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John Macharia: I Started My Business From a Class Project

Alumni Association of KCA University » Blog » John Macharia: I Started My Business From a Class Project

Tell us about your entrepreneurial journey

My name is John Macharia. I’m a businessman and a former student of KCA University.  I graduated in the year 2018 with a Bachelor of Commerce in Entrepreneurship. I got Second Class Honors (Upper Division).

I want to appreciate a great man, one of my lecturers, Joshua Nyangidi. He taught us entrepreneurship units that were also known as Ideation; Ideation is the development of ideas. I developed the idea of a Digital Driving School. I wanted to ubernize driving – training people the theory in the comfort of their homes.

Once it was approved by the lecturer, I registered a company, Digital Driving School. I quit my job where I was working as a General Manager in a driving school and we began Digital Driving School.  We were not able to begin from a digital perspective but we began a physical driving school because in everything you must have a beginning. We didn’t have money. We went to the villages, grouped people into small groups, trained them, gave them licenses, and that is how we got money to start a business. We started Digital Driving School from one branch, and today we have 20 branches in four counties, i.e. Murang’a, Nairobi, Kajiado, and Makueni.

We also have an App where people can be able to book for Practicals.

Please give us highlights of your success as well as the low moments throughout your journey.

I would say the first one is when I developed these ideas, I felt like I was in heaven. Unfortunately, when it comes to the reality of implementing, and you don’t have finances, it demoralizes you.  I remember we got the first student on the first day we began Digital Driving School. Wow! I felt like I’d achieved until the government agencies came knocking, our competitors and everybody wanted to bring our business down. It was demoralizing. That was a low moment for me, because I had invested every coin that I had.

I would say today I’m the happiest person. Having created employment for 60 people directly and over 300 people indirectly. It is a great thing and I feel even if today I was to leave what I’m doing or I die I have impacted the world.  The most important thing that makes me proud is the lives of the young people we have transformed.  Since we began five years ago we have trained over 10,000 young people and that is the highlight of my success.

You mentioned one of the challenges being government agencies. How do you navigate this challenge? We notice that businesses are required to have many licenses in order to operationalize.  What is your take on that?

I remember at one point I mentioned about analyzing your strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities.  One thing I didn’t talk about is Threats and these are some of the challenges that most people doing business face. Today, everybody is lamenting about how they can finance NSSF, NHIF, etc.  I would say that government policies being one of the challenges, there is nothing much you can do.  As long as you want to do business, you must comply.

Number two, you must understand government policies because if you do not understand, people will come to your offices and ask you for remittances you are unaware of or do not understand.  I remember one time the Government of Kenya gave us a bill, that required us to remit over half a million but because I was trained on matters tax in the CPA course at KCA University, I was able to argue with the government officials that our services are not vatable.  I ask the business community to seek to understand their industry so that when challenges come, they will know how to mitigate those challenges.

Everybody says that being a businessman is a risk-taking venture but most people don’t understand that jargon – risk-taking.  It is understanding the risks and knowing how to mitigate them.  For example, in my industry, if you don’t get a good insurance cover for your vehicle, you will get so many challenges. Police will harass you, and when you get into an accident you will have to foot the bill because you did not mitigate that risk.

So, what sets the Digital Driving School apart from the rest?

One of the unique things is that we have embraced technology.  We can teach theory in the comfort of your home through your computer or phone.  None of the schools in Kenya have done so.  We have also done transformational leadership.  Most employers fail to understand that leadership style determines how far an organization will go.  Most of the people are dictators.  We do not understand our employees.  One of the richest men in Europe, Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic, employs one strategy that works for him and that we also use at Digital.  He says when you are hiring, get the best brains.  Train them, Trust and Empower them, give them targets let them give you results.

One of my main agendas is to transform my employees.  We have staff members who have served this company since its inception.  The Number one employee is still working with us.  I will use a quote used by Sir Richard Branson.  His employees are his Kings and Queens.  As a leader, I value my employees as my Kings and Queens, and in turn, they value our customers as the Kings and Queens.

What is your advice to your fellow alumni, students of KCA University and the general public who are keen on entrepreneurship?

I am appealing to all the students of KCA University, my fellow alumni and the general public who have an interest in entrepreneurship to learn how to do their SWOT analysis. They should get to know their strengths, weaknesses and opportunities available and list them down. One of the reasons why one needs to go to school is to be taught how to identify opportunities.  For instance, when Mr. Nyangidi was teaching he was able to open our minds and we were able to think about how to tap into opportunities that were available. Most people have challenges on how to identify business opportunities. Connect these strengths with the opportunities.  If you have a strength like for example, a good command of English, there is an opportunity of being a Digital Marketer, where you develop content for sharing.

The second thing I would tell all students is not to take for granted whatever they’ve been trained in school. The idea that I developed when I was in school is today feeding more than 60 people and it has placed me on another level.  It has also taken me to so many countries and connected me to great people and organizations. You can develop an idea or you can build a company from the classroom.

Third, don’t take your classmates for granted. Students at KCA University should make sure they network very well. I know many CEOS and Senior Government Officers who we schooled with because they were my good friends.

To my fellow alumni, make good use of what you learned in school and support one another.  Whatever you learned and whatever you’re doing, inspire these young people, and you’ll feel a lot of fulfillment by doing so.

To the general public, I will say the same. There are so many opportunities that people are not exploiting. In these times when we are talking of CBC, as a youth, instead of sleeping and watching your phone 24-7, identify five homes with children who are doing CBC. Help them to do homework, help them to make balls and do the things they are being asked by their teachers to do and by so doing these parents will give you monetary appreciation. If you identify five children who each is paying 100 every evening to help them to do assignments, every day you can be making 500 shillings comfortably. Over the weekend you can tutor 10 to 20 pupils because these parents are not available, they don’t have time to do it. I always tell people, that opportunities are within where you are.

There is one idea we are developing at Digital Driving School, the idea that was born at KCA University, and we are telling young people, that for us to reduce road accidents, we need to start training our children on road safety from primary school.

What is your parting shot?

Train now, be a champion tomorrow!