What you need to know:
- When life got tougher at home, Mugambi decided to leave for Meru town in search of greener pastures.
- But without any skills to secure a job, he lived off the streets for about three years until 1994 when a well-wisher rescued him.
When Edward Mugambi, popularly known as ‘Baraka’, left his home in Mwili, Tigania West in 1991, he had nothing to his name, save for the clothes he was wearing.
Thirty years later, Mr Mugambi is a successful businessman running multiple ventures in Meru town. Raised by a single parent in a poor home, Mugambi would attend school during morning hours and then work in farms in the area in the afternoon to raise money for daily subsistence.
When life got tougher at home, Mugambi decided to leave for Meru town in search of greener pastures, but without any skills to secure a job, he lived off the streets for about three years until 1994 when a well-wisher rescued him and took him back to school.
But he would walk away from class and return to the town centre where he did a variety of menial jobs.
A gift he received from a former employer in 2003 is what would change his fortune, transforming him from a street boy to a respected businessman in Meru town.
“The man who had employed me to tend his tree nursery gifted me a camera, with which I learnt photography ,” he says.
He would charge Sh10 per photo, money that he saved and used to buy a more advanced camera that cost him Sh4,500. The photography business was booming then, he even stopped hawking to concentrate on this venture.
In 2004, he bought a video camera worth Sh25,000 and rented office space where he paid Sh5,000 a month.
Mugambi, now a regional technician for Epson printers, says 2004 was a major turning point for his photography business.
“I had attended a burial, and the photographers were taking photos and delivering them on the spot, fascinated, I asked them how they did it, I borrowed the idea and started taking photos at events,” he recounts.
Between 2004 and 2012, his photography business grew in leaps and bounds, such that he would make a profit of up to Sh20,000 per occasion. He would check obituaries to see which burials were taking place in his locality.
His biggest harvest days were during graduation ceremonies at the Kenya Methodist University where he remembers making Sh80,000 in a day.
By 2010, he had acquired a motorbike, easing his movement, and later bought a printer, enabling him to print photos on site.
“When I bought an Epson printer in 2010, I would be forced to travel all the way to Nairobi to get it repaired, frustrated, I learned how to repair this model from the technicians in Nairobi, becaming the first Epson serviceman in Meru,” he says.
He later set up a studio and a printer repair shop in Meru town where he operates from to date.
Out of the printer servicing business which he started in 2013, he was able to diversify his earnings, making up to Sh40,000 from repairs in a day. His shop in Meru town is now a certified Epson Service Centre serving Meru and its environs.
While attending events where his photography services were needed, Mugambi saw another opportunity in the provision of sound systems.
“In many events I attended, people would ask me if I had a sound system. That is how Baraka Sounds was born. I bought equipment worth about Sh60,000 in 2012. In 2015, I acquired a road show truck after securing a loan from the bank,” he says.
He now owns sound equipment worth about Sh2 million.
While his business has been affected by the restrictions on public gatherings, Mugambi saw an opportunity in doing live coverage of church services, burial ceremonies and weddings. He does this through his YouTube channel, Baraka TV.
His secret to success was starting small, saving, ploughing back profits and investing. He adds that developing a relationship with a financial institution is critical for a growing business.
The 39-year-old businessman says he is also keen on learning from others whenever he spots a viable idea.
“My advice to those who want to venture into business is to be ready to learn from others and be ready to grow gradually. The challenge with many young people is wanting instant success, success is a long and tedious journey,” he cautions.
He has now set his sights on poultry and rabbit farming, having bought a piece of land, built a home as well as rental houses in the outskirts of Meru town.