Black Excellence: Kenya’s 37-Year-Old Serial Entrepreneur

by Duke Magazine

Eric Kinoti is a Kenyan serial entrepreneur. At 37, he owns four companies with a seven-figure revenue. His entrepreneurial journey started after he completed college. He juggled jobs as a night cashier in a local hotel in the town of Malindi and during day time, he bought and distributed eggs. His distribution enterprise started booming following his move to Kenya’s capital, Nairobi to supply milk to hotels.

Kinoti had his breakthrough when he went to supplied a client with milk. The client wanted a tent for an outdoor event which Kinoti executed successfully. He was impressed by the business and decided to commit all his savings into tent manufacturing and founded Shade Systems (EA) Ltd.

Shade Systems manufactures military and relief tents, branded gazebos, restaurant canopies, car parking shades, marquees, luxury tents, wedding party tents canvas seats, and bouncing castles across Africa.

“My breakthrough came from an unlikely meeting with a client who did not want me to supply him the usual foodstuff or milk. He wanted a tent for an outdoor event. I did it successfully and the experience was a revelation,” Kinoti said.

“So with all my savings, I ventured into tent manufacturing. Several years later and through a lot of effort, my company, Shade Systems (EA) Ltd has clients all over the African continent and is one of the leading suppliers of all kinds of tents, gazebos, shades, and bouncing castles,” he added.

The company’s major buyers are non-governmental organizations and humanitarian groups. They also export their products to countries such as Congo, Somalia, and Rwanda. According to Forbes, the company has an annual turnover of $1 million.

Aside from Shade Systems, Kinoti also owns Alma Tents which is a tent hiring company, Bag Base Kenya Ltd, a company that manufactures bags using a cutaway canvas that comes from the tent manufacturing process, and Safi Sana Home Services, a professional cleaning services company, according to Africa Exponent.

Kinoti was in 2014 featured by Forbes as “30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs 2014” and also listed twice in Kenya’s top 40 under 40 as well as voted the most influential SME personality in Kenya.

According to him, his biggest goal is to help other entrepreneurs to become like him. One of the core areas he wants to focus on is mentorship as well as to inspire and guide young people venturing into business.

In a piece of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, Kinoti said they should remain passionate about their business. He also wants them to be risk-takers, team players, and to remain focused.

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