How This African Entrepreneur Silently Built A Business Worth Over $100 Million Dollars
Some of the most inspiring success stories are borne from entrepreneurs who had no idea they would someday find themselves starting, running, and growing an enterprise that wouldn’t just succeed in its home country, but would spread its tentacles to other places around the world.
This is the success story of Humphrey Kariuki Ndegwa, a Kenyan entrepreneur who first started his career in the corporate world, rose in the ranks, but finally came to the realisation that he wasn’t cut out for paid employment, causing him to eventually quit his job to start a business that would someday grow to be worth over $100 million dollars.
Here’s how he did it:
The Early Life And Education Of Humphrey Kariuki Ndegwa
Humphrey Kariuki Ndegwa was born on August 28th, 1957, in Nyeri County in the central highlands of Kenya to a family of 10 children and was one of his father’s six sons who had a modest lifestyle growing up in the rural areas.
In his early life, Humphrey Kariuki Ndegwa would wake up early in the morning with his siblings to milk the cattle and feed the animals before getting set to go to school. Despite the location of his school being 3 kilometers away, Humphrey Kariuki Ndegwa would usually run to and from school, without using any form of public transportation.
After finishing his O’ Levels in Nairobi, he proceeded to Kagumo High School for his A’ levels. But while undergoing his education, Humphrey Kariuki Ndegwa, 19 years old at the time, experienced a break of 8 months, during which he got a job with the help of some members of his family to work for the Central Bank of Kenya.
His first job role was that of a clerical staff, after which he went on to work for several other departments like the Export department, the Foreign Exchange department, and the Imports department. All in the Central Bank of Kenya.
While working for the Central Bank of Kenya provided a comfortable lifestyle for Humphrey Kariuki Ndegwa, it didn’t take him too long to figure out that he never liked been subservient to other people. And this realization caused him to chart a new course towards entrepreneurship.
His First Venture
During a break from work with the Central Bank of Kenya, Humphrey Kariuki Ndegwa took a trip to the United Kingdom to visit his sister. She had been trying to sell a car she owned in Norwich for a while to no success. Seeing an opportunity, Humphrey offered to help her sell it back in Kenya only if she would allow him to travel back with it, which she did.
Upon returning to Kenya with the car, Humphrey Kariuki Ndegwa would drive around with it in search of a buyer. One day, someone left a note on the car asking to be called. After he dialed the phone number, he realized it was a British who made the inquiry and thought it was a co-British in Nairobi that was trying to sell the car, since it had a sticker with the “City of Norwich” written on it.
After the inquiry and a settled transaction, Humphrey Kariuki Ndegwa was able to sell the car to the British national for 200% of the price his sister was trying to sell the car at.
His successful sale drove him into the automobile business and kept him there for a long time.
The Start & Growth Of A Successful Group Of Companies
After successfully trading automobiles for many years and having saved a lot of money, Humphrey Kariuki Ndegwa went on to found the famous Green Corner restaurant in Kenya, which even former American President Barrack Obama referenced in his memoirs. The restaurant was founded with a bank loan of $15,000 which was repaid quickly within a short period of eight months.
With the success of the restaurant, Humphrey Kariuki Ndegwa went on to start importing wines and beverages, leading to him found another very successful company then called Wines of The World, which is now widely known as WOW Beverages.
His company was the sole distributor in Kenya for many popular wines, whiskeys, and brands from Europe and America.
But relying on being the sole distributor of the various wines wasn’t safe, as the companies could enter the Kenyan market by themselves in the future, which would inevitably ruin his business in the process. To avoid this, Humphrey Kariuki Ndegwa registered a company called African Spirits, moved into the beverage production business, and launched his first flagship product, which was called Blue Moon Vodka, the current fastest-selling local alcoholic brand in Kenya today (2017).
Moving further, African Spirits launched yet another product, Legend, which is also the fastest selling brandy in Kenya today (2017).
The success of the local wines wasn’t just a remarkable sense of achievement for Humphrey Kariuki Ndegwa, but was also a motivation for the company, as it is today (2017) known as the most successful local alcoholic beverage company in Kenya.
After a streak of successful businesses in the restaurant and alcohol niches, Humphrey Kariuki Ndegwa moved into the oil business by becoming an agent of the National Oil Company of Kenya (NOCK). He founded the oil company called Dalbit Petroleum, and with this, he used the opportunity as an agent to purchase oil from the NOCK for delivery to other parts of Kenya.
According to an interview Humphrey Kariuki Ndegwa had with Forbes, he said:
“The government allowed us to buy fuel products from NOCK and distribute internally to other regions in Kenya. The margins were small, but it felt good to be in the oil business. This was in the eighties. I had a couple of friends – the Horsey brothers who owned a construction company called Civicon, and they had a contract with the World Food Programme to distribute water in South Sudan, and to build some of the roads in the country. So I formed a partnership with Civicon, and I set up a small depot in Kaboko border between Ibanga and South Sudan. That was the first place we set up a small depot; it was an 80,000-cubic oil storage facility. So, from Kaboko, we got the Horseys with their 8 by 8s trucks to transport the oil across to Juba and other places in South Sudan. The margins were astronomical. The volumes weren’t much, but the margins were crazy. We were supplying the World Food Programme with oil, and then there was a drought in the country and the WFP was using helicopters to make food drops in South Sudan. We were also supplying the WFP with oil in their airfields in South Sudan, and that’s where we started making the big margins. Within eight years, the roads had been done, and as a result the margins started eroding.”
His oil distribution business today has operations in Sudan, Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Beyond his oil company, Humphrey Kariuki Ndegwa later got awarded a $400 million dollar power tender contract in Mozambique through another company of his which he founded in the year 2008 called Great Lakes Africa Energy.
His Business & Achievements Today
Today, Humphrey Kariuki Ndegwa is not just an accomplished Kenyan multi-millionaire, but is a silent one. He has successfully kept his life private and stayed away from the public eye, while building a business empire in the process.
His businesses employ over 1,000 people, and beyond being an entrepreneur, he has committed himself to the preservation of wildlife in Kenya, by the acquisition of the Game Ranch that is home to the Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy and Animal Orphanage
To Sum It Up
While Humphrey Kariuki Ndegwa’s story may not be of one with an early entrepreneurial knack in his teenage years, his story represents that of millions of people around the world who work for organizations but believe deeply that they’re cut-out to lead their own ventures.
If you find yourself in this dilemma, this success story of Humphrey Kariuki Ndegwa is enough to get you started.
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