‘’When I grow up, I want to be a managing director of a very big company’’ Those were the words of an eight year old boy in standard three somewhere in Limuru Kenya. I remember very well the late Mrs. Mwaura coming to class with a 4 feet ruler, a pack of colored chalks and a text book all in one hand. The other hand carrying a very neat pocketbook; in it some snacks and a thermos flask full of tea. May her soul rest well.
I was an ok kid in school and my teacher always wrote ‘’you can do better’’ at the bottom of every report card I got each term. Those days, I innocently believed everything that came from an adult. I believed I could do better and I paid much attention to the remarks on my report card and always gave it my best. However, despite my efforts, my performance remained the same. Seeing my disappointment, my brother Henry tried to console me once telling me that it’s not me who was dull, but my classmates who were smarter. That didn't help either, and I kept believing the teacher's remarks that I could do better. That hope follows me to date.
When I went to high school, things changed when I met a different set of students as my classmates. I topped the first few terms, and then something bigger happened. My dad owned a Peugeot 504 which was a passenger vehicle. My brother was the driver and a passenger had forgotten a camera on the back seat of the car. Efforts to locate the owner went futile and my brother gave me the camera.
When schools re-opened, I had my loaded camera ready with a pack of rolled films; and down went the shutter button, out came the memories of many students documented on Kodak glossy paper, with a purple stamp at the back showing date taken on a long dotted line. I would make an average of Ksh. 700/= in a good month. But I wanted more. I only had permission to take pictures on Thursday evenings although I would sneak and take several pictures on Saturdays at the neighboring girls’ high school in their weekend outfit. Word got out and my camera was confiscated. To avoid losing business, I rushed to the nearby town and bought another camera before the next Thursday. That too was confiscated and I knew it was about time I changed tactic. I couldn’t cope without a camera seeing all the opportunities there was.
After moving to form two, I made a risky decision. I had to find a way of transfering from boarding to a mixed day school for larger market. My dad is smart and was once a teacher, so I had to come up with a very good reason as to why I needed the transfer. I waited for him to come visiting to break the news to him. And when that time came, I could not make a mistake of creating the slightest doubt in him. To my advantage, I got the transfer the following term/semester. That transfer was the blosoming of my photography career. I would take pictures in my new school and over the weekend be around doing other side hustles in the community.
When I graduated from high school in 2001, I remember selling a refurbished car battery to a friend for Ksh. 1,000 ($10), and he paid me with an Olympus camera worth Ksh. 500 ($5) and topped the balance with cash. It is at this time that I became a paparazzi sort of a photographer in Nairobi, gatecrashing weddings and taking (almost-instant) prints for sale at wedding receptions which is legal in Kenya. I’d make enough to pay my bills, I was happy.
After college, I still wanted to be a photographer despite having spent years studying Tourism management. That’s when I registered Mediaplus Ventures, a media, marketing and research company in Kenya, in July 2007. That same year, the Kenyan government launched a national business plan competition dubbed Chora Bizna. I submitted my business plan and I was second in Nairobi province and among the top 100 nationally. I won Ksh. 30,000 ($300) which I spent on boosting my business as well as eating mandazi. I later found myself in USA in 2010…:-). I’m still guided by the competition’s mantra ‘’Believe Begin Become’’ and I still believe I’ll one day live my childhood dream!