Jesse Muniu is the East Africa Managing Director of Lexo Energy, a network of 40 petrol stations spread across Kenya and Tanzania.
He shared his entrepreneurial journey with Life&Style magazine.
We opened our first fuel station in Kenya in Busia in May 2017. In November 2019, we opened our first station in Tanga, Tanzania. Every great story starts from somewhere and opening these two stations has been the foundation of our success in the Kenya and Tanzania markets.
Looking back, I have come to learn that what matters most is not where we opened our first station, but our vision on where we wanted the company to end up. It is never about how you start but where you want to finish. You can start a business at a very ideal location, but end up broke if you have no business development template.
There are three important pillars for building sustainable business success. People, product, and processes. It is your responsibility to make sure that you have the right team, the right tools, and an environment where contribution is rewarded and recognised. Don’t promise things you cannot deliver. It will damage customer trust.
My first degree was in civil engineering. One of the things I learned while pursuing this degree is that every engineer will take a different approach when providing solutions to one identical problem. The same is true about success. Organisations and individuals must constantly strive to monitor and learn what works and what doesn’t. You don’t have to follow the herd mentality. Be innovative.
I have lost and made money in equal measure. In 2000, I engaged in a supermarket supplies business. At the time, supermarket chains were expanding aggressively. The business grew quickly and we started struggling to keep up with incoming orders. Our main challenge was failure of the supermarkets to pay us on time. For our invoices to be paid, we were required to supply even more products which left the business even worse off.
I realised that we were losing our working capital to the supermarkets we were supplying. They were not paying us on time but were expanding rapidly. I decided to quit and ended up selling my share in the business at a significant loss. That experience taught me that making a gross profit is not enough. You need to understand the cost structure of the business. The better you are at determining the true cost of your capital, the better you will be in making critical business decisions such as leveraging.
I am a great believer in discipline and commitment when it comes to personal finance. I have a fixed contribution to investment funds, consistent investments to equities in both public and public companies, and investments in the real estate sector. This is something I have maintained since I got my first salary.
Employment and entrepreneurship are avenues of creating value. It doesn’t really matter which avenue you use. What matters is what opportunities are available to you, what people are willing to pay you for, what fulfills you as a person, and what you are good at. One of the things I learned from my grandfather is that God created hands with different sizes of fingers. People can never be the same. We should spend time not wishing to be like others but working to become the best versions of ourselves.