School drop-out entrepreneur who rakes in millions from his chain of businesses

Joe relaxes in his residence. 
BY STEVE MUCHERU
newsdesj@dailyreporter.co.ke
In Nakuru

  • Joe Kariuki is a self-made entrepreneur who started off by washing dishes at a restaurant in the UK at 18 years
  • Today, the Form Two school drop-out is a proud owner of three 76-seater charter aircrafts and the proprietor of other businesses, easily becoming one of the youngest rich millionaires in town
  • His major break came when he bought a cab and started a taxi business which saw him ferry high profile customers
  • He expanded his cab business and also went into music recording after interacting with famous artistes in the UK and later started a mining business back home

His first job was to wash dishes at a busy restaurant in the UK. Joe Kariuki was only 18 at the time and he says the mere sight of seeing dirty dishes roll out of the conveyor belt made his stomach churn. But having nothing else to do in a foreign country to earn a living he had to preserve.
He says his first job taught him vital lessons in life – the determination to succeed against all odds sowed the seed for his entrepreneurial spirit that has seen him rake in millions of shillings from his chain of businesses.
Today, the 36-year-old is a proud owner of three 76-seater charter aircrafts and the proprietor of other businesses, easily becoming one of the youngest rich millionaires in town.
He has leased out the aircrafts to organisations that plies trade in Africa and earns handsomely from the venture.
Born and brought up in Naivasha, Joe attended one the best primary schools in the county. He later attended Magomano Secondary School in Kinangop but he never completed his studies. He dropped out in Form Two.
With nothing much to do after abandoning school, he met a friend from the UK who was working with Peace Corps here in Kenya. His friend would regale him with stories of how life was good in the UK. His friend said there were jobs available for everyone there.
At 18, Joe approached his father with a request for Sh50,000 to start a business. Instead, he boarded a plane to the UK.
“My dad gave me the money after I assured him that I wanted to start an income generating project. He trusted me enough. But I had other ideas and was ready to plunge into the unknown where there was a promise for a good life,” says Joe.
But when he arrived in the UK, it finally dawned on him that things were not going to be easy. First, his mentor was nowhere to be seen to pick him up. Stranded in a foreign land, he had to think fast.
“I just asked a cab driver to ferry me up to the place where the majority of Kenyans resided. He was kind enough to take me to East London,” Joe reveals, adding that “I could not recognise anyone and being quite late I was forced to sleep on a cold verandah.” The night was long and cold but he was ready to confront the situation head on.
But being among “fellow Kenyans” helped him in securing a hotel job where he worked for only two days, before he was unceremoniously shown the door for reporting to work drunk.
“I was getting frustrated by the workload and wanted out. In desperation, I drunk till late only to report to work while stilly tipsy,” he recollects.
With limited choices, the young lad was on an emotional roller coaster after losing his job. Options were thinning out and returning home was out of question.
“It was back to the drawing board,” he recalls.
After sharing his tribulations with a countryman, he was assisted to secure a job as a driver at an electronic company, where he was tasked with ferrying their products around London for 300 pounds pay. That was back in 1998.
“Navigating through the busy North Circular Road that is a 25.7-mile-long (41.4 km) ring road around Central London in England proved to too much for the inexperienced truck driver,” he says with a chuckle.
He was sacked after a week after failing to deliver any of the goods having lost his way on several occasions. But the company was kind enough to grant him his pay which he used to buy a serviceable cab for 160 pounds and used the remaining cash to rent an apartment before inviting his Kenyan girlfriend in.
The purchase of a cab proved to be the masterstroke after ferrying a customer who introduced him to the Royal family.
“After ferrying a visitor to the Royal home, he was kind enough to pay 25,000 pounds and also purchased a brand new car for me, which I later paid for in installments,” he explains.
With sky looking up, he got a job with DHL but continued with his cab business at night. Having clinched a mind-boggling deal with the Royal family, a change in fortunes was dreams come true.
“They introduced me to popular music artistes and I purchased an additional cab to be used by musicians coming to perform in the UK,” he narrates.
“I also got a valid contract with some of the performing artistes. Having learned a trick or two, I was able to start my own recording company,” he added.
Candy and Candy record label was born. It was a turnaround; he rarely envisaged and helped him rake in millions of shillings.
In 2009, he joined East London College to pursue a diploma in business management as he undertook his business undertakings.
“I tried my hands in soft drink industry and set up Soda King in Tanzania at a cost of Sh40 million. It became a success story before I sold it off to start mining business in TaitaTaveta,” he says.
He later partnered with a friend to do mining business to establish Hard Asset Company dealing in gemstones.
“Doing mining changed my life drastically and it is from the proceeds that I was able to purchase the three aircrafts at cost of more than Sh900 million that I have leased out,” says Joe.
“I also draw a lot of my money from my car hire business based in the UK known as Executive Hire where I earn close to Sh400,000 a day.
“I am involved in a tiles business outlet in Nairobi which is my other source of income,” he adds.
Prior to acquiring the aircrafts, he had lost more than Sh20 million after a deal to purchase an aircraft flopped. But, he learnt a bitter lesson.
With a heart for assisting the poor, Joe is currently engaged in charitable activities throughAmsha Mama Initiative, where she is linking small scale businesswomen to successful mentors.
“They are being taught how to grow their businesses and linked to possible markets. Those with good business proposals are given cash to realise their dreams,” he says.

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