Eusebia Warue Mwaniki is a former Human Resource Manager for a publishing company. She ventured into a furnished rental homes business immediately after her retirement from the publishing house.
Born on 23rd October in 1950 in Embu County, Eusebia lives and runs Rosslyn Studios from home, a rental business called located in Rosslyn Hill along Limuru Road, opposite the largest mall in Eastern and Central Africa, Two Rivers Mall.
The couple has five children. Their first born Karimi George lives in the UK with her husband Tony George and their twin girls. Cherie Muthoni lives and works in Australia. Raymond Mwaniki, the only son and pilot in the family, lives in Nairobi with his wife, Nish Mwaniki. Grace Igandu who has completed her university education, works online as a Communications Consultant while their last born, Joy Muthanje is completing her post-graduate studies in South Africa.
As a way of giving back to the society and saying ‘Thank you’ to God for His mercies in their lives, Eusebia and her husband are involved in a World-wide Catholic counselling program called the ‘Marriage Encounter’.
“I take it as an apostolic ministry because the Lord expects us to be our brother’s keeper. I have been counseling and mentoring people voluntarily together with my husband from 1983 to date. We have counseled people from all over Kenya and the diaspora,” says Eusebia.
She is also the founder of Basket of Hope, a local Community Based Organisation (CBO) whose mandate is to link needy people with Good Samaritans. She has been able to assist lots of people and a most recent case involves eight children from impoverished families whom she assisted to get donors; who sponsored their education and boarding at Early Bird Academy in Ngecha, Kiambu County.
Due to her endeavours of bringing a positive change into people’s lives, Eusebia has received several awards including the ‘Inspirational Women of the Year award-2015’ in Embu County, through the Office of the President.
Additionally, she has been recognized by UNEP for her passion in conserving the environment. Her compound in Rosslyn is surrounded by beautiful indigenous trees which she has been planting for years. Monkeys and birds have also found a home in her beautiful compound.
Eusebia shares her entrepreneurial journey, a dream she nurtured for many years and one she is now living.
When and how did you start your business, and how much capital did you invest in it?
I ventured into business after retiring from my job at the Oxford University Press –East Africa where I was a Human Resource Manager. I took a large portion of my retirement package, which was four million shillings and started my own enterprise.
At that time it didn’t look much but I was determined to make the best out of this package. I involved people who had skills in building and construction and they helped put up 12 self-contained houses that I rented out. I made sure that we offered tenants services that they couldn’t find elsewhere.
In order to complete these housing units, I secured a loan from Barclays Bank and Kenya Women Finance Trust. Armed with the belief that I would make it in my endeavors and be able to repay all my loans on time, the number of people who were willing to assist me got me excited.
Before starting out, I took some time to scout around my neighborhood; which stretches from Rosslyn, all the way to Gigiri , where the United Nations offices and some embassies are situated. I also scouted around Runda Estate and the Aga Khan Hospital, to find out which business could work out well for me.
I found out that many foreigners who come to work in the area did not have ideal and affordable places to stay, at the time. They wanted secure and clean, yet affordable accommodation while transiting from one point to another in their work related schedules; a home away from home.
I grabbed this opportunity and sold my idea to a few banks. They agreed to loan me some money to top-up on what I had initially and this enabled me to implement my idea. Upon completion, new clients were ready to rent the rooms. The current rates are Ksh.5,200 per night for a single bedroom studio and Ksh.10,000 for a double bedroom villa.
What was your motivation for starting your business?
My motivation for starting this operation was because I wanted to invest my retirement money wisely by investing in a long-term project. Besides, I saw a gap in the market that needed to be filled.
Did family members play a part in your business?
Yes, my family has played a major role. My children have partnered with me through the sharing of progressive ideas and supporting me financially to ensure that the business remains successful. They also handle the customer care and technology aspects of the business.
What’s the biggest hurdle you faced in the process of growing your business and how did you overcome it?
The biggest hurdle I encountered was the fact that I came from a publishing firm that sells books and had no prior experience in real estate or being a land-lady. Some people were not quite at home with my idea, concerned that I might not be able to service the loans. Others were afraid that the business may not do well and that intended guests might not show-up.
When I started the rentals in 2009, others feared that I might be negatively affected by the previous election hurdles and conflict of 2007. Some of the banks that I approached were concerned that I didn’t have any collateral because, like a lot of women, I didn’t have any title deed in my name. For that reason, I was determined to persuade the banks that I was a woman of integrity and to give my dream a chance, which they did.
What is your best advice on sourcing for funds and cash flow management?
My advice to business women is to always have integrity. Cash flow management is about knowing how much money you have for business and how much profit you are making, after taking care of the expenses.
What is the wisest way to invest the profits of your business?
