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Kenya’s Top Mid-Level College Entrepreneur Just Beginning To Reap From Her Sweat



“Money has not and has never been my driving factor. It’s the pleasure of giving people quality education that motivates me. I am a hands-on person. I train my managers. We work together. We discuss issues together. My goal is to make a positive impact on people’s lives. That’s what gives me joy, “says Lizzie Muthoni Wanyoike.

 Lizzie Muthoni Wanyoike savoring her success

When the history of Kenya’s mid-level tertiary colleges is documented, Lizzie Muthoni Wanyoike’s name will inextricably be associated with that education ecosystem for beginning the NIBS Technical college, arguably the bellwether institution in Sub-Saharan Africa’s third biggest economy in dollar terms.

Began 22-years ago, NIBS Technical College has grown to become the largest center in Sub Saharan Africa offering the Association of Business Executives (ABE)  including Institute of Commercial Management (ICM) examinations.

As a compliment for achieving this feat, Madam Lizzie, as she’s affectionately known, has been awarded a Fellowship award from the latter organization. 

“I have not invested in the education sector because there is money to be made in it. I just have a passion for education and at no time has the money element ever influenced my decision to invest in this sector (education). For me it’s a calling. And you can bear this claim out by talking to former and current students of this institution,” says this social entrepreneur who also owns an eponymous preparatory   school that opened doors in 2020.

Indeed her social pages including facebook and twitter are seemingly hagiographic. 


It turns out the storied history of NIBS Technical college is traceable to the second floor of Nairobi’s Pioneer House, where the institution initially enrolled  25 students including  two hired teachers.

This was at a time when a major milestone was taking place in the world, namely the exiting of the 20th century, in a global jamboree, referenced as the millennium celebrations. 

Back in Kenya, the timing was arguably inauspicious to begin a business as the country’s annual economic growth rate was averaging a wretched 1.9 % ,the lowest, at the time, since the country got its  independence, according to a Kenya National Bureau of Statistics report. 

But despite the dire economic picture, madam Lizzie took a gamble that has morphed off handsomely for the NIBS Technical label presently boasts of three local campuses with an estimated headcount of 6000 students.

“Without determination, one cannot achieve their goals. One needs to remain focused and to pursue what they think is right,” she says.


Conspicuously the year when NIBS Technical college, then known as NIBS college opened its doors, two milestones, namely holding  of the country’s fourth national census since independence   and creation of a Parliamentary Service Commission took place.

Verifiably public universities in Kenya in early 2000 were only six including the University of Nairobi, Kenyatta University, Moi University, Egerton University, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and Maseno University compared to 69 today.

 “ Middle level colleges were a token. And I saw an opportunity in the market and I seized it and ran away with it. And I decided to offer business related diploma and certificate courses,” says Madam Lizzie who was unbowed by the fraught economic meltdown defining Kenya then.

Indeed it’s not uncommon to start a company during an economic recession as many notable global companies  began during such a period.

According to the British Business Bank, when economic times are tough, conventional wisdom leads one to batten down the hatches, going ahead to put start-up plans on hold while one weathers the financial storm.


“  Yet research shows that launching a small business when the economy is on the ropes may be a good idea, with start-ups for they are better able to exploit gaps in the market compared to existing companies,” says the British Business Bank.

Once described by Dr. James Mwangi as being    a “resilient and focused woman who is a benchmark for any serious Kenyan,” this septuagenarian lady is today thought to be a member of an enviable tribe of local billionaires.

 “Money has not and has never been my driving factor. It’s the pleasure of giving people quality education that motivates me. I am a hands -on person. I train my managers. We work together. We discuss issues together. My goal is to make a positive impact in people’s lives. That’s what gives me joy,“says this proprietor of a Ksh 450 million (US$ 3,722,084) worth hotel which opened in June 2018.

The facility offers commercial services as well acts as a training ground   for the institute’s hospitality students while undertaking practical training as well as internships.

“It is a diversification project. We are looking into the future and consolidating our incomes into a broader investment spectrum,” says Madam Lizzie in regards to the hotel, which runs as a commercial enterprise with its own profit and loss accounts despite being affiliated to Nibs Technical College.


It’s arguable, Madam Lizzie must have taken a cue from the thinking of Startup Sloth which points out that being passionate about what one does can help one get through the long-term slog of launching and running a company. While being genuinely excited about the area one is working on meanwhile can help avoid entrepreneurial burnout.

Indeed when the outlier label of billionaire is attached on the back of Madam Lizzie it belies the straightened and ubiquitous circumstances that she wrestled with in her ancestral home located in Kiharu constituency.

