A bubbly and outgoing man who has made the best out of life and impacted other people positively in the process
By Catherine Kuria
Physically challenged people are erroneously perceived as a hapless and helpless lot. Nothing can be further from the truth! Despite being disadvantaged physically, most of them have achieved great exploits including succeeding as entrepreneurs, composing award winning songs and excelling in the world of books. To say that they have outshone their physically advantaged colleagues would be an understatement. But such are the wonders of the world.
He hails from Western Kenya, home to the magnificent Lake Victoria. The “he” in this context is none other than Mr. Ibrahim Wafula Daniel. Mr. Wafula was involved in a major road accident when he was only seven years old. Due to the severe blow that young Ibrahim got, his right leg was amputated. He came from a poor background and had to discontinue with his schooling to seek treatment. His mother, who is of Ugandan descent, took him back to her native country where he received treatment for his legs and the trauma he had experienced.
“My mother encouraged me to go out and play with friends. This helped me gain confidence and I learnt to embrace my own disability. During this period, I also learnt how to play football really well,” he says. His father however was not concerned about the well being of his son after the accident. He later studied Arabic which he is fluent in. He is a staunch Muslim and teaches Madrasa at the mosque.
When he was fourteen years old, Wafula taught himself how to ride a tricycle. He acquired his first tricycle which he used as a means of transport to and from work. He goes on to say: “I met this guy who used to push me around in my tricycle every day. However that came at a cost which I couldn’t afford. The guy was using my disability as a source of his livelihood and that angered me a lot.”
He decided to teach himself how to ride a bicycle. While still in the process of mastering the art, he fell and injured his foot once again. However, that did not deter him but instead fuelled his drive to learn how to ride a bicycle. Later, he met an Asian by the name of Ikhbal Khan who employed him as a mechanic in his auto shop. There he got the chance to learn how to fix various parts of a car. Mr. Khan used to leave him with the car keys since he was confident he couldn’t drive a manual car due to his disability. Mr. Wafula, an observant man in nature used to keenly observe how his colleagues drove cars. He taught himself how to drive a manual car using his one leg and a walking crutch.
In 2005, he rode his tricycle and won the Standard Chartered Marathon. That victory gave his self esteem a huge boost. Using his old and dead-beat bicycle, he competed in the Mount Kenya Ten to Four Bike challenge. The race was meant for white people only and he became the first black person to ever compete in that challenge. Against great odds, he emerged among the top 10 winners in the race having beaten Dr. Tony Simon, the director general of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) among others. Dr. Simon later offered him a job at the United Nations organization. “I got the opportunity to travel far and wide. During my visits on behalf of the United Nations, I met people who made a lasting impact on my life. The exposure I got there forever changed my life,” he expresses.
While still working for ICRAF, Wafula learnt a lot about taxi business. He used to see the people around him using applications on their phones to request for taxis and that sparked his curiosity. That was the period where the popularity of Uber and Taxify cabs was on the rise. After a 7 year stint at ICRAF, he decided to call it quits and start a business venture of his own. He met with a friend in Nairobi who owned an automatic car. He dared the friend to let him drive his car to prove that he had the skills. The friend was pleasantly surprised by his excellent driving skills and bought him a brand new Toyota Fielder.
“The car gave me a much needed upgrade. I graduated from a tricycle to a bicycle and finally to car,” Wafula heartily expresses. He recalls that his bicycle had been stolen a few days prior to receiving the car which left him completely shattered. He was set to begin operating as a taxi driver in the city but, he did not have the necessary documentation. Regrettably then, he sold his car and went back to formal employment. After securing a job, he was able to save enough money which he used to acquire the necessary documents for kick starting his taxi business. That is how One Leg Network came to be.
One Leg Network
Wafula has always had a passion for football. Because of his dedication and love for the game, he was appointed as the chairman of the Kenya Amputee National Team. Using his taxi, he used to drop off each and every player to their homes after practice. This got him wondering how he could improve the life of each and every player. He gathered 10 players and taught them how to drive a car. He notes: “As an entrepreneur, I looked at my own disability and saw a business opportunity. Many people ask why the name One Leg Network and I explain to them that my disability inspired the name.”
One Leg Network is not a business for only the physically challenged people.Wafula believes in diversity and inclusion of people from all walks of life. This is a business to not only earn income but to connect people. All the drivers are fully registered and have all the necessary documentation to operate taxis. He is very keen on who he hires in his business because he believes that the safety of the passenger comes first. Currently, he has seventy taxis registered under the One Leg Network. Ten of his drivers are physically disabled while the other sixty are physically fit. The business has a mobile application where customers can request for a taxi.
This year, Mr. Wafula got his big breakthrough after winning the KCB Lions’ Den challenge. He is credited as the biggest winner in the show’s history after correctly picking all the five lions. Since his big win, KCB has been doing a follow up on him to check how his business is performing. One Leg Network is still picking up the pace in the market since it is relatively unknown. He plans on upgrading the type of cars his drivers use to bring more prestige and to the business. Additionally, he plans on creating more opportunities for the physically challenged in the near future. He concludes by saying: “One Leg Network is not just for the physically challenged people. We are an all inclusive business. I will continue to hold the hands of young people and help them build a future for themselves. With dedication and passion for what we do, we can move to greater heights.”
TIPS FOR STARTING YOUR OWN BUSINESS
- Conduct as much market research as possible;
- Network with successful entrepreneurs;
- Find a mentor – possibly in your line of business;
- Set your financial priorities right;
- Be passionate and resilient;
- Formalize your business.