• There is a myth that entrepreneurial success is all about innovative thinking and breakthrough ideas. But the truth is that there is a lot more that goes behind the public scene before you get the recognition and accolades.

    At the age of 32, Eric Kinoti has been listed twice in Kenya’s top 40 under 40 and voted the most influential SME personality at the SOMA Awards. He was also listed in Forbes top 30 under 30.

    Eric is now a proud owner of four companies. Shade Systems (EA) Ltd is his flag ship company that manufactures and supplies luxury tents in East Africa. He boost of an annual turnover that runs into tens of millions. Apart from this he owns Alma Tents which is a tent hiring company, Bag Base Kenya Ltd, a company that manufactures bags using cutaway canvas that come from the tent manufacturing process. As if this is not enough he also owns Safi Sana Home Services, a professional cleaning services company.

    His interest in business started early. At the young age of 10, he regularly assisted his father as a cashier in a wholesale shop they owned. Apart from this he would sell sweets, cakes, and salt to his schoolmates.

    Eric recalls on how he was not selective in terms of the type of jobs he did. To him, all he needed was something that would give him an income. His entrepreneurial journey truly begun after he completed college.

    He worked as a cashier in a hotel in Malindi. Since he worked in the night shift, he used to spend the day buying and distributing eggs around Malindi town. A few years later, he moved to Nairobi where I distributed milk to hotels in the city.

    “My breakthrough came from an unlikely meeting with a client who did not want me to supply him the usual foodstuff or milk. He wanted a tent for an outdoor event. I did it successfully and the experience was a revelation. So with all my savings, I ventured into tent manufacturing. Several years later and through a lot of effort, my company, Shade Systems (EA) Ltd has clients all over the African continent and is one of the leading suppliers of all kinds of tents, gazebos, shades and bouncing castles,” Eric said.

    As much as Eric earns millions of shillings, he does not see himself as a boss. “I deal a lot with young people. You can’t boss them. I mentor them in entrepreneurship and also impart life skills into them, something that in my younger/starting years, I had no one to do to me,” Eric noted.

    Eric added that one of his biggest goals is to help as many entrepreneurs as possible to succeed. From the challenges he faced, he recognizes the importance of mentorship and how important it is to inspire and guide young people venturing into business.

    His advice to people who want to venture into business is that they should be passionate about their business, be risk takers, remain focused, be patient, and be team players.

    Eric notes that, entrepreneurs are an optimistic bunch, and it’s very hard for them to believe that they are not good at certain things. Consequently, it takes a lot of soul searching for them to find their own core skills and strengths.

    He adds that when hiring, find the smartest people who complement your strengths. It’s easy to get attracted to people who are like you; the trick is to find people who are not like you but who are good at what they do and what you can’t do.

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