One should be on the lookout for genuine ways to make your money work for you. This is through buying of treasury bonds among others. Just monitor which direction your money is going and one good way it to watch business talk shows on TV or listen to them on radio. Grab such opportunities and invest in them.
Any mistakes you may have made that helped you move to the next level?
One of the major mistakes I made that affected my business at some point was delegating my roles to my staff as I ran other errands. This was not received well by some of my clients who insisted on being served by myself. I rectified the mistake by being more present in my establishment and carried on improving it.
What keeps you motivated and grounded in your work?
My early morning devotions that keep me on check spiritually. I always start my day with prayers and a time of meditation before God. I also feel very encouraged when my clients are happy. In fact, my long-term tenants have nicknamed Rosslyn Studios, another ‘UN compound’ because it attracts a number of international clients and also for the top notch service we offer. One tenant, who is quite artistic did a beautiful painting for the unit she was staying in, as she was vacating,to return to her country. Such small gestures mean a lot to me.
How do you market your business and what works best for you?
I market my business through family members,who handle the social media marketing and also via our website. I also find that referrals and word of mouth work well. My customers come from all nationalities and cultures, across the globe.
Have you ever felt like throwing in the towel?
Yes, I remember a time when many foreigners were not coming into our country as it was Kenya’s election period. Most of the rental units were empty and I was running high bills, while trying to maintain the place. However, I kept the faith during this difficult time.It also taught me that it is always good to stand up to challenges that come our way as we find means of mitigating them.
How do you source for your staff and keep them motivated?
In most cases, it is my senior staff who bring me new employees when needed, something I have come to value. They normally bring in people who are trustworthy and excited about working here.
Once I receive new staff members, I start training them while on the job by showing them how things are done; such as cleaning and airing of the rooms, making the beds neatly and greeting clients with a warm smile.
I believe it is important to acknowledge one’s staff when they do a good job. So I often give them a compliment on their strengths and let them know when a client is happy with the service provided. Additionally, during busy seasons like Easter and Christmas periods, I give the staff bonuses and gifts as a sign of my appreciation.
How do you rank your business achievement? Do you feel like you have attained your goals or are yet to get there?
I feel that I have excelled in my business goals by the grace of God. As a result of this success, I have been able to start a real estate company, Outback Consultancy Ltd, whose mandate is to connect sellers of plots and prime land with customers. This company is growing and attracting new customers each day.
When should an entrepreneur start earning a salary from the revenues of her business?
An entrepreneurial woman should first pay off one’s debts and commitments before paying herself. At the same time, she should spare some of the profit money to reinvest back into her business. Don’t eat everything. Continue channeling some of the money back into your venture, so that one day the business will work for you instead of you working for it.
What fresh opportunities do you see in business today?
There are always new opportunities around us. It is upon us to identify and go for them. For example, we now have the Two Rivers Mall that is one of the largest malls in Kenya. It has provided jobs for many people living in the nearby environs and caters to the growing middle-class Kenyans who can afford to shop or eat out at a mall.
I would urge business people to look out for fresh opportunities coming up, wherever they are, like language schools, specialized restaurants etc. It is good to be on the look-out because there is always something that someone needs and you could supply it.
What are you reading (on and offline) e.g. watching TV, listening to radio, recordings or reading online?
I am currently reading Joyce Meyers’ devotional book that has helped me with my daily devotions and keeps me inspired. I also enjoy watching TV programs on leadership and business, that allow me to identify opportunities currently available in Kenya, East Africa and across the globe.
What is your favourite dish?
My favourite dish is red snapper fish with Ugali and Sukuma. I also love Pilau and Mukimo.
How do you unwind?
I like attending house fellowship prayers in our neighborhood. From time to time, I also host the prayer group in my house for fellowship. I also attend my ladies’ chama (investment club) meetings once a month, where I get to mingle with other driven and business-minded women.
My husband and I make time to go to the theatre once in a while and watch a play. And together, with our family, we take our annual holiday either locally or abroad. I also love swinging in my backyard and having a relaxed time alone during quiet moments.
Please give us some tips for balancing work and private life?
I would start by saying that we were born to serve God and I like having fun and enjoying myself and glorifying Him in all that I do. I would encourage the enterprising women to take some time to unwind and reflect. Let her manage her time in a profitable way and do her best every day.
Where do you see your business in 10, 20 years from now?
Rosslyn Studios shall become a well-recognised business and a source of livelihood for my children, grandchildren, and their children all down the generations. My business shall expand in leaps and bounds. Even though we are doing well currently, it is still work in progress.
What is the most important advice you would give to a budding entrepreneur?
First of all have a dream and work on that dream. Let people critic it positively but do not allow them to take it from you or discourage you. Admit when you make mistakes, pick yourself up and move on towards achieving your vision.
Her parting shot
Never be afraid to dream big because your dreams are valid, if you pursue them.
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Photos curtesy of Rosslyn Studios