At the time British Kenya was facing a popular insurrection famously known as the Mau Mau uprising, which had generally reduced her homestead and hundreds of others found in Native reserves  strategically expropriated by the British colonial government into  palpable humdrums.

Her father Peterson Kariuki,who was  a village chief  was at the time wasting away in a colonial jail after  the British colonialists, slapped him  with a  nine year jail term, ostensibly  for being an accomplice of the seismic  rebellion, leading  Naomi Wangechi, the mother, a homemaker, to singularly fend for their 10 children.

Lizzie Muthoni Wanyoike

Lizzie Muthoni Wanyoike

According to The Washington Post, the British colonizers in the ’50s pictured the rebellion as an irrational descent into savagery by the Kikuyu people.But with the advent of Kenya’s independence, the rebellion was given its due as a war of liberation. 

Said the newspaper“ Continuing research in the ’70s and ’80s, however, has revealed a more complex picture: The rebellion which sought to drive the colonizers from Kenya and reclaim lost lands became, in practice, a class war among the Kikuyu.” 


Harvard historian Caroline Elkins’ research  into the Mau Mau rebellion meanwhile shows the British forces wielded their authority with a savagery that betrayed a perverse colonial logic. 

“Only by detaining nearly the entire Kikuyu population of 1.5 million people and physically and psychologically atomising its men, women, and children could colonial authority be restored and the civilizing mission reinstated, “she writes.

 After nearly a decade of oral and archival research, she had uncovered “a murderous campaign to eliminate Kikuyu people, a campaign that left tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, dead”.

That was the leitmotif of Madam Lizzie’s environment while growing -up.

But with her D.N.A hell -bent on achieving social mobility in the midst of the challenges she faced Madam Lizzie unwittingly took a bet on formal education – an option oxfam says allows children from poor families to end up better off than their parents.


She began her educational journey at Gathukiini primary school,  then  joined  Kahuhia Girls High School, both publicly run institutions  found within Muranga county.  

 Once done with secondary education, Madam Lizzie’s desire of joining a teacher training college suffered an ephemeral blow. 

“ I wanted to join the teaching profession but I was never invited to join a college and my friends advised me to pursue a secretarial course that was being offered at Nakuru High School as part of the business curriculum. Once we were through with the course we got an opportunity in the same institution to train as teachers of business studies targeting high schools and I got a diploma,” says Madam Lizzie.

Fortuitously she met a group of Canadians in the Nakuru based school who offered her a chance to study business education at Kenyatta University , then a constituent college affiliated to the University of Nairobi, which was then  a national cauldron for churning out teaching professionals.

 Upon graduation in 1972 with a Diploma in Education, she was posted to State House Girls High School  where she taught the English language, earning a monthly salary of Ksh 961.


At the time Lizzy Muthoni Muthoka as she was then known was simply a 20 year old ingénue. 

It turned out, her education accomplishment accelerated the dropping of scales from her innocent eyes, allowing her to embrace the attitudes of a girl about town, justifying lazy excuses for not wanting to relocate back home after graduation.

In her telling, Kiharu now seemed benighted for apparently it suffered from a lack of basic social amenities including power, portable water, tarmacked roads and so on, existential luxuries which she had lapped up to while studying.  

Routinely campuses worldwide witness the act of hooking up among students forming a huge part of the culture with about 80% students , on average, engaging in the activity over the course of college life.

And lo and behold, Madam Lizzie was not beyond falling prey to this seedy culture, for she fell for the amorous spell of one Josphat Mburu Wanyoike, a well-heeled politico who was once the MP for Gatanga and who was 16-years her senior.


“I met my husband who had parted ways with his initial wife leaving behind three children.At the time I was barely 20 years of age. And I got pregnant shortly after. After which the gentleman visited my ancestral home and paid for my dowry according to our Gikuyu customary rites,  says Lizzy Muthoni who had now adopted the name Wanyoike to signify her new status as a legally married woman.

By 1975, she had figured out employment was not her thing. She wanted to engage in a business enterprise.

“That is when I teamed up with my husband and other partners and founded Temple College of Secretarial Studies ,” says Madam Lizzie.

Five years passed on and she was promoted to the position of Managing Administrator, a tangible sign that she was doing something right.

“I was very devoted to my work even though I really didn’t need to because I was then married to a rich husband. But I would report for duty very early even when others showed up late. As a result I gained lots of knowledge and experience, which I later used when I started NIBS. Even today I don’t take my work for granted,” she told How we made it in Africa.


