There is nothing about Abdullahi Dahir Sheikh to indicate that he was once a hawker. He now heads Mumtaz Trading and Investment Company, which builds houses in low income neighbourhoods.
The rise of the 32-year-old from a hawker in Eastleigh Estate in Nairobi to an executive director of a multi-million real estate firm has been long and winding.
â€œAfter finishing high school, I operated a small shop in Eastleigh before relocating to South Africa. I lived there for seven years, moving from province to province, opening small shops and selling all manner of wares, from textiles to electronics,â€ he says.
After a while, he settled in Mpumalanga, where he ran a big textiles and electronics store. Mr Dahirâ€™s business was doing so well down south that he had no plans of coming back to Kenya.
However, a holiday trip in 2008 proved to be his turning point. Having left Nairobi six days before a new government was sworn in, he says, the radically changed business environment impressed him.
â€œDespite the ravages of post-election violence, the atmosphere was conducive for business, unlike when I left during the former regime,â€ he says. â€œFor these reasons I made up my mind to come back home and invest since the atmosphere in South Africa is not very receptive to foreigners.â€
He shared his vision of establishing a real estate firm with like-minded members of his family and friends and after brainstorming, Mumtaz Trading and Investment Company was unveiled in 2008.
Driven by the dream of setting up state-of-the-art residential apartments in low income areas like Mombasa Road, the company has completed several projects in the past four years, the latest being Imara Gardens Apartments, which has 240 units.
â€œPlaces like Mombasa Road are not associated with the upper middle class, hence we wanted to change that by building apartments with similar qualities as those in high-end areas or the so-called leafy suburbs,â€ he toldÂ Money.
â€œInspired by this vision, Mumtaz ensures that the houses have top-notch finishing with electric perimeter fencing, gym, ample parking, bore holes, and underground and overhead water tanks to ensure a constant water supply.â€
His firm, he says, does both project design and construction, unlike other real estate firms that mainly specialise in one.
â€œTo ascertain the level of our standards, we usually challenge our buyers to engage the services of independent architects and surveyors to verify whether we have delivered the promised product,â€ he says.
â€œAs a confirmation of our adherence to quality, Mumtaz was honoured with The Excellence in Real Estate Development Award at the just concluded Homes Kenya Expo.â€
A two-bedroom apartment at Imara Gardens costs Sh6.8 million while a three-bedroom one that include servants quarter goes for Sh7.8 million.
â€œAs a company, we ensure that our houses are built next to key amenities like transport and schools,â€ he says. â€œFor instance Imara Gardens apartments are located a few metres from the proposed Imara Daima Railway Station that will link Syokimau to the city centre,â€ he says.