By Victor Adar
Entrepreneurship is not for the faint-hearted and this is quite evident from the story of Golden Age Publishing, a high growth enterprise run by Karimi Njoka – a journalist who fortuitously stumbled into the rather unexploited field of publishing and writing biographies. His latest title is Robert Burale’s biography ‘From The Strip-club to The Pulpit.’
“I have been doing this for 5 years now,” she says. “I was head over heels with journalism, but after getting a life-changing opportunity to edit books in a publishing firm, I discovered talents I never knew I possessed –catching snugly tucked mistakes that would otherwise elude most people’s eyes. Coupled with great inclination on writing biographies however time-consuming and monotonous they seem to other writers, I knew I would be more resourceful in the publishing industry.”
Her entrepreneurship journey has been sweet and sour. After completing her contract, she set out to look for “unpublished would-be authors,” pitched her proposal to help them pen down their books, oversee content processing, design and layout, and printing. Of course, everyone she met was hesitant because the youthful lady only had a name to show – just appearing on the acknowledgement page of the books she had edited.
“Hell-bent on cutting my teeth in the industry, I gave them an offer they could not resist and did the job so well that they not only came back to publish more books, but also sent referrals my way,” she says.
Unlike in employment where you report to one boss, entrepreneurs report to many, and they are not just bosses, they are kings and queens. Then again, keeping a balance between doing what is right and listening to what clients want is very challenging sometimes, but seeing them enthralled by the end product is always worth it. And as an entrepreneur, you work tenfold harder and you have to make decisions, she says.
Karimi’s insights oscillates well with a study by SAP, an enterprise application software provider, and Endeavor, which shows that Kenya needs to create more than 3.9 million jobs for young people by the year 2020, and that 1.5 million people are currently unemployed, a third of them between the ages of 15 and 24 years. What it means is that more empowerment is needed to accelerate growth and create jobs.
At the same time, Kenya’s workforce is projected to grow by 3.4 million by 2020 mainly because of young adults entering the job market. The good news is that there is light at the end of the tunnel thanks to the growing number of entrepreneurs, which is now at 20% or more a year. Although this is a representation of just 5% of Kenyan firms, they are able to create more than 70% of the total new jobs.
It is against this backdrop that the youthful Golden Age proprietor opened her eyes wide like an eagle keeping her antenna high in a market dominated by big players. She published her first book in 2012. When she set out to do this business venture, she had many challenges and how she dealt with them is what has pushed her to higher heights.
“A myriad challenges, but when I look closely I see lessons. Skills and professionalism have always been my charmers,” she points out.
Her company is based in Nairobi, but thanks to the digital nature of her work, of handling a lot of projects from elsewhere, sometimes without ever meeting the clients in person. Since she started five years ago she has seen an increase in demand for her services, and truly believes that Rome was not built in a day. She had to scratch the ground when the business was at an early stage.
“I had saved up a little prior to end of my contract and was corresponding for a couple of magazines to keep me going. The rest was up to the business.”
Her insights to those with high appetite for starting a business and winging it is that it is wise to be ready to put in extra work, time, resilience, and discipline. Doing business is not a walk in the park, but is satisfying so much that she is now seeing value. And that is not all, customer satisfaction is the engine that powers her, and with a target market including corporate companies, and anyone who wants to write or publish a book, the future is looking up.
“I’ve worked with those with firm financial muscles and celebrities, as well as those of modest means. There are high and low seasons but I cannot complain. I’m still going! We should be launching Robert Burale’s biography ‘From the Strip-club To the Pulpit’ in a couple of weeks,” she says.