It was around that time that she began purchasing land and building rental houses.

And after two years playing the role of Managing Administrator she realized there was a need to introduce new courses in the college.

“ By 1999 I was sure that the realities of a moving global economy required more challenging ventures to tap into so as to benefit from the immense positive changes that were taking place globally, “ she recalls.  

 But when she approached her employer with her idea it was akin to talking to a wall.

“After 18 years I quit that partnership,” says Madam Lizzie.


Often, problems in a business partnership are the natural result of individual preferences not being identical, which can lead to disagreements on the way a business operates, says Indeed

It’s often said that when it rains it pours, and Madam Lizzie was turning to being a quintessential example of the meaning of that term. 

After 26-years of marriage, the union collapsed with Madam Lizzie singularly faulting the 16-year age gap for the unfolding debacle saying instead her former husband was a good egg.

“ One day I returned home after a busy day at work. And the gatekeeper informed me that he had been instructed by my husband not to allow me into my matrimonial home. It had reached a point where it was clear we were not reading from the same page. I reversed my car and I just sat in my car and cried for four hours.

I spoke to God and thought ‘could he have given me this man for having just kicked me out’? I left only with my handbag and began living in a hostel where I laid a mattress on the floor for a bed. I thank God my three children were already grown ups and were out of the country studying. But if I were to marry again I would still go for that same man,” says Madam Lizzie. 


“ When I took my matters to court seeking a ruling seeking a division of the properties we had purchased together, my husband arrived in court with a marriage certificate of his previous relationship and told the court that I was simply a girlfriend,” says Madam Lizzie. 

This turn of events shattered the heart of Madam Lizzie.

Eternally, married couples are pulled towards pooling resources together and Madam Lizzie and her husband were an exemplar. 

Some research shows that  combining finances with a partner may lead to a happier relationship while another study titled  “Pooling finances and relationship satisfaction,” indicates couples who pool all of their resources together experience greater relationship satisfaction and are less likely to break up.

For Madam Lizzie the situation turned out to be asymmetrical.


However, unknown to most, by the time she was turning 40, she was practically homeless and living at a Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) hostel, after separating with her husband.

“In my despair to have a fresh start, I visited Equity Bank Kenya Limited,  who agreed  to give me a loan which I later added to my savings to start afresh,” says  Madam Lizzie.

She sold shares of a local bank she bought many years back and was still uncertain about buying land to build a college but a bank boss persuaded her to take a risk.

In 1999, armed with savings of KSh6 million (US$60,000) and a bank loan from Equity worth KSh4 million (US$40,000), she established NIBS, which struggled for eight months before settling down.

 “As a business we broke even in the first year and this was purely on the basis of the quality of service that we were offering. I worked closely with the lecturers to ensure students got the best. Additionally as a sign of the confidence of what I was doing, I used my visage alongside any advert that I placed in the Established media believing my history as a teacher stood me in good stead,” says this finalist recipient of the 2018, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the year award.


In 2003 NIBS relocated to Cooperative Bank House after outgrowing its first facility but after three months into the new lease, the landlord threatened to evict her with the matter settled eventually after two years by a court ruling. 

“It was a very traumatizing experience, but it taught me to possess resilience in addition to the need to own my own piece of land because the experience could recur again in the future,” says Madam Lizzie.

In 2009 NIBS purchased a 10-acre parcel along Thika Superhighway near Ruiru for Ksh 20 million (US$ $ 166,888) and invested an addition Ksh 134 million (US$ 1,105,610) to build NIBS Technical college, main campus.

 “ I was very strict on savings and had bought some plots even though I had a wealthy husband so what I did was to sell some of those plots and I used  to invest in the Nairobi Stock Exchange,” says Madam Lizzie.

Saving money is important because it helps cushion the blow of financial emergencies and unexpected expenses. Additionally, saving money can help one pay for large purchases, avoid debt, reduce one’s financial stress, and provides one with a greater sense of financial freedom, says bethebudget.


 In 2010 her estranged husband whom she describes as “the foundation and inspiration of my success today” died, an occurrence she describes as “ a setback “ but she chose instead to focus on building her the business “instead of remaining stuck in mourning”, she says.

“We have grown this investment from the Ksh 6 million (US$ 49,758.80) capital of 2010 to the current status where we now sit on a Sh600 million (4,975,880.40) 10 acres of land in Kimbo, Ruiru that’s fully developed,” she told Business Daily.








