Eva Muraya had an illustrious career working with leading corporate firms, but after 15 years she was restless and wanted a new challenge. In 1999 she quit her job and co-founded branded merchandise company Color Creations Africa. The business has been a success, both winning awards and expanding regionally.
Over the next decade her entrepreneurial accomplishments were celebrated in Kenya and globally. In 2008 she was selected to represent Kenya in the Fortune/State Department International Women Leaders Mentoring Partnership and was a co-recipient of the inaugural Goldman Sachs-Fortune Global Women Leaders Award.
In 2009, she stepped aside from her award-winning enterprise to start another business, Brand Strategy and Design (BSD). The East Africa-focused BSD group offers various services under four companies: BSD (brand strategy management), Whiteboard (advertising), Avid PR (public relations) and BrandQuad Africa (brand training).
Focusing on her strengths
A journalism graduate, Muraya says Color Creations and BSD are both aligned with her passion to build brands. “I have found it more worthwhile to stay with what I best understand. I am in my comfort zone in terms of energy, in terms of experience, in terms of skill and competence.
“I bet I would have loved to run a pharmacy but really that is out of my stable. I would have loved perhaps to do something that is outside of familiar, but the bottom line is, I’m good at this.”
Looking back she says she wishes she had quit her job sooner and pursued entrepreneurship. “I won’t call it a mistake because I learnt a lot, but maybe I should have ventured out earlier.” She adds that in those early days she should have been less shy about her dreams.
“I wish I had dreamt earlier about what I am achieving today. I should have been a lot more audacious at 25 and 28 but I have no regrets. Perhaps if I had been a lot more audacious about my continent then maybe I would have saved 10 years.”
Muraya says applying the “principles of the harvest” is one of the key reasons why she has been successful in business. The BSD boss argues that today many ambitious youth want “a microwave experience of success” which is neither attainable nor sustainable.
“I would apply the principles of the harvest which is you must dig, clear the land, plant, water the crops… and then hopefully there will be a harvest and sometimes that harvest might be a little bit disappointing. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t go back and sow again.”
Muraya notes that entrepreneurs should try to align their skill to their passion, but still not be afraid to venture in to new things. Whether it is going back to school for a degree, reading books and magazines or enrolling for short courses, Muraya says entrepreneurs need to “arm themselves with the capability necessary”. It is for this reason she has undertaken business studies at the IESE Business School of the University of Navarra (Spain) and Strathmore University (Kenya).
Africa needs its entrepreneurs
The brand-building guru advises entrepreneurs to “employ a sense of strong character”, and not be associated with vices that have dogged leaders in Africa in the past. This, she says, will go a long way in changing the brand awareness and brand recognition of Africa.
“You need the understanding that this continent really needs us to love it. So employ a lens of compassion. Africa has huge needs ranging from infrastructure, dignified housing, food security, strong institutions and visionary leadership… the list is endless,” says Muraya. “It is this generation that is going to be held accountable for delivering the next quality of life for Africa.”
She notes that enterprise will play a central role in transforming African economies and addressing decade long challenges in areas such as health, education, food security and leadership.
“Who is going to feed Africa? Who will ensure Africans are educated? Across the board, the entrepreneurs are the ones carrying this continent to the next season.”