Njeri Rionge is one of Africa’s leading woman entrepreneur, a pioneer in the ICT sector on the African continent and has been named one of Forbes Most Successful Women. She has actually demonstrated a full capacity of taking up any kind of business and turning it into a success.
Popularly known as “the serial entrepreneur”, Njeri co-founded East Africa’s first mass market oriented Internet service provider (ISP), “Wananchi” Online, which made Internet connectivity affordable for the average household, for the first time in Kenya.
“I thought of Wananchi.com as an easy way to access information via the internet,” she said. She added that her main goal was to bridge the gap between East Africa's educated elite and the rest of the population.
At the time she was launching Wanainchi.com, Njeri notes that many of Kenya’s movers and shakers still had no concept of the opportunities the internet would offer. She faced strong resistance from essential factors such as the government, industry regulators and existing competition.
It is through the challenges and setbacks that Njeri persevered through that made Kenya get the gift of affordable access to the Internet. She was also allowed to expand Wananchi Online into something bigger, which is today known as “The Wananchi Group”. It is now one of the leading providers of broadband internet, cable television and internet-based mobile services in East Africa.
Apart from this she runs Ignite Consulting, a firm that specializes in coaching, strategy facilitation, organizational effectiveness and skills training. Ignite Lifestyle, a health care consultancy; Insite, one of Kenya’s most successful digital marketing companies.
She also heads BusinessLounge; a firm that helps other entrepreneurs to build successful businesses. “The Lounge acts as a business incubator for start-up companies and as a business club for more established firms and individuals,” Njeri said.
Njeri is passionate about startups and does not envision herself sticking to any one project for too long. She believes that Africa is the next economic frontier and is thus motivated to build indigenous organizations that will support this growth. “I build organizations and then hand them over to someone else; that is my type of entrepreneurship,” she confirmed.
All seem to be well with Njeri. Hardly can someone notice that she had humble beginnings and had to work her way to the top. “I grew up in Nairobi, my father was the head architect for the city council of Nairobi and my mother a farmer. My entrepreneurial journey started after I finished high school. I sold yoghurt during school breaks,” Njeri notes.
She later opened up a shop in the back of a friend’s car where she did her hairdressing job. It was during this time that she discovered her mainly wealthy clients wanted more access to luxury goods. Seeing this opportunity, Njeri took economy courier trips to London to buy branded clothing, flew back to Kenya and sold her wares to her clients for a tidy profit.
What keeps her on top the business game is the fact that she remains disciplined and is passionate about her job. She puts consistency as one of factors that helps her open doors that seem impossible and the fact that she is always excited about growth makes her want to achieve more.
Njeri takes no break from her role as serial entrepreneur. She has lived in seven countries apart from Kenya. She is well travelled with countries such as Italy, Canada, Greece, London, Spain and the United States being particularly impactful to her as a businesswoman with a gift for identifying innovations. Her driving force is to develop Africa into the “next big economic miracle”.
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