From Wachiuri and his company Optiven
NAIROBI, Kenya, December 29 – If you have purchased and read George Wachiuri’s “Soar like an Eagle” book and have not cried, the author asks you to contact him and ask for your money back.
The serial entrepreneur, motivational speaker and most recently a “big guy” on Twitter, says his life story, as it is articulated in the book, is so moving it will make even the man cry. stronger.
“My father died when I was very young. My mom had to play both roles to keep us going, ”Wachiuri tells me as we begin our entrepreneurship interview.
True, Wachiuri also went to bed hungry and dropped out of school once or twice. As a teenager, he held odd jobs like selling onions before entering the business world while studying for his Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of Nairobi, Lower Kabete Campus in the 1990s.
“I used to wash clothes for a fee for my colleagues at school. For an extra room, I would iron their clothes. It gave me much needed maintenance money.
After graduating, Wachiuri went on to register Optiven Limited in 1997, a real estate company that didn’t make a profit until almost ten years later.
In between, he struggled with more than ten companies. They all failed.
“I tried my hand at the cosmetics business because I had heard that they brought in a lot of money. I was basically doing shampoos and hair conditioners. It didn’t go very well. ”
Among the many companies, another was car rental services. Here he lost about five million, the majority of the cash being acquired through loans. “I also had a supply business. My business partner scammed me a lot of money. He disappeared without a trace.
It taught him one of the many entrepreneurial lessons he shared with me, “start a business with people you can trust”.
So, has it ever been used in the first place? “Yes, as an accountant I was fired at one point. “
He also worked at the United Nations, which, he says, sowed in him the seeds of philanthropy and a passion for the environment.
He is therefore the embodiment of true resistance.
Optiven, the real estate company he registered after university, will only officially open its doors in 2008. His idea was simple, to buy land, develop it and then sell it to the public.
“The company was born from a partnership between my wife, my brother and me. We acquire land, develop it and then sell it. In developing it, we basically drill boreholes, build roads, connect electricity and ensure that there are necessities such as security and major social amenities.
Today, the company which he says is worth millions employs around 100 people.
Optiven’s business model is slightly different from what’s available in the market, as Wachiuri puts it. According to the CEO, the company offers value, unlike what most real estate companies do today. Customers buy land in a value-added plot that ends up becoming part of a gated community. Others buy the plots in the hope of reselling them.
The company sells its plots in the one-eighth acre portion with prices ranging from Sh450,000 to Sh1.9million, depending on the location.
The company sold such plots to Kitengela, Ruai and Kamulu. She also sold land to Eldoret and Kajiado with plans for expansion into the counties.
“To date, Optiven has had seventeen successful projects, including a 40-acre project,” Wachiuri said.
The company’s smallest project is 15 acres while the largest – the Shekinah project in Kajiado – is 100 acres.
Buyers have the option of building their own home or having Optiven Construction, a branch of the company, do the construction for them.
Properties win the hearts of many for reasons such as flexible payment methods which include payment in installments over a period of up to two years. People can also buy plots in groups such as family groups, “chamas” or friends.
What is the company doing to escape competition?
“I don’t worry about the competition; it is the least of my worries. The country is in a housing crisis. In Nairobi alone 80 percent of the people don’t own their own land, that means the pie is really big for all of us, ”says Wachiuri. He says, however, that the company’s values are however what gives it leverage over others, which includes customer service.
True to its words, Optiven was named Kenya’s Best Customer Care and Marketing Company at this year’s Company of the Year (COYA) awards.
According to him, the company wants to do more than just “host” Kenya and make money.
She therefore created the Optiven Foundation, which seeks to give back to society. According to Wachiuri, one of the foundation’s visions is to make an impact in the country and beyond.
“The Optiven Foundation seeks to address four areas. These are the eradication of poverty, the environment, health and education.
To do this, the foundation supports the orphanage of Soweto which welcomes HIV-positive children. It also supports the elderly in retirement homes in Kitui and Siaya. He hopes the model will be replicated in all counties.
Wachiuri also says the foundation invests in young people by educating the less privileged in society, a move inspired by the issues he faced growing up with a thirst for an education.
“We also seek to preserve the environment. As a result, we aim to plant one million trees per year over the next five years. ”
A convinced Christian, Wachiuri does not hesitate to talk about his faith. According to him, his Christian faith is his greatest blessing. In fact, Wachiuri admits that if he wasn’t in real estate, he would be a pastor.
He’s not afraid to discuss what it’s like to be married to his business partner who is also the CEO of Optiven.
“You literally spend all day at the office with your wife and then come home with her, doesn’t that get boring?” I ask him, which he laughs at first before answering; “No, it doesn’t get boring. This is actually a good thing; it complements my strengths and knows my weaknesses. She also better understands the vision of the company. It makes her the best business partner I could ask for. We also know our limits, we separate work from business.
So what is his advice to people, especially young men, who may admire him? “Don’t be afraid to get married early. If you meet someone you love and have similar goals, go ahead, it’s easier to build a lasting relationship with someone when you have nothing, than when you have. . Plus, is there anything like being successful and completely satisfied in life? »Asks the father of three children in conclusion.