rice. He also started rice farming. He did all this while still under employment
He says by 2004 his net worth had risen to Sh3 million, and he decided to quit employment to focus on steering his own businesses. His experience in sales had immensely prepared him for the turbulent world of entrepreneurship.
Does he have any regrets for failing to follow his childhood dream of becoming a lawyer? Certainly no: “Initially, I wanted to become a lawyer because I thought they were the best paid people around. I had grown up hearing about how lawyers earned handsomely for defending people in courts. Today, I know any route will take you to where you desire to be, as long as you remain faithful to the course,” he told Enterprise.
“I dabbled in various businesses. I bought bicycles and cars and sold them off. I even sold off my land after I found a customer who paid four times the amount I had used to buy it. Now I am a moneymaker.”
Mr Mwangi also borrowed Sacco loans to develop his land. “Today, I have 20 acres of land in Kirinyaga and Nairobi, I have 30 rental rooms and I am in commercial farming,” he says.
Besides, the father of four boys says he has an acre of muguka (Khat). He says the farm gate prices of a kilo of the produce is between Sh200 and Sh500. In a month he sells at least 1,000 kilos. “I also have three acres of bananas, selling a kilo for between Sh20 and Sh24. In a month I produce at least 3,000 kilogrammes,” he says.
“I also farm watermelons, sugarcanes and sweet potatoes. I also have an acre of rice.”
The entrepreneur says he also has invested in shares in well performing companies and currently he gets Sh200,000 yearly in dividends.
Mr Mwangi says his financial worries have since moved from “about myself and my future” to “about my family and its future.”
His trick is simple: “Prudent utilisation of the little in my hands and seeking ways to multiply it.”