Dominic Mwendwa and Godsent Magolo are the minds behind Royal Hometown Limousines and Events Ltd. They are among the pioneers in the business. At first, it was a bumpy ride, but now they are cruising.
Your business is an empire. Tell us how you met and what prompted you to start this venture.
Dominic: Although we both grew up in Nairobi, we didn’t meet until when we joined Baraton University, Nakuru in 1993. Godsent was pursuing a degree in International Business while I was studying Business Administration. We went our separate ways after campus and met in 2000. Godsent had just come from the US where he had gone to do a Masters in International Business. Each of us had plans to start a business, but it was only after we met that the Limo business occurred to us. It was, however, a capital-intensive project and it took us many years to come up with the required capital. We officially started in 2010.
What was the starting capital?
From our Sh10 million savings, we bought our first Limo and dived into the deep waters. We focus on wedding functions, business launches, airport transfers, birthdays, exhibitions, corporate events, celebrity receptions, road shows and festivals.
How does it feel to be the big boys in this business?
We are humbled by how much we have grown. We started off with just one Limo, but now we have a number of them. We also have Chryslers, Hummers, Range Sports and Lincon, executive saloons, Mercedes, BMWs, Audis, Lexus and many others in different colours.
Being a new concept in Kenya, I am sure it was not a walk in the park….
You are very right. It was a major challenge at first because we were just starting off and it was a new idea to most people. We had a long dry spell. During that time, bookings were low because at first people didn’t know what the cars were for. However, after marketing in corporate, wedding, and anniversary events, and having more Limos on the road, people started warming up to our services. We also started off with familiar people who we sure would afford the package. We gave them a memorable experience and they spread the word. With time, our business picked up. It has taken a lot of patience and hard work to be where we are.
Who are the prominent personalities that have used your Limos?
South African singer Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Tanzanian’s Diamond, Mr Nice, Kenya Rugby 7s and 15s teams and many other celebrities.
When are peak and off-peak seasons?
There are plenty of bookings in August and December. Most clients prefer to have family and friends available during these two holiday seasons.
What is the most annoying thing your clients do with your cars?
Smoking in our cars, changing routes yet our cars have selective accessibility routes, and poor time management. In weddings, people throw rice grains inside the car, which are very hard to clean. We discourage clients from getting drunk in the Limos and pouring alcohol on the floor.
Have your ever had a bad experience with clients?
Yes, there are times people would get drunk and disorderly, making it hard to control them. Nowadays, we cancel any event if we suspect the client will behave in an unpleasant manner.
Are there cases where clients cancel their events at the eleventh hour? What are the penalties?
It rarely happens but depends with the reason behind it, like deaths, people discovering late that they cannot wed, and some abroad who cannot make it on time. Death cases are understandable and we have in the past refunded the whole amount. For delays, we postpone the occasion, depending on the availability of cars on that date. We impose penalties of 20 per cent or more on others, depending on the strength of reason of cancelation.
What are some of the things clients expect to enjoy when they hire your services?
We offer a VIP treatment with red carpet and uniformed security guards. In our stretch cars, we provide seats for eight passengers, rear heat and air conditioning, LED Fibre Optic lighting, stainless ceiling with fibre optic stars, 10 LCD monitors, AM/FM DVD/CD MP3 IPOD connect stereo, ice storage compartments, champagne console, glassware set, OIS digital circulatory and hands free intercom. We have trained chauffeurs and security.
What are some of the challenges you face?
Poor infrastructure is our main challenge. Our roads were constructed without factoring in big cars like Limos. When driving the stretch Limos, the drivers have a hard time accessing various star hotels because of the routes. Making a turn and going through certain gates is a headache.
There are clients who would wish to hire and use our cars, but bad roads force us to deny them the service. We are forced to do a road survey before agreeing to a client’s order.
How much do you charge for your services?
We charge per hour and we encourage our clients to go for more hours, because the more hours they hire, the less money they pay. For example, for four hours, one pays Sh25,000 per hour, but for five hours, one pays Sh24,000 per hour. For six hours, one pays Sh23,000 per hour while for seven hours, one pays Sh22,000 per hour. For eight hours we charge Sh21,000 per hour and Sh20,000 per hour for nine hours.
What are your modes of payment?
A 60 per cent deposit is required in order to book our cars. One must also provide a detailed map or sketch of the route. The booking is done a month before the event.
Outside this Limo business, I am sure you have a life. Family, kids?
Yes, we are both married and have children. We enjoy spending time with our families when we are not running the company.
We want to increase the fleet of cars and our partners to enable us manage the high demands. We also intend to have a Limousines show to educate people on their various uses.
Website: Royal Hometown Limousines & Events