Where it all began;
The first time I heard about Nailab was in 2018. A friend of mine sent me a link to apply for a program Nailab was offering, The Next Economy (TNE). My friend had previously gone through the program and benefited from it. The first thing I did was google Nailab to see what they do, but I was mostly interested to know who the founder was, the brains behind this wonderful innovative company that catalyzes innovation and mentors young entrepreneurs.
Twitter gave me what I was looking for; I found him, Mr Sam Gichuru. The first thing that I noticed going through his tweets was that he is a man with strong opinions which were not taken very well by hundreds of people online. I got curious, I wanted to get to know him and interact with him. I thought to myself a man who starts a company with the sole mission to help people become better entrepreneurs can not be that bad.
I decided to apply for the program Nailab was offering. The only challenge was that I already had a full time job as a graphic designer. I was only 3 weeks old and I didn’t know how my employer would react. Would she even allow me to attend my mentorship sessions if I got accepted? After two weeks I received a call from Nailab that I had been shortlisted for an interview, I was given the date to go for the interview.
At this point I had no choice but to approach my employer and inform her about the programme, I explained that the program would be beneficial to me because I was thinking of starting my own business in the future. My fears came true, she said no “You are not serious about your job, you are barely a month old and are asking for time off, do not go for that interview and if you decide to enrol for that program consider yourself fired” She said. I was discouraged, but I knew I had to make a decision. I took the risk and I went for the interview.
The interview was scheduled for Thursday. I lied to my boss, I told her that I was going for my eye checkup. During the interview, I remember telling the interviewers that “I know I have lost my job by coming for this interview, you have to consider me for the programme, as I have no other place to go”. The following morning, I woke up and went to work and when I got to the office one of my colleague’s told me “Mdosi amesema atakupigia simu ile siku utarudi job.” And just like that I lost my job.
My first step into my career in photography;
A few weeks later I received a call from Nailab that I was among the people selected for the Programme. I took a risk and it paid off. I went through the program for 6 months for the first 3 months, I was coached on core life skills and the other 3 months on entrepreneurship.
After the Entrepreneurship training I was given the opportunity to Crowd fund for my photography business. My target was KES 124,000, Nailab promised that if I was able to raise 50% of the target amount they would match the funds. I raised KES 63,000 and Nailab matched that amount giving me Kshs 62,000. I walked away with a total of KES 125,000. I used it as capital for my business. I bought equipment and registered my business Cornea Lense Photography. I chose the name Cornea because I have undergone Cornea transplant for both eyes and am grateful to God that I can see and take shots through the lens.
I started by doing small gigs like photo shoots for close friends and later upgraded into doing bigger events like corporate photoshoots and also weddings.
I did it, turned my passion into money, and I wouldn’t have done it without Nailab. Nailab continues to do great things for me. Late last year, in December through Nailab I got to attend the KUSI IDEAS FESTIVAL in Rwanda between 7th to 10th . I met and interacted with delegates from all over the continent. It was a great honor to attend and create networks with other entrepreneurs and be a part of the conversation of Africa’s socio economic development for the Next 60 years. I learnt a lot and I came back home with a changed mindset.
My greatest lesson from Nailab is to always create opportunities in one’s business to help other business. If we as young people are to grow and succeed we cannot downplay the power of peer to peer collaboration, mentorship and paying it forward.
My name is Harun Mwangi Ndungu, the first born in a family of 2. I am a professional Graphic Designer and passionate about photography and thanks to the mentorship I received from Nailab, photography pays my rent and puts food on my table.