“I started out as an accountant, working an 8-5 job that paid me about Sh87,000 a month. For me, that was a great success, but I knew I could do better,” says Peter Njuguna.
Peter grew up in a village in Mang’u, Murang’a County. His parents were small-scale farmers who sold milk from their two cows and grew cash crops like potatoes and tomatoes.
They managed to get him through high school, but Peter wanted to go on to university. And for him, no sacrifice waas too big for this dream.
His determination eventually saw him get accreditation as a certified accountant from the Kenya College of Accountancy University (KCA).
He got a job soon after, but later decided to go into business when he saw better opportunities in entrepreneurship.
“I set up Best Serve Technologies, which is predominantly an accounting firm that deals with book keeping, setting up and maintaining accounting systems, and providing taxation services,” Peter, 32, says.
“However, most recently, we’ve branched out into building supplies and construction. I know those seem like two completely separate things, but what I’m learning is how to diversify your income stream while still utilising your core skills.”
Peter’s core skill is numbers and in his career, he went from earning Sh10,000 to Sh87,000 as an accountant.
It dawned on him, however, that he was handling several accounts for different companies at his last place of work, and getting paid a standard rate, yet he could branch out on his own and build a significant portfolio, bringing in a much larger income.
In 2016, Peter founded Best Serve Technologies with Sh25,000, which he used to register the company and acquire other licences and documents.
“It was a risk to quit my job. I had grown up only dreaming of the kind of money I was earning. Yet, I was confident in my ability as an accountant and wanted more.”
Though he had a plan to exit his full-time job, Peter first acquired three clients to secure his cash flow before handing in his resignation. In July 2016, he officially opened his doors.
“I don’t know if it was beginner’s luck, prayers or hard work, but my first three clients have been my biggest ones to date. I set up their accounting systems, charging between Sh40,000 and Sh50,000 a month,” Peter says.
“I thought this would be the trend, but soon discovered that most clients just wanted taxation services, which could be as low as Sh2,000 a month.”
The company was breaking even, but Peter feared they wouldn’t go very far on accounting services alone based on their current trajectory. He then decided to turn his attention to the Government.
“There was a lot of talk about the Government giving opportunities to young people with small businesses.
“When registering my business, I had got an Access to Government Procurement Opportunities licence (AGPO), which qualified me to apply for Government tenders and to supply quotations. I decided to give it a go.”
Peter followed the guidelines needed to acquire a tender, and began dabbling with diversification. “I was pre-qualified to supply to a few institutions, and ended up getting business from Ketraco (Kenya Electricity Transmission Company) and Machakos University.”
Peter’s tender with Ketraco was to supply toners for six months. Each order was between Sh170,000 and Sh250,000, and he supplied the institution six times before the tender lapsed.
At Machakos University, he supplied textile and fashion-related equipment, such as washing machines, dress materials, buttons and zippers worth about Sh1 million.
“Tendering was difficult because there was no specialisation. Anyone could do any job if they could find a good, affordable supplier to service the tender,” Peter says.
“With time, however, I wanted something more skill oriented, so I decided to focus on construction and supplies because the section wasn’t saturated.”
Once again, Peter’s diligence and persistence in sending out applications won him a tender worth just over Sh3 million to do flooring for the new Kenya Revenue Authority premises.
However, as a small business, getting the cash to service the tender proved difficult.
“KRA almost cancelled my job order because of the delay in getting financing.”
And then Peter was invited to a forum hosted by KRA and National Bank targeted at helping small and informal businesses acquire funding.
“When the question-and-answer segment came up, I asked if NBK was giving capital to businesses that already had local service orders (LSO) even if they didn’t have an existing account with the bank.
“To my surprise, they said yes and I was instantly directed to the service desk where I opened an account and applied for a loan.”
Two weeks later, Peter had the financing he needed, and three weeks after that, his job at KRA was completed.
“Apart from the tender, the other important thing that came out for me from this encounter was being introduced by NBK to Inuka Enterprise, an entrepreneurship programme run by the Kenya Bankers Association,” he says.
“The Inuka programme is designed for companies exactly like mine: small businesses trying to formalise their practices or get funding.”
Peter says he couldn’t have discovered the programme at a better time.
“I have only attended one class so far, but I’m very impressed by how practical it is and how well the facilitators explained how to structure and slowly grow a proper business,” he says.
“I’m a village boy and I was blessed to get opportunities that brought me to Nairobi to work. Many village boys and girls will not have that chance. Programmes like Inuka level the playing field a little because if that boy or girl can be taught how to use the little resources they have, they can make a difference right where they are.”
One of Peter’s goals is to grow the building and construction arm of his company to provide jobs for young people predominantly from villages.
“I’ve been challenged by the doors that have opened for me. My business has completely transformed in these last few months. I want to use my knowledge and capability to help others transform as well.”