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25/04/2013

Making Zetech College A Reality- Founder tells his inspiring story.

Adapted from Career Point Kenya: There is something about pick me up stories. On a bad day when you don’t seem to see the light at the end of the tunnel (career) they give you hope that someday you too will make it. As a young boy, Engineer Ken Mbiuki reared rabbits to make some little money. Today, he owns Zetech College, one of the most successful colleges in Kenya.

In 1997, Ken Mbiuki, then an engineering student, turned his hostel room into a computer training class. Fifteen years later, the dream that started in Room 316 Hall 13 at the University of Nairobi has
grown into an educational empire. That dream is Zetech College.
So, how did he do it...He spoke to Kingori Choto and below is an excerpt of that interview.

What do your attribute your success to?
I have been an entrepreneur since I was young. I believe my success in business is rooted in a personal drive that comes naturally.

He also attributes his success to flair for marketing.  “Selling has always appealed to me,” he says.

When did you begin your journey?
“After completing Form Four, I reared pigs and supplied pork to the local butchery.  I also won a contract to supply construction materials to the Kenya Tea Development Authority and this made me some good money,” Mbiuki says.

He kept part of the money and gave the rest to his mother to start a hardware shop back at home. But upon joining the University of Nairobi in 1994, he decided to enrol in an information management course at Strathmore College.

When was your turning point?
As a second year student, he bought a computer and started training fellow students. That time use of computers was not widespread as they are today.

At the university, his computer packages were in high demand. He named his business, Zenith Technology and was operating from Hall 13 room 316. As the business grew, the university administration leased him a small room at the student’s centre to provide typing services.

What happened after University of Nairobi?

After graduating in 1999, he rented a small office space in Summit House on Moi Avenue in Nairobi where he launched Zetech — short for Zenith Technologies College. He had only three students and offered mainly computer courses.

How did you get your start-up capital?

Interestingly, he has never had problems with raising capital for his ventures unlike many young entrepreneurs who have to endure seeing their dreams shattered for lack of starting cash.

How was that possible?

He says employment kills business initiative. Nonetheless, he was once employed before. A few months after graduating, he landed a job with Caterpillar as a sales manager.

Mbiuki says his experience at the job gave him the chance to hone his marketing skills by combining these with his technical background as an engineer. It also helped him access loans from Barclays Bank to develop his ventures.

Barclays gave him his first loan of Sh1.5 million in 2004 to expand his college.
“Barclays were and have always been very supportive whenever I needed money,” he says.

How did the business take up?
Within two years, the college was growing fast and so we decided to expand the product range to include business studies, hotel management and mass communication,” Mbiuki says.

What is your key ingredient of attaining success?
Mbiuki considers delegation to be one of the fundamental requirements of business success. “Managing people is one of the biggest challenges to a modern entrepreneur given that one cannot do everything.”

What challenges have you faced?

It has not however been smooth sailing all the way for the young businessman with competition ranking as a top a challenge.

“Beginning 2003, people started to invest very seriously in learning institutions like colleges. The increase in number of such institutions sparked off intense competition. We had to innovate to survive,” recounts Mbiuki. Again, he says, his skills in marketing have come in handy.

Who do you admire most in business?
Mbiuki considers the late Dhirubhai Ambani, the visionary Indian entrepreneur who founded the Reliance Group of Companies as the business figure he most admires.

“The late Ambani built one of the largest fortunes in the world by taking risks, trusting employees and delegating. These are enviable traits,” he says.

What else does Ken Mbiuki do when not running Zetech?
Besides Zetech, he runs Finken, an engineering consultancy firm specialising in projects in the manufacturing and energy sectors.

What do you do to relax?
Mbiuki reads and jogs. He loves reading business literature to acquaint himself with new trends and ideas.

He started with only one student. Today, Zetech has soared to seven campuses, more than seven thousand students, and is constructing a Sh400 million campus in Ruiru in the outskirts of Nairobi city.

Zetech College currently has six campuses within Kenya's capital city of Nairobi. Five of these Campuses are located within the Central Business District and one, which is the College Head Office, in Nairobi's Westlands Suburb.
•    Westlands Campus – Reliance Centre
•    Pioneer Campus – Pioneer House
•    Summit Campus – Summit House
•    Agriculture Campus - Agriculture House
•    Hamilton Campus - Hamilton House
•    Stanbank Campus - Stanbank House.

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