How Kenya’s Chris Kirubi Built His Business from Nothing

Chris Kirubi ventured into purchasing and selling of houses to make an extra money. He used the money made from flipping houses to invest in some of the city’s new start-up businesses and residential organizations.

Chris started out with a clever profit-making scheme and investment strategy, as at today he is an icon of the Kenyan property industry.

Nonetheless, the hand-to-mouth situation of CK’s family did get worse at some points. Both his father and mother passed away within a few months of each other leaving young Kirubi and his siblings to fend for themselves as orphans in abject poverty.

Instead of taking the great challenge of life as a knockout punch, Kirubi observed it as a motivation to work hard. It occurred to him that he was not up to live a life of pity soon after he accepted the reality of his parents’ demise and condition of the family.

Kirubi and his siblings spent months surviving at the mercy of neighbors and relatives. He then motivated himself to take odd jobs to make a living for himself and his siblings. At some points, he was engaged in multiple jobs and multiple shifts.

The big break came in 1971 when Kirubi, using his savings, bought a rundown property in Nairobi and gave it a facelift. He then sold it making a good profit. The former poor Nairobi boy simply launched his real estate business in that manner.
Kirubi continued with the signature move of buying ramshackle properties, renovating them and selling them.

Some properties he opted not to sell but to rent them out. He soon found himself making huge sums of money than he had ever dreamt of.

The money and properties CK handled allowed him to secure loans from financial institutions, which enabled him to acquire strategic pieces of land in Nairobi’s affluent areas wherein he erected residential and commercial buildings for rent.

One of the major companies owned by Kirubi, International House Limited (IHL), focuses on real estate and is worth around Ksh20 Billion. Some of the most famous properties owned by the company are the Two Rivers Mall and the International House Building.

Kirubi acquired the Haco Company in 1998 for an undisclosed amount. It is clear that his experience in business enabled him to make a good investment decision owing to the company’s success.

He also transformed the company from a distributor of British and American products to a manufacturer of local brands.

Haco also formed a joint venture a leading South African foods manufacturer, Tiger Brands in 2008; the result was the establishment of Haco Tiger Brands. The company manufactures a wide range of consumer goods for the East African Market.

In 2008, still, Kirubi purchased Capital FM, a struggling radio station at the time and managed to transform it into a leading brand.

At some point, CK was on the deejaying scene because of his self-proclaimed passion for the media. He hosted a rock show at Capital FM, which made his popularity in Kenya increase significantly.

Kirubi also has many other productive investments and interests in the shareholding business. He is, for instance, the highest individual shareholder in major companies of Centum Investments, DHL Express Kenya Ltd., Nairobi Bottlers Limited, UAP Provincial Insurance, Kiruma International, and many others.

The Mogul also has links to the huge businesses of Coca-Cola and Safaricom (Kenya Telco Leader). He has, however, been linked to few business challenges involving the fallen Uchumi Supermarket Chain and a botched paint manufacturing initiative.

Chris now owns more than 40 commercial and residential properties in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. He once said; “I rise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world”.

“This makes it hard to plan the day. But because I want to achieve my purpose and make a difference in the society, I will stop focusing on the frightful things I see when I take my eyes off my goals and instead fix them there.” He added.

Reports in the social and economic circles of the country hint that the businessman boasts of an empire that is worth around Ksh 30 Billion, a figure that maybe higher.

Towards the end of 2018, reports indicated the business mogul made a deal with a French conglomerate, Société BIC, with regards to the franchise for BIC products, which are manufactured and distributed (internationally) by one of his companies, Haco Industries.

To encourage upcoming entrepreneurs, he said “Always remember that the solution to the problems you are facing right now is within you. Learn to trust in your ability to address and tackle issues in your life. You can achieve anything you set your mind to when you believe in yourself.”

The job position was of a salesman and his duties involved selling gas cylinders and fixing faulty ones.

The rags to riches story of Kenya’s billionaire Chris Kirubi is undoubtedly an intriguing and humbling one and his name will go down in the books of history as one of the greatest businessmen in the African continent to hail out of humble beginnings.

Get Featured

We interview founders across Africa, and feature African startups.

If you run a business or startup in Africa, or know anyone who does, we’d love to tell that story!

To reach us for founder/startup feature, send a mail to editor@foundersafrica.com or fill this form.

More from this category