Nairobi News

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How shylock grew outfit into a multi-million empire

Seven is Mwatha Njoroge’s lucky number. It is the reason his company committed to open a petrol station across the country every seventh day of each month in 2017.

He is the founder and chief executive of Sevenstar Group Limited which operates, among other businesses, Midas Oil Limited.

The first Midas petrol station was unveiled on July 7, 2016 near Limuru, the second one on January 7, 2017 in Kabarak, the third on February 7, in Mwea and the fourth will be opened on March 7, in Nyeri.

Sevenstar, which started as a Shylock in 2013, has grown to incorporate seven businesses including an insurance company, a real estate firm, an oil stations firm, a supermarket, a security company, a micro lender and a foundation.

PUBLIC LIMITED

Plans are under way to convert Sevenstar into a public limited liability company by 2020 through an initial public offering (IPO).

The company intends to close the register for founder members by July 15 this year.

It is a statutory requirement that an institution submits the register of its founder members before embarking on issuing an IPO.

“Last year we made Sh22 million and as we speak all the companies under Sevenstar are doing well,” said Mr Njoroge of the venture which allows its 100 employees to own shares in it.

The minimum number of shares one can own is 200 priced at Sh56 each, up from the Sh5 it was sold at in 2013 when the company was started.

Currently, Sevenstar operates in 14 counties with members drawn from 40 counties across the country.

Mr Njoroge, 40, noted that the journey to operating a profitable empire has not been easy given the financial hurdles encountered along the way.

Interestingly, the initial investment was Sh2,150 which was used to set up an office in Uthiru, a small town in Kiambu County.

ODD JOBS

At the time Mr Njoroge had tried his hands at odd jobs including hawking assorted items along Tom Mboya street, peddling mosquito nets and serving as a waiter.

Seeing that he had little to show after days of struggle to make ends meet, he had to think outside the norm — this time round with the help of people around him.

“So I called a meeting with the intention of sharing ideas on how to revive a Shylock business that I had operated between 2011 and 2012, interestingly seven guys showed up,” said the BA (Literature) graduate of the University of Nairobi.

The meeting agreed that everyone contributes Sh10,000 to help grow the business in exchange with owning part of it.

He told the attendees that in seven years they would own a bank and seven different businesses but only if they contributed to actualising that dream.

Even as he tabled the ambitious ideas, Mr Njoroge had no clue where he would get the Sh10,000 from.

As the rest of the team faltered he went ahead and on January 7, 2013 — while standing on a footbridge along Waiyaki Way— spotted an empty room in Uthiru.

‘I HAD NO IDEA’

“The owner said it would cost me Sh8,000 per month to occupy it. I had no idea where that kind of money would come from since I only had Sh2,150 to start my Shylock business,” he said.

Mr Njoroge picked a table from home and was good to go, lending out money at 10 per cent interest per month.

“I opened the shop at 9am and by 11 am the entire amount had been borrowed, leaving me with a new challenge of raising funds for other clients,” he said.

As Mr Njoroge was pondering on the next move, he spotted a carpenter nearby whom he convinced to make furniture for the office and turn it into shares in the company.

Surviving the first week of business was a challenge as pressure from borrowers mounted.

He brought on board businesswomen who contributed Sh50 each, to start with, and eventually borrow loans as well as own shares in company.

Soon afterward a friend introduced him to an MCA in Nakuru who had not exhausted the fund he had set aside for his campaign.

INVEST IN BUSINESS

The MCA was willing to invest the money in a business venture.

“He figured that since he had risked the money on a political campaign he could as well put it into something that would give him returns,” posed Mr Njoroge.

Upon receiving the money the first decision was to move his office to a more spacious premises that cost Sh40,000 monthly.

As the business gained ground all Shylocks in Uthiru closed shop as clients shifted to Sevenstar Group which treated them better.

“I am a firm believer that you have to start without success and success will catch up with you,” he said, adding that the business had survived without borrowing money from commercial banks.

He said the company has grown due to investors who bought shares in exchange of their skills.

“I became a huge borrower of people’s brains by convincing them to convert their skills into shares. That is how we have been able to beat the challenge of financing,” he said.

Having employees who own the company has not only cut costs by 80 per cent but also ensured that staff turnover is zero.

Sevenstar Group holds frequent seminars to grow membership and encourage more people to invest in the business.