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Saturday, 15 June 2013

A Must Read: Young Kenyan Who Made His First Million at Only 22Years - Learn Also of His Greatest Business Mistake

Harry Karanja : Image Courtesy
Motivational: Harry Karanja joined the millionaires club at only 22 when he and his partner Stephen Alala landed big deals from the State (KenyaLaw.org) for selling desktop and on line versions of the digitalized Kenyan Laws.
Using the proceeds, the duo set up the Genius Business Centre in 2005 to provide affordable office solutions to start up companies. The company has hosted over five hundred business start-ups and
early stage enterprise.

Dorcas Karuana spoke to Harry Karanja and here what he had to say.
1. Tell me about yourself?
I am country boy who grew up in Nakuru. At one point I went to the USA and studied in Texas for 4 years when my mum was on a master’s scholarship. I however
had no dream to study there as I believed Kenya is as good and even better
2. In the olden days, everybody wanted to be a teacher, hostess, nurse, e.t.c what drove you to study law?
I had about 40 different career paths to follow which can be achieved through business. But when I joined Nairobi University I wanted to study Architecture which I did not qualify. I tried Computer Science as I was doing a diploma in Computer Science but was not impressed by the department. I then settled for law where my friends were.

3. How was your transition from campus to the job market those days?
At 18 I took up an unpaid internship at the Strathmore College while I was a first year and I only had 1,000 to last the entire December vacation. This small money had to cater for meals, accommodation and transport to up country. I negotiated with a hostel owner to put me up in an almost closet sized space with one meal a day at Sh500. I would buy an avocado to supplement the meal. Sometimes at lunch time when my friends went to the cafeteria, I stayed behind at the computer lab to continue ‘working’ but really it was because I had no lunch money.

While in second year, I entered into business with a partner. By the time I completed studies the centre, Genius Executives was already up.

4. Being a lawyer by profession what drove you into entrepreneurship?
While at the University, a lecturer asked us to come with a copy of an ACT of parliament but since it was then only available in Government Press, I failed to get one and was thrown out of class. Being an IT professional, I borrowed someone’s copy and scanned it and stored it in my computer.

Later, I asked myself, “Why not have all the laws in soft?” This bore the Soft Law Company that started in a cyber where we digitized the 50,000 pages of text for Laws of Kenya and put it on a site (lawsofkenya.com) where users would download it at a fee. My partner a former Standard Group newspaper Agent already had the networks and them in our distribution.

The judiciary later bought the site

5. It is said that you made your first million at 22years. How did you do it?
I made my first million after a year’s collective sales of the Soft Laws.

6. How did you start Genius Executives Ltd?
Having been hosted in a cyber when I started Soft Laws, I saw the challenges faced by young people who want to start their business. I therefore rented one big office to set up office spaces to host such young business entrepreneurs instead of giving up.

7. How many businesses have gone through Genius Executives?
With a capacity of holding 50 businesses at the same time, Genius Executives has hosted 900 businesses since it started.

8. What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your business while starting up?
Initially there was a high turnover since the entrepreneurs we attracted did not have sustainable business. However, we now charge a one month deposit for space to ensure there is sustainability.

9. What services do you deal with?
In the business support center, we have Genius Center which sublets office space as well as business registration services. In addition, we offer consultancy services to foreign investors

We also have EVA that supports businesses in personal/ administrative assistant duties via telephone and internet.

10. You have been in business for the last 6 years. How much is your company worth now?
My worth is in the value in people who have benefited from Genius Executives. Since 2003 I have employed over 200 people and hosted more than 900 businesses.

11. Most successful entrepreneurs do not say about mistakes they made but only give their success story. What is the one biggest mistake you have ever made as the Managing Director of Genius Executives?
I made a bad investment in 2007. (Laughs) It is like a man leaving his first wife to go for a young one only to come back when it doesn’t work. I took my eyes off Genius Executives and put most of my efforts in another business of offshore trading and CFD’s trainings that had centers in Mombasa and Buruburu and it affected Genius executives.

In 2008 the business made great loss during and after the general elections and Genius Center was not doing so well as I least concentrated on it. I had to close and come back to the Center that at least had a constant income.

12. What is your future plan in the next 5years to come?
I plan to set up a foundation on Youth Entrepreneurship as part of charity work.

13. What would you advice young entrepreneurs who are venturing into business?
Follow your passion in business and do not copy business of someone because s/he has succeeded. In business you will fail more times than you are going to succeed. However, do not look for quick money and never give up hope for the day before you see success.

14. What does it take to be a successful entrepreneur?
It takes passion and perseverance.

15. What inspires you?
(Laughs)My inspiration has a concept of a chef who creates a meal right from the recipes, cooks it to completion and gets fulfilled when people are enjoying a good meal. I am inspired by visualizing an idea coming together and working then it helps others.

16. If you ever practiced law in courts what would you be?
I would definitely be a criminal lawyer or a prosecutor like. Criminal law has much drama and requires dichotomy of thinking.

17. Do you regret studying law? How has it helped you in your business?
I have no regrets for studying law. In fact it helps in innovative business as Law makes you think in a certain way.

Dorcas is a Recruitment Officer. Corporate Staffing Services. ......Courtesy of Career Point Kenya

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