A scalable and resilient business lady who sees the beauty in everything including failures
By Catherine Kuria
Growing up people around me used to ask often about what career path I desired to follow in life. I thought I had it all figured out; go to college, get a degree then a well paying white collar job. But I didn’t quite work like that. I had nobody to hold me when I fell off the wagon. It often makes me wonder whether that was a good or bad thing. Most parents want a comfortable and secure life for their kids and that is why they are actively involved in their decision making.
When it comes to career choices, parents always want to have a say in it. Why not let children be children and make mistakes? Statistics show that over 50% of students pursuing higher education in Kenya are studying a course they are not passionate about. 72% of the 50% are studying because it’s their parents dream and not theirs. Why go through the torture of living somebody else’ dream at the expense of yours? Grace Itumbiri held on to what she was passionate about and has shaped her own path as the founder of Dice Freelance.
She is a 25 years old graduate of the University of Nairobi. She graduated with a Bachelors degree in communications and political science. After doing a stint in formal employment she quit and went on to found a web company known as Dice Freelance. Ms. Itumbiri says that, “I founded dice freelance after spotting a need and niche in the way businesses are run in Kenya. I decided to help organizations create a well-manicured web content and visual element in order to create their place in the web.” She continues to say, “The market online is huge, the clients therein are also abundant. All business need to know is what to say when and how. This is what dice freelance all about. We help you create content and market it online.”
What exactly do communication strategists do?
A communication strategist is an intriguing individual who has created a completely new role for her or himself. Although invariable among the best in the business, the communication strategist has taken an extra step. They’ve looked hard at the way companies use language and the results they achieve, and they’ve sought out new ways of making language work better for their clients. That is exactly what Ms. Itumbiri does.
Her role as a content creator and communication strategist is basically to study the market that a business is in and craft a mode of communication that is suitable for it. She creates a marketing strategy for firms regardless of the level they are in. She is more involved in planning than in execution. As a strategist, she has a highly developed client-relationship skill (to talk to client companies at the most senior level).
She engages with organizations through communication, learning from them, getting to know the company’s situation and responding to stakeholder needs appropriately to achieve business goals. Tony Manning, once said, “Organizations are managed by conversations.” Every day you and your organization communicate. There is an ongoing flow of information, ideas, opinions and emotions between an organization and its audience or stakeholders – but is this communication well-planned to achieve its goals? Is it sufficiently strategic?
“Many business owners, managers and leaders need a helping hand in developing a clear, consistent and effective communication strategy. That is where I come in. I begin my conversation by getting the ‘boss’ to reflect on the business, its purpose and goals, its strengths, weaknesses and challenges. This is by asking questions like; what is the outcome you want? What stands in your way? How do you overcome these obstacles?” Ms. Itumbiri expounds.
Challenges and lessons learnt
Her journey has been anything but smooth sailing. Setting up a business can be terrifying as it is exciting. At any time a fledgling company can come up against a number of obstacles. Inadequate finances had taken a toll on her company when starting out. She had to toil in order to get what she wanted. “When you don’t have an investor you basically have to source all the capital by yourself. It is difficult and I often considered quitting and going back to the village. But I had a dream and I knew I had what it takes to make it,” Ms. Itumbiri narrates.
Making sure that your product keeps up with changes in the market is vital. For Internet-based start-ups, this often means adapting the website. She conveys that “Is your website mobile-friendly? Does it have an attractive, easy-to-manage user interface? With so many websites, it is difficult to make yours stand out in the crowd.” However, a secure, reliable and well-performing website can often speak for itself.
She goes on to say that in campus, she learned a lot and that had to do with being able to think outside the box. She did not stick to the set curriculum but instead took extra courses, joined clubs and movements. She grew her network through interacting to with people. The industry is fairly new especially in Kenya. So basically the main issues are setting up the parameters of the industry as it is and selling the idea to the people and business owners.
Her biggest concern is that young people believe there is a set structure for career choices while there is none. Young people should listen to their inner voice and venture into a profession that they love. They should do a detailed research about the profession and find mentors they can relate with. Having somebody whom you look up to and inspires you to step out of your comfort zone is healthy for you as a person and in your career as well.
Ms. Itumbiri concludes by saying that, “Take time to enjoy life and just grow personally and professionally. Let not the success of others intimidate you. There is no secret to success because it all starts with you. Take a chance on life and it will smile at you.”
With the advent of technology, everything starts and ends with the internet. Entrepreneurs are a rare breed of individuals who are constantly exploring new business opportunities. Some seek out new opportunities on their own while others are constantly pitching new ideas. The majority of opportunities, no matter how good they might sound, end up being a complete money-sucking nightmare due to expensive overhead, slow scalability and low margins. Online businesses, however, can be very appealing because they don’t have the traditional hurdles that most new ventures face.