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Kenya’s Own: Kimani Wanguhu Envisions Empowerment!



This post was originally posted by Benin Mwangi on Kenya Imagine. It is actually the interview thatWilson Kimani Wanguhu and myself did about his brainchild-Kenya Empowerment News. And by the way, you can expect to see more collaboration between our two sites in the future-so stay tuned, eh?

Background

See how an Atlanta, GA (USA) based Kenyan entrepreneur took his business from a small two page newsletter into the largest newspaper serving Kenyans living in the States.You may visit Kim Media Group’s Kenya Empowerment News and see for self why it has risen to the top of America’s Kenyan news!The interview that follows is between the Founder and President of Kim Media Group, Mr. Wilson Kimani Wanguhu and myself-Benin Mwangi .

Interview

1.What were your first few years in America like?

It was tough like that of everybody else who has made this journey before me. I had to go through a cultural shock and misguided notion of America as Hollywood had presented to me while in Kenya. I also had to adjust to the too-much freedom in the new world not to mention many choices in everything around me, but with time it got better. Communication was the other major obstacle; my Kenyan accent carried the day every time I tried to ‘twang’ to sound like the Americans and hence made it almost impossible for the native to understand what I was saying.

2. How old were you upon your arrival to the States?

I came to the States when I was 19 years old.

3. Do you think that the information that you were given, while still in Kenya about America, prepared you for America or were there many things about the States that caught you unaware?

The information I was given was not accurate, I was expecting more than I found when I got here. A lot of necessary information was left out in my debriefing living me vulnerable. It was clear to me why U.S does not have Department (Ministry) of culture.

Hollywood does such a good job of selling the American dream to the outside world, it’s amazing. The ‘Heaven on earth’ glamorized lifestyle turn out to be a mirage. The sobering moment was when I realized the American dollar was as elusive as the Kenyan shilling not to mention the credit system turned out to be a can of worms.

4.I remember when your newspaper, Kenya Empowerment Newspaper, was a just two or three sheet of paper someyears back. So let me ask you, back then did you ever have any idea that the newspaper would grow to become what it is today?

I did, always knew what I wanted the newspaper to be, it was just a matter of getting there. We had to start somewhere with what we had then and as the momentum picked up so did the shape of the newspaper.

5.Someone told me that the Kenya Empowerment News is the largest Kenyan paper in the US, is that true?

That is true we are the largest newspaper serving the Kenyan community in the U.S. We are a monthly newspaper distributed in 21 states. Our goal is to create a networking tool that provide key information to our readership while we promote Kenyan business.

We started with 200 copies in Atlanta and in two and a half years we are in 21 states with 15,000 copies distributed every month and now the website www.kimmediagroup.com has started to take a life of its own creating serious traffic.

6.The way that it looks to me is that you have been somehow able to operate between the markets of the mega Kenyan newspapers like the Daily Nation and the Standard on one end and some of the Diaspora publications like Jamhuri and Mshale.


How have you been able to do this so well? Could you ever see a time when you might either compete more directly with these or similar publications or even collaborate with them?

We have been able to do this by being the alternative source of news and information.

We have stuck to our vision and avoided being distracted by what others are
doing. We believe in what we are doing. Ours is a unique product and we intend to keep it that way.

I would also like to add that competition is healthy as long as it’s done right. And I also think it would be to our advantage if we can all work together where we can for the betterment of our people.

7.What would you say is your business philosophy and management style?

My Philosophy: Treat people the same way you would like them to treat you if the situation was reversed. My Management style is summed up by an old cowboy saying, “Feed your stallions, shoot the wounded and keep the herd moving”.

8.How do you motivate the others around you who help to carry out the vision of Kenya Empowerment News?

Is there a difference between how you did it when the paper was an infant and how you motivate your team today?

Yes there is a difference, as the newspaper had gotten larger, I have had to bring in key players. The secret is having the right people for the right job. My role is to bring out the best in each of my team members. I encourage them to be creative, take ideas and fly with them in areas of their expertise. I realize if I keep controlling everything I will keep getting the same results so to bring in fresh ideas I had to let my team feel free to be key players.

9.Are you able to tell us about your business ventures that you may have or have had in Kenya?

Currently we have opened an office in Nairobi Kenya at Standard House 4th floor and looking to get the newspaper distributed on the street of Nairobi by next year.

10.Do you have any words of advice for others behind you who might be thinking of starting a business either here in the States or back in Kenya?

My advice is to always look for a need within your potential clients and there is your business. Provide them with the solution for their need as a business. Opportunities are everywhere.


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A credit analyst by profession, Benin Mwangi is one of the world's foremost experts on the topic of entrepreneurship in Africa. He is the founder of Benin Mwangi Enterprises, a consulting firm that specializes in promoting trade in Africa as a means to achieve self-empowerment and community development. His blog, BeninMwangi.com, serves as one of the most popular online destinations for those looking to learn about and discuss business and entrepreneurship in Africa. He is also a regular contributor to Global Voices Online and Kenya Empowerment News.
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