Interviewed by Christopher Maina
Irene Mureithi looks and talks like any other ordinary woman. You can’t make her out from a crowd, as her humble demeanour and height often conceal the substance she is made of. And yet, Irene has so much going in her life that one wonders why, for instance, she would drive a tiny and unrecognisable car like a Vitz, when she could comfortably afford a BMW. At 36 years, Irene is founder and owner of a multi-million shilling business enterprise ‑ Royal & Rich Personal Development Institute (PDI). She has also authored several books.
She founded Royal & Rich after the success of a pilot project, Born to Win Club, started in 2005. This was an informal motivational club where Irene and her friends would meet to inspire youth to think big. “Out of this experience, I realised there were many people in need of personal development training and motivation. With that realisation, Royal & Rich was born. We cater for the needs of working people, college and pre-college students and even those who are yet to find something to do with their lives,” Irene explains.
Working at Royal & Rich has made her realise society is full of unhappy people. “There are people who make hundreds of thousands of shillings every month, live in enviable neighbourhoods and drive the latest car models, and yet they are mortally dissatisfied with life. Life for them is meaningless in spite of all these things,” she says.
Her institute helps such people find their place in the universe. “Contrary to what society wants us to believe, having a lot of money and material things does not necessarily make one happy. Knowing one’s purpose in life and working towards fulfilling that purpose is what makes for true happiness. Most people are where they don’t belong and we try to help them get out of that unfulfilling place,” says Irene.
Since she was a little girl at St John’s Primary School in Nakuru, Irene dreamed about one day working in an environment where she would be dealing directly with people. She describes herself as a people person and is comfortable relating with people of all ages and social groups. “From this early age, I did bible reading during church service and interacted very well with people. At home, I would stand on my mother’s bed and address imaginary crowds on different topics. I would try to motivate them with my message. From my own judgement, I didn’t do very badly and I believe it was from my mother’s bedroom that my dream of becoming a motivational speaker was born,” says Irene.
But something came between her and her childhood dream. “One day I accompanied my mother to a branch of Barclays bank in Nakuru to withdraw money. It was my first time inside a bank. I was mesmerised with this place where people went to get money. I admired the people who worked there handling all that money, and my dream of becoming a banker was born. I imagined if I worked in a bank I would lid my family of poverty that had surrounded us ever since I could remember. While motivational speaking remained my passion, working in a bank became the goal to making money and uplifting my family from poverty,” Irene explains.
After completing high school at Mercy Secondary School in Kipkelion, Irene grabbed the first opportunity that came her way and joined Utalii College where she studied Front Office Operations. She graduated in 1996 and was employed as a teller at a Forex Bureau based at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. After working there for five years she joined Co-operative Bank as a switchboard operator. “I had applied for a receptionist’s job and was disappointed when I reported to work and found out that I would be operating the switchboard. I answered calls five days a week from eight to five and it was not the easiest or the most pleasant job,” says Irene.
Working in a bank and yet being so far away from her dream of becoming a banker was frustrating, but she didn’t know how to make a move. But she constantly told herself every morning when she reported to work, “The world is so big you can’t keep me in this corner.” These are the words that helped her start working towards finding her calling and pursuing her dream.
“In between calls, I would jot down ideas for a book I wanted to write. After work, instead of going to hassle for transport when everyone was in a rush to get home, I would go to the New Stanley Hotel, order a cup of tea and embark on writing my book. The place was conducive to writing because it was quiet and the waiters were polite, and nobody bothered me. From this effort came my first book, Celebrate the Hard Times, published in 2005,” explains Irene.
“This book is the miracle that opened the door for me to become a banker. The Human Resource Manager at my bank attended the book launch at the bank’s staff training centre in Karen and she took notice of me. She called me later that year and asked me if I would like to move from the switchboard to another department in the bank. I told her my dream was to become a banker. She hired me as a teller in one of the branches, and that fulfilled my childhood dream. I worked in different departments of the bank including customer care, credit and auditing sections,” recounts Irene.
The glamour of banking soon faded and Irene felt dissatisfied with what she was doing. Despite earning a promotion at the branch, she hated the routine and wanted to move on but was held back by a mortgage she held with the bank, as well as her SACCO and credit card loans. After careful thinking Irene made a decision to sell her house to clear the mortgage and other loans so she could be free to do what she wanted. She resigned from her job in 2007 and started to pursue her true-life passion of becoming a motivational speaker. She never looked back.
Because of her experience, she uses Royal & Rich Institute to help people discover their purpose in life early so they do not waste time chasing after wind. The main training consists of seven courses: spiritual development, leadership, career and business development, financial literacy, health and fitness, relationships and recreation. It is aptly named after the institute – Rich and Royal Personal Development.
Another programme involves personality profiling and aims to define personality type using questionnaires that measure the level of dominance, influence, steadiness and compliance (DISC). This programme enables individuals get an in-depth understanding of their personality. It appreciates the fact that each of us is an individual who should stand out rather than blend with the masses.
