Life of an entrepreneur during the post election violence in Kenya, with some lessons

October 11, 2020

“In 2007, I got into a partnership with some South African Entrepreneurs to expand my business. In anticipation of that deal, I had taken a whole floor of a building and also some houses for the businessmen. They were going to take my business to the next level. But then Kenya goes into post-election violence and the chairman freaks out, the managers freak out and everybody disappears. They said why don’t we wait and see whether Kenya will calm down?”  

Julian Kyula, founder and former CEO of MODE, describes this period of his entrepreneurial career as one of his toughest ever. He says he was left with two extra floors at the International house which were empty, houses with landlords asking when the tenants will be coming and when they will get their cheque and absolutely upset shareholders.

From this experience, Julian recounts that he learnt another lesson which was, no matter how grand something is going to be or no matter how crystal clear the potential of something is, people will be fine with you until something like this happens (the post-election violence).

This goes to show how brutal the world of business is. Partners may stick with you and/or want to work with you when the coast is clear but in the face of a storm they will rarely risk it. “This was my University.” Julian Kyula said referencing to the experiences he had in the business world that year.

“I had to figure things out. When auctioneers came to my office, I went to see Kirubi (the Billionaire owner of International House). We had an honest conversation and restructured the rent arrangement. I owed him about Kshs 24 million for floors booked. It was horrible. Going back to that time makes me emotional but it was a great lesson” Pastor Kyula concluded. 

In the end, things slowly and painfully aligned.

Julian Kyula was a guest at Unthinkable Roast in April 2019. Click here to join other leaders for inspiring monthly conversations on leadership and innovation

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