What you need to know:
I was always wondering why I made little sales despite the fact that I sold very high quality products.
But during the meeting I learnt that clients don’t buy products unless they know that they exist, and where to find them.
From then on, I resolved to strengthen my networks.
Sarah Karingi is the founder of Global Networks Investments and author of three motivational books: Who’s in Your Room, Overcoming the Impossible and What Networkers Do.
Why do you call yourself the queen of networking?
I have connected hundreds of young people and helped them get jobs, mentors and create amazing ideas. A queen exudes confidence and generosity, and leaves a mark in peoples’ lives. That aptly describes me.
When did you start networking?
In 2010 my business suffered a huge blow. I used to sell wooden doors and frames, but my workshop was razed down by an arsonist, and I incurred millions in losses. I was also mourning the loss of my husband at that time, when one of my friends asked me to accompany her to a business welfare group where she was a member. Before that meeting, I was always wondering why I made little sales despite the fact that I sold very high quality products. But during the meeting I learnt that clients don’t buy products unless they know that they exist, and where to find them. From then on, I resolved to strengthen my networks.
At what point did you start offering mentorship sessions?
I have always had a soft spot for the youth and when I learnt the importance of networking, I thought of young entrepreneurs, and wished that they had the knowledge and information that I had. Six years later, I founded Global Networks Investments, where I offer young people tips on how to behave when meeting new people, the non-verbal cues they should use or avoid, and the concept of social media marketing.
What have you learnt about young people’s networking habits?
Most of them are impatient. They want things to happen at the snap of their fingers. Some of them think only of themselves, but are unwilling to spend money to develop or upgrade their skills. Some young people attend my training sessions and then go back home expecting miracles instead of putting the lessons to practice.
What do you consider the highlight of your journey?
It has been a great honour to receive accolades such as the Africa Business Excellence Awards, the Africa Business Networker Award, and the ABTEI Entrepreneurship Award.
If I had not embraced networking, I would have shut down the business, and I may not have written any of my three books.
How do you compare your 20s, 30, 40s and now your 50s?
I relate my 20s with a tough uphill task. That is the period when I got married and took charge of my life. Balancing work and family was not easy. House helps would abandon me when I needed them most. Also, I was not earning much. So I started rearing chicken and growing vegetables on my compound, which I sold to colleagues at work. In my thirties, I had so many dependents form my extended family, so I started selling second hand clothes to earn more money. Midway through my thirties, I mobilised my former secondary school colleagues and we started to buy and sell land. My 40s were quite tough because I had to quit my job to nurse my sick husband, and I eventually lost him. A huge part of our income was used to cater for his medical bills, our children were sent home for school fees, and banks were demanding repayment for loans we had previously taken. However, amid all these difficulties, I developed my negotiation skills, and I managed to overcome the challenges. Now, in my 50S, I am focused on being free, healthy, spending quality time with friends, and meeting new people.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would urge her to be a good listener and a fast learner. At a time when technology is changing rapidly, she should treasure the advice of older individuals. She should also be patient and associate only with those who have a positive attitude.
Which of your traits do you least admire?
I get frustrated when individuals with whom I hold joint investments don’t share my vision.
What animal spirit do you associate with?
An eagle, because I am a go-getter. A few years ago, I needed some machines for my business and although it took me two years to get them, I never gave up. I don’t know if eagles do this, but I never allow negative people to pull me down.
Which is your favourite book by another author?
Business Networking by Heather Townsend. It clearly defines what networking is and how important it is in our individual journeys to success.