How Eric Kinoti Became One Of Africa’s Most Promising Entrepreneurs

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Enterpreneurs see business opportunities even when others can’t see it. They venture into businesses and put in all it takes to make these businesses to grow, succeed and also create jobs for others. Here is an inspiring story of a young African industrialist who recently made the  Forbes list of the most promising young entrepreneurs in Africa.

Eric Kinoti is the founder and CEO of Shade System East Africa. A company that manufactures and exports tents of all kinds including; military and relief tents, branded gazebos, restaurant canopies, car parking shades, marques, luxury tents, wedding party tents, canvas seats, bouncing castles, etc.

Mostly patronized by non- governmental organisations (NGO’s) and humanitarian organisations. The company whose head quarter is in Nairobi, Kenya has expanded to several countries like; Congo, Rwanda, Somalia, Southern Sudan, Uganda, etc.

Eric Kinoti is also the founder and director of Alma Tents Limited, Bag base Kenya Limited and Safi Sana Home services Limited. He is the Kenyans Youth Patron in the Kenyans chambers of commerce as a result of his achievements.

Early days

Eric Kinoti was born on the 8th of March, 1984 in Mombasa, Kenya. He is the first of four children whose father was a shop owner and a wholesale dealer. He obtained his primary school education at St. Martins boarding primary school. His secondary education was at Abothogochi academy, Nkubu high school and acquired a Diploma in Business Management from Tsaro Park Institute. Eric is married and has a child.

Starting his business career

Eric Kinoti started business at the age of 10. He worked in his father’s shop as a cashier. He used to take some sweet, cakes and salt to school and sell to his school mates.

On completion of his college education, Eric worked as a cashier in a hotel in Malindi town. Since his work at the hotel was mostly night shifts, he used his day time for other businesses. At that time, he used to buy and distribute eggs and milk around Malindi town. This, he did for three years.

According to Eric, he was not selective in the types of jobs he engaged in as far as he could earn income from it. Apart from working in the hotel, he also hawked and did car wash.

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In 2008, Eric went back to Nairobi after the post election violence in the country which affected most people, especially those in the coastal region. In Nairobi, he continued to distribute milk to hotels and houses in the city. This earned him Sh20,000-Sh35,000 per week. Although he had issues selling the milk as it requires some licences for one to be able to sell milk in the city, he still survived above all odds. But an incident kicked him out of the business.

On a fateful day, Eric decided to buy from farmers instead of buying from the diary centre he used to buy from, unknown to him the farmers diluted the milk with water and when his customers found out, they refused to pay him for the diluted milk. With this, he lost his customers and business. Eric did not give up in his quest for business success regardless of this setback.

He later got a job as a sales representative for a local bank but he did not find the job satisfying, so he quitted after a month. You must be passionate about what you do if you really want to make it. However, before Eric quitted his job, he supplied different goods to schools at his leisure time.

One opportunity changes everything

Eric decided to venture into full-time supplies to schools and during on of this supplies, he met the greatest event that changed his life for good.

While supplying the various items to the schools, he had an encounter with a client who wanted something different from the usual items he was supplying to the schools. The client wanted a tent for an outdoor event. Eric made research but found no local company that manufactures tents. Then he noticed something was missing, so he grabbed the opportunity.

In 2009, at age 25, Eric used all his savings, five employees and also borrowed Ksh2million from a Shylock to set up Shade System. Even though he borrowed from the wrong organisation because he paid the loan with an interest of Ksh1million but today, Shade System is among the top five companies in Kenya with it’s annual turnover of about $1 millions and growing in number of staff strength. Shade System has expanded to other countries like Congo, Rwanda, Somalia, Southern Sudan, Uganda and other countries especially in East and Central African countries.

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Eric Kinoti is a good resources manager and  entrepreneur who converts what should have been a waste to a new product. He owns Alma tents Limited, a tent hiring company. He also owns Bag Base Kenya Limited, a company that manufactures bags using cutaway canvas from tent manufacturing process and Safi Sana home service, a professional cleaning service company. Thereby, creating more employment for job seekers.

Eric Kinoti has a humble personality, even though he earns millions and despite his achievements, he never sees himself as a boss. According to him, he deals with young people and he believes he shouldn’t boss them. He placed people to be managers in each of his companies and just remains and acts as the strategist of the companies, who brings new ideas, presents it to his managers and when adopted, he supervises. According to him, this method has worked tremendously for him and he has learnt a lot from people through this.

His achievements

●Eric Kinoti has won several awards both in Kenya and internationally for his entrepreneurial achievements and his philanthropy. In 2014, he was listed among “30 most promising entrepreneurs under 30 from Africa” by Forbes. Twice, he was listed among “40 leading men under 40” by Business Daily. The Africa Youth Award also listed him among the “100 most influential young Africans”.With all these awards, he became a speaker on entrepreneurship in New York University in 2014.

●He gained recognition from the Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta as an outstanding youthful business man and became the Kenyan’s government delegate to several international economic meetings. He was appointed Kenyan’s youth patron in the Kenyan’s National Chambers of commerce. He also received Kenya’s SOMA award for been the most influential SME personality in 2014 and recently, the SME personality of the recent OLX Social Media Award (SOMA) as a result of his advices, mentoring and sharing of entrepreneur inspiration on social media.

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Eric Kinoti recognises the benefits of mentorship from his challenges and hence, mentors the youth on entrepreneurship. He organizes Enterpreneurs Boot Camp in Muasai Mara in mid December, inviting business leaders and entrepreneurs from all over Africa.

Eric Kinoti Advices

●He advices people who wants to venture into business to be passionate about their business, to be risk takers, focused, persistent, consistent and team player.

●”When hiring people, find the smarts who complement your strength. Although it is easier to get attracted to people just like you but find people who are not like you but who are good at what they do and you can not do it. “

●”Education is important in business, because you must communicate and to do so effectively. Go to school.”

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