After completing his degree in information technology at the University of Wisconsin, US, David Mugo began toying with the idea of starting an IT firm.
â€œI have always wanted to be an independent entrepreneur and operate as my own boss. With my qualifications in IT, I felt that I could take the risk,â€ he says.
However, he did not have the requisite capital. â€œThe market was not yet ripe for the kind of online business I wanted to do â€” blogging and digital marketing.â€
So Mr Mugo sought a job first to hone his skills and make himself one of the most sought-after IT advisers in the region.
In 2006 he re-visited his idea of starting an online profit-making blog, but ended up postponing its launch for four years.
In 2010, the father-of-two joined Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikweteâ€™s re-election campaign as a digital strategist. â€œThat move opened up more opportunities for me to explore how successful digital marketing could be,â€ he says.
After Mr Kikweteâ€™s re-election, Mr Mugo started his blog, niaje.com, as a side business. â€œI did not fully take the plunge as I was not sure how the market would respond. It was a new concept and I had to be cautious.â€ Initially, the market did not respond as he would have wished.
To cushion his startup, he established two more divisions within Niaje. â€œI felt that we needed to be more encompassing by branching out to unexplored sections of information technology.â€
Apart from online entertainment, lifestyle, and consumer technology news, he started a video production unit.
â€œI am going to launch a broader division for TV series, marketing ,and PR events soon,â€ adds Mugo, 33.
He has invested over Sh600,000 in the online marketing arm and spent over Sh4 million on the production unit. â€œProduction equipment is expensive and requires heavy investment if you are to make any quality return.â€
Last year, he went into full-time blogging. â€œI am living off niaje.com and supporting seven employees on a permanent basis. When the workload grows, I have temporary employees on standby,â€ he notes.
Last month, his blog got over five million hits and he says that this is just the start. â€œWe have expanded our content team and in the next few months, we will hit 15 million.â€
Everyday, Niaje attracts 12,000 visitors on average. It is ranked as the second largest entertainment blog in Kenya at the moment and has just won two awards at the Kenya Blog Awards.
â€œWe scooped the Kenyan Blog of the Year award,â€ he says adding that Niaje also generates revenue by creating documentaries.
However, the road to success for his business has not been simple. â€œGetting corporate sponsors to invest and trust that advertising with us will guarantee them results has been the biggest challenge.â€
Fraught with risks
He says that the high penetration of mobile Internet in the region has not worked in his favour as most of the Internet-enabled phones in use do not have the capacity to operate some of the programmes that Niaje runs.
â€œI would have wished to venture into it earlier. But the business is also fraught with risks as you must first establish a strong followersâ€™ base in order to convince potential advertisers.â€
He adds that the news section generated at the blog requires full time dedication as it must come across as credible and trustworthy to the consumer.
He says that through Niaje, he has learned that in order to make good returns, one must have the courage to take risk and invest.
â€œNiaje would not be where it is had I not invested heavily. Even in business, the saying that whatever you sow so shall you reap is applies.â€ He adds that for business to grow and prosper, any businessman must be willing to dream, dedicate and make tough decisions.
â€œTough decisions and sacrifices are part of the bargain. Itâ€™s either you lose or your business loses,â€ he says.