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    Ms. Lizzie Muthoni

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    Lizzie Muthoni Wanyoike

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The Entrepreneur

Morris Mbetsa: The Kenyan Serial Techpreneur Breaking Boundaries With New Innovations



Morris Mbetsa

Mbetsa, who made headlines in 2018 with a prototype for Africa’s first human-carrying drone, is now on a mission to build the largest IoT service platform in the continent and has set up a factory to mass-produce tech sensors and devices.

By Anne Ndungu/bird story agency

At 32 years, Morris Mbetsa is on a mission to disrupt the tech industry. He is well known for creating Africa’s first human-carrying drone, and through his company Numeral IoT, has helped clients from across Africa in developing prototypes for their product ideas, manufacturing, and bring the product to market.

A Mandela Washington fellow, he was offered a three-month scholarship to the University of Notre Dame, where he received training in aeronautical engineering. After his fellowship, he interned with the technology giant IBM and returned to Kenya, where he was employed by Microsoft but resigned after ‘feeling underutilized’.

In this conversation, he talks about his entrepreneurial journey, his company’s innovations and his soon-to-be-announced merger with a global tech brand.

In 2018, you made history when you created and unveiled Africa’s first passenger drone. How was the innovation received, and how is it faring in the marketplace today?

The development of the drone taxi was met with excitement and concern from regulatory authorities and the public. On the one hand, our drone offered a range of exciting possibilities for enhancing efficiency and improving access to critical services like logistics where traditional infrastructure was lacking. On the other hand, there were concerns about safety, privacy, and potential misuse of this technology.

The project was a labour of love inspired by a desire to better the lives of African people.


As I started the project, I quickly realised it would require far more funds than anticipated. As a result, I was constrained to fund the project through small grants and well-wishers.

We pitched the project to a couple of investors, but it was deemed too risky and ahead of time. While the investors were impressed with the project’s potential, they did not believe it was a sound investment.

We couldn’t continue with the project without additional investors, prompting me to transition my focus to more practical devices that could be monetised.

What led you on this path of technology innovation?

Since I was a child, I have always had an interest in this field. I’m fascinated by electronics’ inner workings and enjoy tinkering with them. I then realised that most of the hardware we use in Africa is imported from other countries and not always designed with the African market in mind.

This sparked a fire in me to establish a factory where I could manufacture critical electronics and make them available to the African masses. By doing so, we will be able to bridge the digital divide and provide more people with access to modern technology that will help them improve their lives.


That’s why in 2019, I formed my company Numeral IOT. Numeral, suggests a focus on numbers, which are fundamental to binary computer languages, and reflects the digital nature of our company and IoT, showing our involvement in the Internet of Things.

Our company offers services to clients from Tanzania, Liberia, Ethiopia, and Kenya. We have a global perspective and are not geographically restricted.

By incorporating IoT into standard hardware, we create innovative products that are more intelligent, connected, and better suited to meet the needs of the African market.

Before setting up the company, you travelled to China for specialised training. What did you learn from there that has proved useful in your entrepreneurial career so far?

I observed firsthand how the tech factories operated and the manufacturing process worked. One thing that struck me was that most factory workers were low-skilled labourers whose jobs didn’t require traditional school knowledge. This inspired me to work with my African people, even those with little education and provide employment opportunities for them.

I also made valuable connections with chip and component suppliers, who are crucial for our manufacturing. These connections have been beneficial in securing the necessary supplies and components for our manufacturing operations.


To date, what products has your company innovated and which one is your signature innovation?

Our company has produced several products, including speed governors, trackers, smart home devices such as smart bulbs and locks, security, and game-changing smart meters for gas, water, and electricity.

The Smart meters are revolutionary and unique in their features and capabilities. They offer solutions that are not available on the market and have opened doors for our company.

Due to our local manufacturing and the unique features of our smart meters, we have received significant interest and partnership opportunities from all over Africa.

What is the process of coming up with a new product at Numeral IOT?

Our research and development process is tailored to the scope, budget, and level of complexity of each project. Our team approaches research and development in a flexible and adaptable manner.

We base our decisions on large-order demands. We prioritise, however, understanding the needs and pain points of industry clients and organisations. Before producing a working prototype, the RND process typically takes at least three months. We take a systematic and thorough approach to R&D, critical for ensuring the final solution’s quality and feasibility.


What new product are you working on currently?

Our team is working on large-scale projects ranging from the LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) to solar industries. This project is related to developing solutions that combine these two energy sources to create more efficient and sustainable energy solutions for disadvantaged communities.

