‘Meet the Boss’ is a How we made it in Africa interview series in which we pose 10 questions to business leaders across the continent.
Terry Mungai, CEO, Ashleys Kenya
1. What was your first job?
At 18 I packed flour at a milling company. That was my first paying job.
2. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
I would say my mother because she raised us as a single parent after losing our father during the struggle for independence. Despite the fact that she was not educated herself, she valued education and worked hard to educate the four of us. She did menial jobs… and even acquired properties. I think I learnt the art of hard work from her.
3. Which parts of your job keep you awake at night?
When a client is not satisfied it really bothers me. When a client texts or calls me to complain about the service they were offered, that keeps me awake. When my staff are undergoing a rough time it also keeps me awake at night.
4. What are top reasons why you have been successful in business?
I am very daring. I am confident and I take things head on without having doubts that a venture will fail. Those questions of “what if…” don’t come my way. I love challenges. I love success and that drives me because whatever I touch I want it to be a success.
5. What are the best things about your country, Kenya?
The best thing about Kenya is that we have a level playing ground in that male and female entrepreneurs can pursue their dreams. What you have worked for and acquired belongs to you and no one can take advantage of you because of gender. There is gender equality as far as business is concerned. I would also say that to an extend we have a peaceful country.
6. And the worst?
The worst thing is bureaucracy, which I think the government is working on. The bureaucracy is quite evident in the registration of businesses and acquisition of permits.
7. Your future career plans?
I will not rest until Ashleys is in all 47 counties in Kenya and regionally in East and Central Africa. I also want to do a few more real estate projects. I don’t think I will retire any time soon. Maybe at some point I will slow down and empower other people to carry my vision.
8. How do you relax?
I go to the gym. I really find the gym relaxing. I also listen to inspirational music. Occasionally I love to watch a good drama.
9. What is your message to Africa’s young aspiring business people and entrepreneurs?
The first thing they should know is that they don’t have to start at the top. I think that is the biggest problem we have with our youth. They want white collar jobs in blue chip companies to start with. That doesn’t always happen, at least not for everybody. If you are humble enough to start from the bottom you will climb up and this is more sustainable because you have actually worked your way up.
Patience is a virtue you cannot do without in business. It takes a while for business to stabilise. Many people have not waited for the breakeven point which can take two to even five years. You have to be patient.
10. How can Africa realise its full potential?
We need to manage our resources well. This is where good governance comes in. We need to have better structures and leadership so as to protect what is ours in Africa. We shouldn’t rely on the outside world to manage our resources for us.
Terry Mungai is a renowned entrepreneur in Kenya’s beauty industry, running the Ashleys chain of high-end salon and beauty shops, a training institute and the Miss World Kenya beauty pageant.