What led you to pursue the entrepreneurship path?
I have always pictured myself as an entrepreneur, that has always been my only path. I started biashara in high school officially. I was an amazing artist, so I would draw pictures and sell them to other students. Also growing up watching my dad do business inspired me. My dad was only employed for a single year in his entire life. When I got to university, I would do computer projects for guys in the 3rd and 4th years. I was pretty good at tech and that is how I ended up in tech.
What inspired the idea of herdy?
Herdy had begun long in my mind before it manifested in the physical realm. Immediately after campus, I went into livestock farming. I have always wanted to do livestock farming but we couldn’t afford it and we didn’t have the land. However, we had a garage but we did not have a car so I asked my dad if I could put up a small shed so that I can rear rabbits. I started rabbit farming. I used to sell rabbit meat to friends and family but the business wasn’t scalable as my farm grew pretty quickly and I needed to reach as many people as possible. I started a Facebook page called Farm Gate to sell rabbit meat. Over time I ended up selling to restaurants. As the business grew people demanded a wider variety, so we started adding other types of meat over time, this was in 2015. In 2017 we launched the very first herdy website, we had very little traffic at the beginning like 5 people per week but over time we grew.
One of the key challenges that entrepreneurs face is access to capital, how did you navigate through this challenge?
I am blessed as a salesperson therefore my initial needs weren’t very hard for me in terms of capital. When I started working for Nailab, I was only 3 months into my 6 months internship when I took an interest in the entrepreneurship coaching that was going on at Nailab. I started attending the sessions and there I learned how to pitch and present my business. Sam, the CEO of Nailab, really liked my pitch. He thought it was an interesting business idea and he offered to incubate my business and that is how I got my first round of funding which was about Kshs.3 million. I also got investment from my family members, I pitched the idea to them, and they offered to help. My mum was my biggest investor. She sold the only piece of land she had and gave me half of the money to invest in the business. I think when you start to raise traction in the early days it’s easier to raise money but the older you get as a business it becomes harder because people want to see more significant traction before they invest in your business. Right now, it’s harder to raise money for us than it was then.
What are some of the lessons that you have learned throughout your entrepreneurship journey?
You have to be very hands-on in your business and by this, I do not mean micro-managing. Being hands-on means understanding every aspect of your business. If you are a tech company, you have to understand the tech even if you are not a tech person. It’s paramount to understand how things work in your business. You can’t have a team and delegate everything, even when you delegate you have to manage that process. You have to be almost obsessed with running a business. This has been my most fundamental lesson.
Initially, my goal was to grow as fast as possible but right now my goal is to grow as sustainably as possible. Right now we are more focused on delivering the best customer experience and an amazing product. I am no longer fixated on raising the next round of funding, I am more focused on building a more independent business that is self-sufficient and funded from customer operations. For example, raising one round of funding could take about 8–18 months if you are lucky. Imagine the return on investment of spending 2 years chasing an investor and during that time a lot of things stall in the business, you are no longer focused on customers or the product you are simply chasing deals and reviewing paperwork and in the process, you lose focus and time.
How has the pandemic affected your business?
Lucky for us we are in the grocery space which has always been a necessity. What has changed the mode of delivery. Before people would go to the market to buy groceries, but right now that is not a choice for a lot of people. The situation has been a salvation for people in our space because shopping for groceries online is now the standard. Before shopping for groceries online was considered fashionable. Very soon shopping for groceries online is going to be the norm as people are beginning to see just how efficient it is.
How is it like to run a business in the e-commerce industry?
It is the easiest approach you can ever have. Herdy was founded purely as an online space which is why it has been easy for our team to transition to working from home. We do not need an office space to work; we only need an office space to interact. Having an online space reduces your costs significantly, you don’t have to buy office furniture or even pay for the internet. I believe it’s the most effective way to run a business in this day and age.
What advice would you give to startup founders during these tough times?
My advice would be to follow your gut instinct. For example; we have had a lot of challenges over the past 6 months and we were contemplating shutting down. Every consultant we hired to help us restructure the business told us to close down. Honestly, we felt that was the truth but at the core, I felt the need to fight for the business. I was ready to do that alone even if everyone else walked out and now things are better for us.
Let’s get to know you a bit better; What are some of the things that you do for fun?
I enjoy very basic things in life. I like walking, playing with dogs, I watch a lot of documentaries on wildlife and animals, I sleep a lot, I like to work smart and rest a lot. I will watch tv once or twice a week and I like to make a steak ; I love my meat.
How would you describe yourself?
This question always feels like a trick question but anyway, I am a simple guy, I like things in a particular way, and I enjoy the finer things in life. I am obsessive over things when I want something I will make it happen no matter what. I am very artsy. I like beautiful things. I have no sense of humor; I hardly pick up on jokes. Someone has to break down the joke for me to understand. I am extremely extroverted. I hate elevators as they tend to get awkward.