We are also in advanced talks to partner with a global tech firm. I can’t get into the details because the process is ongoing, but all I can only say is to be on the lookout for the name Spearhead.Inc.

Where do you see your company in the next five years?

Morris Mbetsa

Morris Mbetsa at his factory

To become one of, if not the largest electronics manufacturer in Africa, with a strong focus on IoT technology. We envision having one of the continent’s biggest IoT platforms, enabling Africans to get analytics on their connected devices at meagre costs.

This is an important goal that could significantly impact the development and adoption of IoT technology in Africa. We plan to accelerate the transition by having factories across the continent and investing in infrastructure and resources.

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The Entrepreneur

Jennifer Barassa:Top Kenyan Adman Who Began a Continental Company with Ksh 30



Jennifer Barasa
Jennifer Barassa

“My personal mantra is to work hard, work hard, work hard,work hard. Hard work never killed anyone. In all things have faith,” says Jennifer Nafula Barassa, Chief Executive 

Officer of Top Image Africa Ltd a 27-year-old advertising boutique with a footprint in 10 African countries.

Incidentally, Jennifer’s exploits in the marketing world have been enviable and the Kenyan society has taken note and somewhat reciprocated accordingly.

In 2011 for example she was appointed Chair of the all-important Board of the Constituency Development Board, clearly affirming her deftness in the sensitive area of corporate governance.

She has also sat on the Boards of several generic organizations amongst them the Kenya National Chambers of Commerce &Industry (KNCC&I) and has been a trustee of the College of Insurance.

In addition, she has sat on the Board of the Business Advocacy Fund for the Danish Embassy and Chandaria School of Business – United States International University ( USIU) Business Advisory Board.


According to a 2021 Board Diversity and Inclusion Survey report    Kenya’s gender diversity in the boardroom stood at 36 % in 2021 compared to the global average of 3 %.

And this East African nation could achieve gender parity in corporate boardroom representation by 2030, according to the report. 

Across the world, European-based countries lead the pack beginning with Norway at 39%, Finland at 30%, France at 26%, Germany and the United Kingdom at 17%, Australia at 15%, Spain at 13%, United States at 12%, Mexico at 6%, Japan and South Korea at 2%.

In Africa, women occupy only 12 % of corporate board seats according to the African Development Bank with Kenya leading, at 36 %.

Jennifer says for those women wishing to join boards it is very crucial for them to network

“Networking is very important, you must be great or good in what you do because your expertise and experience will be needed in solving both problems and adding value. You also need to be visible in society,” says Jennifer. 


Without a doubt, Jennifer ought to be applauded for daring to live her life on her terms at a time when patriarchalism held sway in the corporate world. If one were in search of a trailblazer, Jennifer is the true deal.

For a woman who is now 70 years old, time surely does fly fast. 

Embodying a tenacious spirit, Jennifer arguably bootstrapped her present envious life by daring to confront her straitened circumstances that were then ubiquitous in the famously forbidding hood of Eastlands, Nairobi, in Maringo Estate, Block E1.

“I come from a large family. My father was polygamous, but we were happy…. “Oh, those were the days when milk would be dropped at the doorstep by a milkman. The milk was in a classic glass bottle and covered with foil at the top. Those were the days when Elliot was the only brand of bread. We were lucky my father would afford such basics,” she reportedly told  the Standard newspaper

Today hardly anyone can associate her with her proletariat roots now that the so-called leafy suburbs in Nairobi’s caprice ecosystem have since become her stomping grounds.


But a sneak preview of her formal schooling will attest that Jennifer partially owes her success in the business world to her cerebral inclination.

Initiated formal schooling at public schools found in Nairobi including  Dr. Kraft Primary School (1960 – 1967) then moved to Ngara Girls for her O-Levels (1968 to 1971) where she ended up becoming the Head Girl then relocating to  Asumbi Girls (1972 to 1973) in South Nyanza for her A-Levels where her leadership skills c saw her tapped to become  Deputy Head of School, Jennifer it seemed was destined to be a leader.

 In 1974, she joined Kenyatta University, then a constituent college affiliated with the University of Nairobi for a bachelor’s degree in Education, which she completed in 1977.

Her first stop as a trained teacher was Lenana School where she taught English and Literature becoming the first African woman ever to tutor at the school.

 “Fortunately, I did not face any challenges. Being the first African woman to teach at Lenana School I was very welcomed by both male teachers and students. I had been interviewed by the Director of Education at the time Mr. James Kamunge at the Ministry of Education and I assured him that I was not going to have any problems teaching at Lenana School. I was fresh from the university and the school community felt that I had brought a fresh breath of air into the school being young and a woman,” Jennifer says.


