September 18, 2014

College drop-out rakes in millions from advertising in Kenya

Anthony-Mwaura
button print grnw20 College drop out rakes in millions from advertising in Kenya

Anthony Mwaura is a creative genius. At 25, he is a millionaire after he chose the unbeaten path and established one of the most sought-after advertising firms in the region.

Whatever Mr Mwaura touches — be it the in-house music production studio he ran two years back or the corporate branding company he currently manages from his magnificent office on Riara Road in Nairobi — turns into gold.

“I dropped out from the Kenya Institute of Mass Communication in 2009 where I was studying TV production due to lack of school fees. I later decided to use the skills I had learnt in production and editing to make a living,’’ says Mr Mwaura in an interview with the Business Daily on Monday.

At that time, he could record up-and-coming musicians like Juliani, Jimmi Gait, A Star, Ekko Dydda, among others, who today are some of the biggest acts in the music industry.

“I used to charge them Sh10,000 per song and I had five musicians I was dealing with. I could hire a camera since I had none and use my second hand laptop to edit the content in my house,’’ he recalls.

The home-based production studio, he called Washamba Unlimited, stoked his passion for entrepreneurship. This was back in 2010.

The business, he says, was not paying off as he had expected, forcing him to close down the shop.

He ventured into corporate advertising in 2011 and he renamed his company Absolute Media Pictures Limited, which has since become renowned for producing content mainly for the electronic media.

“We are also involved in live motions and company branding,” he says.

His breakthrough came in the same year. Uganda was going through a political transformation and the need for active and vibrant media content was inevitable. His client was none other than Kizza Besigye, the controversial opposition leader. The Ugandan politician was running for presidency under the Forum for Democratic Change.

Dr Besigye contracted Absolute Media Pictures to create and design campaign materials for his election bid. The deal was worth Sh2.1 million, a huge contrast to the entrepreneur’s earnings from the makeshift studio earlier. Although his client lost the election, the contract gave his new company the drive to soldier on.

“I continued to operate from the house and invested the money in equipment before a friend approached me with seemingly good deal that almost brought me back to my knees,’’ said the Absolute Media Pictures managing director.

The job involved covering the South Sudan independence anniversary but hardly did he know that he was dealing with fake promoters.

“We got duped and on coming back to Kenya. I had lost almost all my savings,’’ he recalls. “I was broke and I had to reinvent myself. It was a lifetime lesson.”

Frustrated but unbowed, Mr Mwaura repackaged himself and set out to recover what he had lost in the dubious deal, the lowest point in his life, he says. However, he urgently needed capital for his business.

“I approached two of my closest friends and involved them in the running of the company,” says Mwaura. “One in the creative department while the other one headed the company’s accounts section.’’

He says working with innovative people who strongly believe in him and what he does has seen the company grow. Soon after he teamed up with his too friends, business deals began flowing in. Today, the two are the shareholders of the company.

“One must believe in people and give them an opportunity to grow,’’ says Mr Mwaura.

Some of their notable television commercials include those of Airtel, Kenya Commercial Bank (‘Weka-Weka’), Coca Cola, Ford Foundation (under the famous Uraia advert), Kass TV rebranding and Tanzania’s NBC Bank.

Mwaura is cagey when asked how much they made from some of the engagements. He remains mum for a while, his silence a reflection of a man who closely guards the company’s worth in his conversations.

Role models

The Airtel deal sealed last year, he says, earned the company Sh13 million. “The commercials were used both in East and West Africa,’’ he adds but remains scanty on how much they made from other commercials.

Mr Mwaura says he has learnt from his role models the importance of remaining loyal to clients.

“Honesty in service delivery is key to any business. We have invested much in quality and mostly in our creativity,’’ he says. “We have made most of our clientele base through referrals and this is the best marketing strategy a company should embrace.”

This has helped the production and advertising firm to prosper.

“We invest much of the profits we make in the company,’’ he says, adding that they are yet to reach the apex and that more work lies ahead.

In the next few months, these youthful millionaires plan to shoot Miss Tourism fete in Tanzania. OLX, an online e-commerce platform, has engaged the company for its upcoming television promotion.

“This is a Sh4.5 million contract and we are very optimistic that we will deliver the best,’’ he says.

Mr Mwaura says that their main competitor is Fat Boy Animations, the company behind the famous Faiba advert. “Animation is just beginning to pick up in Kenya after Faiba advert became an instant hit and people have really embraced the concept,’’ he says.

The businessman is a workaholic who is said to spend most of his time researching and sleeps a couple of hours. He is also a family man.

He says that the advertising industry is not yet saturated and more talent is needed.

“When we started off, live motion advertising was evolving, but we have learnt what the industry wants and perfected our art. Research is paramount in any career,’’ says Mr Mwaura. “It is hard to get people who will give you the value for what you want but you have to invest in them to get the required results later.”-Business Daily