Monica Wanjohi’s first stab at real estate was selling land she didn’t own, but that gamble has set her off on a rewarding path
Buying and selling property in Kenya, especially land, is not for the faint hearted. Stories abound of a rogue sector where land agents swindle clients of their hard earned money. In worse cases, this has led to murder arising fro conflicts surrounding land ownership.
Consequently, many potential agents decide the risk is not worth it, even with the high returns that could be made in this increasingly lucrative sector. Indeed, a woman is the last person one would expect to go where only the bravest venture. But this is not so for 39-year-old Mrs Monica Wanjohi.
In the daring spirit of entrepreneurship, Monica is now becoming one of the few established real estate agents in the country. But like most successful people, hers has not been an easy journey. Monica is not intimidated by humble beginnings. She discovered the high potential in real estate through an investment group of which she had been a member for six years.
But to achieve her dream, she had to leave the group in order to have the freedom and single-mindedly pursue the increasing opportunities in the sector. Armed only with a solid business plan, she registered her flagship company, Milestone Signature (MS) Properties Limited, and immediately started approaching networks she had gathered over the years.
The biggest challenge was raising capital for her first land deal, because despite being previously employed in a senior position with a good salary, the mother of three shares that her life was a rat race and she had depleted her savings.
“I approached many friends to invest in the land idea, but no one was forthcoming, leaving me with no option but to do what I’m good at; marketing. I searched and identified a serious buyer for a piece of land I had negotiated for.
Once I was sure the buyer was ready to sign a sale agreement and make payments, I approached the owner to release the land to me and promised to pay her within 48 hours, in time to have received money from the buyer’s end,” she recalls.
With hindsight, she says it was a big gamble that, luckily, went well. Still in her first year as a real estate agent, she is now on her third project using money from the first sale. As her business grows, she says she is now in a better position to secure financing from banks as her client base is now growing from repeat customers and referrals.
Monica attributes her increasing success to honesty and God’s grace, qualities which she notes are scarce in this cut-throat business. She has also managed to conquer all self-doubt amidst the many obstacles along her entrepreneurial journey.
“The competitive advantage for M.S Properties is transparency and credibility in an industry known for fraud and theft. We proactively communicate to our customers about the progress of processing their title deeds and endeavour to issue these documents within 90 days of purchasing the land,” she observes.
Monica attended Ndururuno Primary School in Nairobi’s Huruma Estate, where she was born and brought up. After performing well in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exam, she was admitted to the highly competitive Pangani Girls High School.
Again, she excelled in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education and proceeded to the University of Nairobi where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Chemistry. Later, she pursued diplomas in both Marketing and Project Management in order to give herself a structured and professional approach to business.
Her entrepreneurship journey started when she formed Brandkey Limited at 27-years-old. Having worked at the Aga Khan University Hospital and Phillips Pharmaceuticals, she had identified unmet need for companies in the medical and health sector to outsource their sales and marketing functions, particularly for stagnant or slow moving products.
With a sales team of five people, the company grew fast. Unfortunately, a high staff turnover coupled with lack of experience in networking and mentorship eroded the gains she was making. She closed shop and returned to employment after two and a half years.
The entrepreneurial experience nevertheless enabled her get a job with the Nairobi Women’s Hospital as the General Manager in charge of Marketing and Business Development. Thereafter, Monica joined Parapet Group of Companies as one of their general managers. She resigned from the latter position after the entrepreneurship bug bit her once more.
As a result of existing demand from her clients, Monica plans to get into property development and management. To cap it all, she is also in the process of setting up a foundation to empower women looking to be entrepreneurs, great wives and mothers.