Her ambitious nature would not allow her to teach for more than two years

 “I wanted to make more money, and I started applying for jobs. This was in 1979 when former President Daniel arap Moi decreed that companies increase their workforce by 10%. I got a job as a sales representative at Kodak and nobody could understand why I would leave a noble and flourishing teaching career to sell films in the street,” she remembers.

But her critics were quieted six months later after she got promoted to a marketing education co-coordinator, subsequently seeing her buy  her first car.

“At Kodak there was a lot of excitement by both colleagues and traders and I was appreciated by both.In fact, my boss then Mr. Neil Grenfel was so happy with my performance. I had been

recruited by Hawkins and Associates,  and they wanted to request them if they could find another Jennifer Barassa to join their Sales and Marketing department. I was a darling of both,” says Jennifer.

Customers and bosses alike seemingly went gaga with her

 Five years into the industry she parachuted upstairs becoming an accounts manager, after which she moved to Boots Pharmaceuticals, currently Beta HealthCare International to become the sales manager.


“ Networking is very important, you must be great or good in what you do because your expertise and experience will be needed in solving both problems and adding value,” says Jennifer. 

She then went along to work for various other blue-chip companies amongst them Johnson and Johnson (1989), Sterling Health (now GSK), and McCann Erickson (1994), all at the managerial level until she chose the road to entrepreneurship. 

“There was a lot of office politics in the organization (McCann Erickson) so I opted out.

Secondly, for many years, many of my friends encouraged me to get into business as they felt I had the PR  skills and innate acumen of being an entrepreneur,” says Jennifer.

Often in the land of the living, one is inadvertently influenced by a person to discover their earthly purpose and in the case of Jennifer, it was one Pamela Odede back in 1960. 


“Pamela’s family lived in the neighborhood. In 1960, Pamela arrived in Kenya from the USA. She was this tall beauty from the USA, driving a yellow Volkswagen car. That car is still etched in my mind to date,”  a smitten Jennifer reportedly told the Standard Newspaper.

Jennifer’s inquisitive nature got the better of her and she dared to ask her mother if one day, she would drive a car like that, the local newspaper reported.

“My mother told me; ‘Of course, you can!’ All I had to do was study hard,” the Standard reported her saying.

In hindsight, when parents affirm their children, they act as enablers, triggering a belief-in-my-self-attitude among children with arguably Jennifer being a quintessential by-product of this parental nurturing. 

In 1995, she launched Top Image, beginning as a promotion agency. 


So what’s the story behind Top Image

“I started it in my living room in Hurlingham. It was a one-woman show, but thanks to my networking, doors started opening,” says Jennifer.

One year later she opened an office around Nairobi’s Wilson Airport neighborhood with a single staff member who doubled up as a receptionist and secretary. For your INFO, Top Image was launched with Ksh 30. That’s right 30 bucks. 

“There were no computers back then. Therefore I wrote a handwritten proposal, which I paid Ksh 10 to be typed, and made two copies for Ksh20,” she recalls.

 Top Image started by merchandising for Kenya Breweries (now East African Breweries) and Total Motor Show before it took up below-the-line advertising. When Top Image first moved to the Wilson Airport offices back in 1996, Jennifer and her secretary waited for one, two, or three weeks before receiving a business call.

 But Jennifer persevered. And as a consequence of her doggedness, the company made its first Ksh One million in its first year of operation. 


Today, the company has branches in Cote D’Ivoire Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania Uganda, and is currently eyeing Zimbabwe. 

The client portfolio of Top Image reads like who is who in the market for it includes Safaricom, Bidco Africa, Samsung, Google, Visa, MTN, and so on.

Due to Top Image living up to its name, the brand has scooped various awards including being named in the Top 100 Mid-Sized Companies Survey in the 2008/2009 financial year.

As more and more people opt to engage in personal business they find themselves conflicted when faced with the choice of either leaving employment to engage in entrepreneurship or sticking to their jobs with many having the fear of the unknown.

As Candice Carpenter, founder of,  once said, “If you are committed to creating value and if you aren’t afraid of hard times; obstacles become utterly unimportant,” a truism that seemingly defines Jennifers’ entrepreneurial road. 


“ Entrepreneurship is daunting but one should make sure they have a solid business plan and are prepared to go through the cycle of ups and downs that is associated with the business. The area of mentorship is also of great importance. People need to hear success stories firsthand. Starting a business is not easy but the benefits outweigh those of being employed.

