He sighted a need in the transport industry, partnered with Caritas Microfinance Bank and is now bulging with fruition
By Caroline Mwendwa
Giving a solution to a problem people are facing is what constitutes a successful business. Emmanuel Kang’ethe, a graduate of Chang Tao Institute with specialty in Animation must have had this intention when he ventured in the transport industry. After working for the Kenya Television Network a few months after graduation, this young lad discovered an opportunity. School transport in most neighbourhoods in Nairobi was insufficient. Parents seemed to be experiencing a challenge when it came to a convenient means of moving their children to and from school. This was an alarm to the entrepreneurial side of Kang’ethe. He felt that within this gap lay his fortune, and indeed it did. In the year 2012, he quit employment to strategise on how to tap into this already existing market and founded Wimpy Kids School Transport Services.
“I started with one van, a 14 seater, which I bought with my savings,” he explains. Kang’ethe target was mostly the kindergarten and primary school going children. However, the beginning was not as rosy as one would imagine. “I began with just one kid but through referrals and word of mouth, more and more parents were approaching the company and today, the demand is way more than the vans available for transport. From one van, Kang’ethe acquired three more vans. As the children increased, he brought in drivers and minders who are responsible for helping the children settle in the vans and alight safely.
Engagement with Caritas
“At the point when I needed to add the vans, I experienced financial hitches. Luckily, a friend told me about Caritas Microfinance Bank, who give loans at relatively low interest rates compared to mainstream banks,” says Kang’ethe. From Caritas, Kang’ethe was able to acquire a loan worth 2 million to buy the third van.
Kang’ethe expresses his appreciation for the relationship he enjoys with Caritas. “They have become like family to me. Whenever I need assistance, there are no bureaucracies to struggle with, they are easy to contact and even friendly to interact with.” He also points out that Caritas Microfinance Bank is a bank for all despite its Catholic origin. “I see Muslim clients and other religious groups are also part of the bank. I think what draws them is the nature of the staff there and the terms of service which are easy and friendly. The rates are also an attractive package,” he says. On this account, Kang’ethe intends to maintain partnership with Caritas Microfinance Bank as it has helped his business grow without strain.
About the business
Wimpy Kids Transport Services operates along Waiyaki way, Lavington and Kileleshwa. Kang’ethe explains that it is easier to operate in areas close to where the company is based for easier management. He has been able to market his business mostly through referrals, social media, door to door and also the friendly nature of his employees.
As would be expected, running such a business requires that the drivers and minders are conscious of the delicate nature of handling children especially on the roads, when they alight and board the vans. “To ensure that these standards are maintained, I ensure that every morning I meet all the drivers, before and after the trips, mostly to inquire if there has been any incident that would require addressing. I also keep close contact with the parents, teachers and children to ensure they are comfortable and content with our services.” Kang’ethe however states that the exposure of the children is crucial. “Most of the children that I deal with are from the affluent communities and are expressive which helps in tracking reports on their experiences with our staff and their trips in general,” he adds.
The termly fees per child is between Sh10,500 to Sh21,500 per term depending on the distance being covered. At the moment, Wimpy Kids Transport Services offers transport services to children in: Kianda School, Strathmore, Loreto Convent Msongari, Shani Schools and Makini Schools. The business has grown to an extent that the vans get overbooked. “Parents who want tosecure space with us have to book a year before since within the year, all seats are usually booked.” He adds that whenever he is overwhelmed he has friends offering similar services to whom he can refer parents.
Just like any other business, School transport comes with its own hurdles. One of the challenges that Kang’ethe has to deal with is unexpected change on the part of his clients. “Sometimes children transfer to other schools or even move to other homes without informing us, and this can be costly on our part as finding a new pupil within a term or even a year is usually hard. At such times, parents are already on other transport plans for which they have already paid,” he explains.
Kang’ethe hires out the vans during weekends for safaris, hikes and outdoor events. “Since during the weekends the vans are free, I have tapped in the opportunity of providing other services especially with corporates and other entities who need transport to predetermined destinations.” Kang’ethe has worked with A- Team Safaris, Alvana Safaris and Kiplit Safaris in such opportunities.
A standard trip goes for approximately Sh12, 000 but this is liable to change. Kang’ethe says that this business is profitable but complains of the unfair competition in the market. “One of the major challenges I am facing with offering transport during weekends, is the unregulated competition. Certain service providers have an upper hand, just by the virtue of belonging to a certain company whose prices are considerably low.” To stay afloat, he advises entrepreneurs in this trade to stick to pricing and recommends policies by the government that can accommodate everyone who wishes to take part in business. Another challenge in his trade is the high costs he has to cater for including insurance, vehicle maintenance, licensing among other costs. This notwithstanding, he finds running these businesses satisfying and even aspires to expand to other markets.
Another side business Kang’ethe runs is doing graphics and design. Having acquired these skills from his college education, Kang’ethe sometimes uses these skills to get more revenue. “I make logos and business cards for individuals and organizations whenever an opportunity presents itself,” he quips.
Since he has already invested in transport, all he needs to do now is diversify the business. That is why he aspires to venture into transporting goods through importing and exporting regionally. “I see potential in this and that is my next plan,” he says. In addition, he plans to venture in other major transportation vehicles such as trucks and saloon cars.
Kang’ethe’s experience in business has taught him the benefits of patience. “People need to know that ‘start small and grow’ is not just a statement, it actually pays off to practise.” He has come to appreciate the joy of being self-employed which guarantees freedom and decisiveness. “When one is self-employed, they have opportunities of re-inventing themselves every day to make the best out of themselves.”
To unwind, Kang’ethe goes for hiking and swimming. He also travels in many occasions since he drives one of the vans.