Is college education all you need to succeed?

One entrepreneur did not go past primaryThese young Kenyans did not go past secondary school, but are running well-to-do businesses. Lack of a college degree, they say, shouldn’t hinder you from achieving your dreams.

Tony owns Antelox Agency, a branding and digital agency that offers web designing and digital branding services. On average, his business earns him Sh200,000 a month.

Tony did not go past primary school. The only academic papers he has is his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education certificate, which reflects a poor score of 185 marks out of a possible 500 marks.

“My mother did not have a stable income, and was therefore unable to send me to secondary school. I was industrious from a young age though – for instance, while in class four, I would collect firewood on my way from school and sell it in the market at Sh50 a bundle the following morning before heading to class. I would hand over this money to my mum, a single parent of eight. After primary school, through the help of an uncle, I ventured into the water vending business. After two years and with only Sh1, 500 savings to show for my hard work, I decided to leave home, Riakanau village in Embu county, for Mwea town in pursuit of something more fulfilling and better paying. I was 17 then. I tried my hand at carpentry while living with a friend, and later, repairing and fixing tires under the tutelage of a brother-in-law who offered me shelter in exchange of my services. I worked for him for two years until some bodaboda operators, who had observed my diligence, offered me a loan of Sh46, 000 to start my own tire repair business.

In 2013, I set up shop, and would make an average of Sh1,500 a day. The business did so well, that I was able to repay the loan in just two months and rent a bigger space.

I even got myself a smartphone! Fascinated by the many things I could do with the phone, I bought a computer.

Unfortunately, I focused too much on the wonders I could accomplish with this piece of technology, I neglected my business, and was forced to close down in mid-2014 since I could no longer manage to pay rent for the business premises.

Challenges: My main challenge was poor money management. For instance, I moved from a house that cost Sh4, 000 a month to one that cost me Sh8, 500, rent I struggled to pay.

Once, I ended up losing all my household items because I couldn’t raise rent for three months. That was my moment of introspection – I resolved to be careful with how I spent my money. I also learnt that when you get into a comfort zone, you lack the hunger to learn and grow.

How I got back on my feet:  After my business went down, I moved in with one of my sisters. While here, I made friends with a man that ran a cyber café nearby, and taught myself coding.

One day, a client who often found me found me dabbling with a computer asked if I could design a website for him.

I had no idea how to go about it, but I immediately said yes. Using Google, YouTube tutorials and some computer science books I purchased on Amazon, I was able to deliver the job in a week.

I charged the client Sh50, 000. Amazed by what I had achieved, I registered Antelox and started offering web designing services.

My turnaround came early this year when I was referred to a client from Cameroon who saw my potential and offered me a loan of Sh100,000, to be repaid in two months’ time.

I used part of the money to advertise my work through Facebook sponsored posts and OLX, an online market marketplace. Within one month, I had managed to bag 15 clients and was able to repay the loan within a month.

I work from home, and when the need arises, I hire freelancers through online platforms such as Upwork. The number of freelancers I hire depends on the load of work I am handling at any given time.

My rate for creating and designing a basic website is Sh15, 000 though advanced websites cost more.

Lessons learnt: I have made many mistakes in my entrepreneurship journey, such as spending more than I saved and getting too comfortable – and no, lack of a secondary or college education is not to blame for any of these mistakes. That is not to say that I don’t value education, however, I believe that when you believe in yourself, you can make something out of your life, highly educated or not.


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