The idea to start a college came about seven years ago when Simon Nyaga was working as a part-time lecturer at Chuka University.
“I noted that many graduates would end up jobless or end up in careers they did not study for at university. I concluded that the solution lay in training youth to become entrepreneurs,” he explains, adding that his dream was to establish a training institution which turns job seekers into job creators.
Growing up in Turasha village in Nyandarua County, Nyaga, who comes from a humble background, has always been business-minded. Aware that his parents were struggling to educate him, he would chip in by selling maize or charcoal to supplement their income.
“In secondary school, I worked for my school fees. The school principal gave me jobs which were converted into fees, that is how I managed to complete high school,” explains Nyaga.
After completing secondary school, he borrowed Sh5,000 from his mother, which he added onto Sh5,000 savings, money he used to open a shop, a shop he would go on to sell for Sh40,000 when he joined Kenyatta University in 2008 to study Education. While still a student, he looked for a job that would enable him pay his tuition fees, getting one at Equity Bank, Ruiru branch, as an accounts sales agent, earning Sh15 per sale.
“I worked so hard that I was making up to Sh15,000 per month, in fact, I would send money back home despite being a student,” he says. He performed so well, such that the bank promised him a job after graduation. In 2011, he was employed in the bank’s insurance section and posted to Chuka, where he also worked as a part-time lecturer at Chuka University.
It is his interaction with the students here that inspired the idea of a college, and not just any college, but one that would teach students to turns their skills and talents into businesses.
Nyaga would go on to get a job with Kenyan Alliance Insurance, moving to Meru in 2017. It is here that he registered his college, Meru Institute of Business Studies (MIBS), which opened its doors in April 2017.
“I spent about Sh750, 000 in registration fees, renting space and setting up classrooms. I also employed three tutors and one support staff. We only had one student for the whole year, I was spending about Sh80, 000 every month to run an empty college,” he recalls, explaining that during that duration, he ran the college on his salary, since he still worked for the insurance agency.
Being a good marketer, he intensified marketing the institution, and in January 2018, managed to enroll 70 students studying various short courses.
“Within a short time, various organisations and the county government started sponsoring students, this was the turning point for the college, we even had to look for a bigger space to accommodate the growing number of learners,” the businessman says, spending about Sh1 million in renovating and expanding the new space in 2018.
It is around this time that he started looking for a business partner to share the cost of expansion.
“I believe in living within my means, and therefore do not take loans. This is why I looked for a partner who could walk with me in the long-term,” Nyaga says.
In 2019, with the college continuing to grow, he moved to an even bigger space occupying three floors. By this time, the number of staff had grown to 30, the students 600. The college now offers various courses such as automotive engineering, beauty, catering, fashion design, plumbing, mobile phone repair, IT and baking.
“When Covid-19 struck in 2020, I would have shut down the college were it not for my landlord’s support, and when we re-opened, we did so in a big way by opening another branch in Isiolo town. We now have about 1,000 students and 60 staff,” he says.
The institute is approved by the Kenya National Examination Council (Knec), Technical and Vocational Education Training Authority (Tveta), among other institutions.
Nyaga observes that the growth of the college has been fueled by a model of training that focuses on enabling trainees to convert their skills and talents into businesses.
With this being the institution’s selling point, it has 11 expert trainers who focus on talent development for short courses such as dancing, music, emceeing, deejaying and sports. Students pay an average of Sh15,000 per semester.
“Besides the certificate and diploma courses we offer, we have six short skill courses that are compulsory for all students. A student picks one of the courses in the first semester, the intention to enable them to earn an income as they learn. We call it the earn-as-you-learn model,” he explains.
The businessman says students are trained how to become entrepreneurs and solution providers in the economy, adding that part of the strategy is to establish business centres alongside every campus where their trainees can eke a living while studying.
He adds that out of more than 470 students who graduated from the institution last year, 460 are either in business or employment while others are on internship.
Due to growing demand for the short courses and entrepreneurship training, the college will open a campus in Nairobi this year.