I encourage people who want to start a business to attend entrepreneurship classes in the generic Business Schools that are available in the country now. Finally, I also encourage women who are already in business to join business associations that provide women entrepreneurs mentorship programs such as the Association of Women Business Owners (KAWBO) and the Federation of Woman Entrepreneurs Association(FEWA) among others,” Jennifer advice women wishing to get into entrepreneurship.

Jennifer believes that for one to become a successful entrepreneur they need to be risk takers, optimistic, strong-willed, and passionate about what they are engaged in, and yes be a leader in the ecosystem they are operating in.

Meanwhile, the lowdown qualities of being dishonest, of entertaining procrastination, of being lazy, indecisive, and unfocused often derail a person’s road to success, says Jennifer.

Currently, there is a popular notion that advertising agencies have formed cartels that control the advertising budgets of corporate players, a feeling shared by Jennifer who possesses 38- years of experience in sales, marketing, and advertising.


“This is true for particularly above-the-line Advertising and not far below Line Advertising.

You find that a big percentage of the major international brands are controlled from the headquarters and there is always an alignment with agencies that are international or Pan African,” says Jennifer.

 She believes very strongly that there is an opportunity and a niche for smaller boutique agencies.

“ My challenge to smaller boutique agencies is to focus on two main things: creativity and client satisfaction. Word of mouth does amazing things! Large agencies have their challenges; so smaller agencies need to capitalize on this.” 

And one must also remember, says Jennifer, that it’s not only corporate players that have large advertising budgets.

“For Below the Line advertising, this is controlled at the national level because they deal with both national and local problems and offer local and national solutions,” says Jennifer.


So what makes one a great marketer?

“Marketing is a science one must learn or practice. However, you need both marketing and creative skills to become an excellent marketer. And one can easily get both through education, experience, and exposure,” says Jennifer.

She says that “ there has been an increase in a briefcase – fly-by-the night experiential agencies that offer services at a very low cost, are unprofessional, are corrupt and do not add value to the campaign.

“ Sadly, there is very little creativity but lots of copy-paste strategies. Creativity costs money and when there is a slowdown in the economy the first thing most companies chop is their marketing and advertising spend.” 

With a very lucrative career spanning more than 38 years who does she count as her preeminent mentor as she sits in the corner office of the head office located at Fortis Towers, Westlands- Nairobi?

“My mother, because she taught me the virtues of integrity and hard work. Mrs. Mary Okello is the first woman banker in Kenya and the founder of KWFT and Makini Schools.

Mrs. Pamela Mboya, was the first highly educated woman I came across when I was a younger girl. Finally Oprah Winfrey, the richest black woman in the world.”





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The Entrepreneur

Kenya’s Top innovator Creates First USB Cable Disrupting Foreign Domination



Anthony Muthungu with his team

Anthony Muthungu, 29, has inadvertently and indelibly inked his name to the hallowed corridors of Kenya’s manufacturing terrain after becoming the first Kenyan to manufacture USB cables, disrupting aeon years of a monopolistic chokehold enjoyed by foreign firms in the sector.

This milestone by a vicenarian is understandable when it’s borne that Kenya bears the enviable moniker of being Africa’s “Silicon Savannah,” including being the second-best innovation hub in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the Global Innovation Index (2021) report with South Africa heading the pack.

“ India, Kenya, the Republic of Moldova, and Viet Nam hold the record for overperforming on innovation relative to their level of development for the 11th year in a row,” partially reads the report.

Muthungu, a computer engineering degree holder from Zetech University – a local institution whose innate genesis also can be traced to a daring local entrepreneur– has arguably become the first African drawn from within the East and Central Africa region to manufacture USB cables – that from a quality point of view – can stand toe to toe with their imported peers.

To prove his burgeoning outlier pedigree this pathfinder was in 2019 feted as being one of the top 40 entrepreneurs in Kenya aged below 40 by the local Business Daily newspaper brand. 

Two years later he was shortlisted for the Kenya-South Africa Chamber of Business award, a continental jamboree that shines the spotlight on entrepreneurial excellence.


According to the Association of Countrywide Innovation Hubs- a Kenyan focal point representing 17 counties out of a possible 47 whose objective is to support and build sustainable businesses and startups across Kenyan counties, Kenyan tech

start-ups topped the continent as they raised an impressive Ksh 21.4 Billion (US$ 177,593,359.14) of funding in 2020, underlining the alluring nature for local companies to thrive.