Another 14-week programme helps one develop a strategic life plan. “This is a programme with a money-back guarantee if you don’t discover your purpose in the course of training. It touches on finances, relationships, career, business, health, spirituality and leadership. Basically, it enables you to achieve balance and fulfilment in life,” Irene says.
Life Boot Camp is a two-month pre-college programme targeting high school leavers. Its aim is to instil in the youth the importance of purpose in life to help them map their career path and develop their potential early. This programme enables the youth to choose a course of study that is in line with their true purpose.
“We stepped in to offer what formal education doesn’t give people. For example, you can have a job like I had at the bank, yet you are not fulfilled and you know there is a lot more to your potential but you don’t know how to go from there. Or you want to quit your job and do something new but you don’t know how to create a new business since formal education does not teach you that,” says Irene from her offices at Yaya Court, near Yaya Centre.
“This institute is changing people’s lives. For example, the current DISC programme class has 51 students among them lawyers, pilots and doctors. Our emphasis is for people to get away from academic papers and mine the gold that is inborn in them. You realise that most millionaires are people with very little formal education. It is a fact that formal education gives you an income but self-education gives you fortunes,” says Irene.
“The institute trains people to package their talent and brand it to make a fortune from it. Why should a university graduate earn a salary of Ksh1000 a day on average when he can make more? When I worked at the bank, I made about Ksh60000 a month. After loan repayments deductions and taxes, I took home very little. Currently, I make much more. It’s all about knowing what you are good at and branding your brilliance so people can pay you for it. They say if you do what you love money follows,” says Irene.
About 153 people have attended courses at the institute since it was launched. The main course, Rich and Royal Personal Development, takes three and a half months. “We say it takes 21 days to change a habit so we give our students 21 days times three because what we are basically looking to change is their way of thinking and their approach to life. We want to change people’s lives so their work is not all about meeting their daily expenses. Life for me is about realising why God put you in this universe and following your life’s assignment to impact society positively, and at the same time being able to make money out of it,” Irene says.
Being ready for life’s disappointments
“We also prepare people to handle difficult and challenging times while pursuing their dreams. When I left my job at the bank, at first I could not afford to rent an apartment and was accommodated for some time by a work colleague. People talked about me, saying I was such a great fool to leave my job and sell my house. To those people I say, God puts you through trials to prepare you for the next big blessing,” explains Irene, adding she has no regrets for quitting her job.
Irene has had her share of life’s disappointments. At one point she won the American Green Card through lottery and after spending a lot of money and time to fulfil the requirements, she was denied a visa. This a low point in her life and she writes in her book, Celebrate Hard Times: “I had been to America in my dreams countless times from the day my mother went to the post office and called me to say I had won the green card lottery… I waited for the appointment with the American embassy in Kenya for over 10 months… it turned out to be a slap on my face… I took a trip back home empty handed…”
Then an even bigger disappointment was to follow. A man who was to be her husband, and had even paid dowry to her parents, dumped her at the 11th hour. “Everything was going on well and we were only waiting for the wedding day… Then he stopped communicating, just like that,” she says.
Irene the mum
Irene is single and happily sharing her life with her adopted son, Denis. Despite the hurt she went through when her fiancée dumped her, she is open to finding a man after God’s heart. She has authored two more books, Born to Win Teens, and Royal and Rich Reflections. She is working on her fourth book.
She believes in giving back to society and long before she founded the institute she had partnered with Born to Win Club members to sponsor a boy at the Starehe Boys Centre. The boy achieved an average grade A in last year’s KCSE. And early this year, Royal & Rich partnered with UN-Habitat to raise funds to build a house for one IDP family in Mai Mahiu.
She challenges people to work on their ideas and stop complaining about money. The greatest capital one has is his or her ideas, she says, and gives the example of her beginnings. “When I thought of the institute I had no money, only a big idea. But I sold the idea to a few people who put their resources into it. Today we are in Nairobi and Mombasa and are soon going to every major town in the country before we venture into Eastern Africa,” she says.
Irene hopes to start a radio and television station in the future to reach as many people as possible. Meanwhile, she is working on a TV talk show and hopes to become a renowned motivational speaker and author. Royal & Rich plans to invest in a training centre complete with a golf course, chapel and restaurant. “We believe in holistic formation and that’s why the centre will be a one-stop shop for spiritual, health and financial training,” she explains. The institute employs five people, and she is happy to have created jobs for these Kenyans.
Irene is also a certified life coach from the Institute of Motivational Living in the USA. She gives motivational talks to corporate bodies, schools and churches. When not thinking about motivating people, she will be found travelling, reading, writing and preaching. “I became a born-again Christian at age of 14 and I base all my life and our programmes at the institute on Christian teachings. No dream or person can stand if they are not well-grounded in God,” she concludes.
More about Irene…
* Born in Bahati in Nakuru 36 years ago
* Last born in family of three girls
* Her parents separated when she was three years and her mother moved back to her parents’ home, so she was brought up in her grandmother’s house.
Published in June 2011