This level of funding is attributable to a socio-professional environment that is conducive to work notwithstanding Kenya’s unregulated start-up ecosystem.

Whereas countries like South Africa, Tunisia, Senegal, and Nigeria have pegged regulatory policies to govern start-ups, Kenya has no government policy that caters to the sector.

Anthony Muthungu at his work station

Anthony Muthungu with his team at TOTOSCI Holdings

But in 2021 the country took baby steps towards reorganizing the sector by sponsoring a start-Up Bill, 2021 which seeks to govern the interactions and relationships between start-ups, the government, investors, incubators, and ultimately consumers.

“Efforts have been made to create an enabling environment for local innovation to thrive. For instance, through the Science, Technology, and Innovation Act, of 2013 the Kenya National Innovation Agency ( KeNIA) was established to coordinate innovation efforts in the country. 


Some include offering linkages to investors, creating and disseminating guidelines on commercialization, among other roles,” says George Masila, communications manager, KeNIA.

Based in Kirinyaga County, a rural and agricultural-rich enclave found in Central Kenya, 136 km South of Nairobi, Muthungu’s two-year-old TOTOSCI holdings limited, which produces

between 300 to 500 USB cables daily, owes its existence to an unlikely occurrence.

In 2020 after completion of an undergrad degree, he opted to pursue an entrepreneurial career rather than seek formal employment believing fortune favored the brave and registered TotoSci Academy – a mobile school that taught science, technology, engineering, and arts to children aged between 4-17 years.

The name TotoSci is derived from two words -Toto stands for a child in the Kiswahili dialect, the highly spoken language within the East Africa region, while Sci is an abbreviation for Science.


And as is normal in the capricious world of entrepreneurship the school was shuttered after the global Covid-19 epidemic set foot in Kenya on 12 March 2020.

Housebound and with no work to do, his restless entrepreneurial spirit stirred him to design a ventilator. Then one day while transferring research data from his phone to a laptop he hit a snag.

“ At my house, I had six USB cables and none was working. I thought I was probably jinxed. But coincidentally I discovered my friends too were facing a similar challenge. I then opted to buy their faulty cables at Ksh10 (US $ 0.083) per piece and within a fortnight I had 7,000 cables, which I dismantled hoping to discover what the problem was. What I discovered was the USBs were of low quality,” says Muthungu who initially wanted to become an army officer.

“ If you ask me why I wanted to join the army, I cannot tell you why. Even when I was already engaged in innovation, I tried three times before giving up in 2013, 2014, and 2015. In all of these competitions, running was a problem, because l was always among the last. In 2014, I placed 129 out of 142,” says Muthungu.

Meanwhile, as is routinely taught in business school, opportunities often creep in during crises as Muthungu discovered with the USB fiasco.


“I documented each of the 7,000 USB cables and I identified the problem and decided to fill the gap and decided to build something that is ten times better than what was already in the market,” says Muthungu.

Unfortunately, even though the USB cables have to date received approval from including the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), a 48-year-old government organization that ascertains local products comply with international standards, and the Kenya Export Promotion and Branding Agency (KEPROBA), the Kenyan market is seemingly oblivious to the quality of the product.

“It’s probably a colonial mentality hangover where the locals think anything made in Kenya is inferior to imports while others think I should sell the item cheaply because it’s locally made,” says Muthungu who invested an estimated Ksh 3 million ($ 24,916.94), monies he had been loaned by a friend to begin the company that relies heavily on social media to market itself.

A TotoSci-manufactured USB cable retails for between Ksh 135 ($1.12) to Ksh 200 ($1.66), prices that compete favorably with imported contraptions found on the Kenyan street.

Currently, the company has employed five people directly – all engineers -with an additional 20 indirectly on the supply chain, says Muthungu who complains of a need to tame the high tax regime that defines the local market that disadvantages upstarts.


The machines he uses in the factory are imported from India and China.

Admitting that doing business is not for the faint-hearted, Muthungu says he’s into entrepreneurship for the long haul.

“I am a dyed-in-the-wool industrialist and even if I was making Ksh1($ 0.0083) profit per USB cable and I sold say to one million people, I would make a tidy profit of Ksh 1 million ( $8,305.65 ) and despite the inimical environment that is Compounded by high taxation I know no situation is permanent.

This calling is not for everyone. When I sought to find if anyone in Africa was involved in manufacturing USB cables so that we could compare notes I pulled a blank,” says Muthungu.

In  2023 TOTOSCI holdings limited hopes to begin producing mobile phone accessories with the end goal of eventually assembling mobile phones by 2025.




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