Kelvin Kuria : Excelling in student leadership and business
Kelvin Kuria, 22, runs Meyous Networking, a thriving startup that offers social media marketing, brand and product activation in university campuses, and student mentoring and training, among other services. The
Kelvin Kuria, 22, runs Meyous Networking, a thriving startup that offers social media marketing, brand and product activation in university campuses, and student mentoring and training, among other services. The Kenyatta University student, who recently won the Distinguished Leadership Award from the university’s student association for his dedicated leadership in various student-run associations, chats with EDNA GICOVI about the value of excelling in whatever you do.
It was only towards the end of interviewing this talkative and ambitious fourth-year marketing student with a ‘can-do’ attitude that I finally got the pronunciation of his company’s interesting name right. Meyous (pronounced me-yas) Networking, Kelvin’s company, was coined from the words ‘Me’, ‘You’ and ‘Us’ to highlight its function of connecting different parties to form mutually beneficial relationships.
Kelvin got his first taste of business during his first year at Kenyatta University (KU). “I had an older cousin who was in his fourth year at the time who sold electric kettles, calculators and other electronic devices to students and I ‘inherited’ his business since he was graduating,” he says.
As luck would have it, he made good profits after a short while of dabbling in business. He was fascinated, not only by the money he was making but also, by the process in which he attracted and maintained his customers. “I would use posters, social media through a page on Facebook, and sometimes send text messages to my regular clients to inform them about new products,” he explains the marketing techniques he employed long before he knew much about marketing as a subject.
Prior to enrolling for his bachelor of commerce (B.Com) course, Kelvin was studying accounting (CPA), a course he continued to undertake concurrently with his degree course. He, however, chose to pursue marketing instead of accounting in his third year when students were required to pick an area of specialty in the B.Com course. “I didn’t even think twice about it. Marketing is a subject that excites me,” he says.
During his second year, Kelvin got an out-of-the-ordinary chance to practice his electronics business ‘regionally’. “I was attending a six-week student exchange programme in Dar-es-Salaam organised by AIESEC, a global student leadership platform that I was involved in. Sometime during my stay, I did not have enough money to get by and together with a friend I had made there, I made a quick study of the student market in the area and we started an electronic business similar to the one I had at KU. My friend was involved in sales and I busied myself in marketing the business,” says Kevin. He was able to cover most of his expenses during this trip with the revenue he generated.
Kelvin’s continued involvement in AIESEC saw him become one of the youngest vice presidents in charge of finance and administration at the club in KU. He was also serving as deputy secretary general of the Accounting Students Association (ASA). Managing the affairs of two major university clubs would at times become rather hectic and he began to think of ways in which the two clubs could work together.
After brainstorming with officials from both clubs, Kelvin organised a financial freedom conference that incorporated several CEOs and corporate bodies, including the Kenya Revenue Authority and Old Mutual, among others, with sponsorship from Coca Cola. “The partnership between the two clubs was great. Conceptualising and planning this event showed me the kind of person I could be. It reaffirmed my leadership abilities. We only had a month to plan this major campus event and it was a success with a good turnout from students. We even made money from the event which benefited both clubs,” he says.
Me, You and Us…
Kelvin was aware he could continue to bask in the warm glow of this success only for so long. He needed to do more. This newly-found confidence in his potential, coupled with his zeal for marketing is essentially what drove him to tap into the manpower and skills from his organising committee to pursue business on a larger scale.
“I discussed a business idea I had with the team and they were happy to work with me again,” says Kelvin. These discussions led to the birth of Meyous Networking in 2012. Initially, it was an informal operation and mainly sourced for corporate sponsorship for school clubs that were organising events. Though successful in its service delivery, the company wasn’t making money.
“We worked with several school clubs that promised to pay us our commission after their events but most did not pay. At the time, we didn’t have any contractual agreements that we could use to claim our payments through other means and though this was a setback it taught us many valuable lessons,” he says.
The first lesson was to have the company registered so it could enter into contractual agreements. Kelvin went ahead to register the company and formalise its operations. He also diversified the products he was offering to include organizing brand and product activations in different university campuses for various companies; social media marketing; experiential marketing; and mentorship and training through industry experts from different organizations so students could receive hands-on training that focused on specific employers’ skill set.
Meyous Networking has so far run successful social media campaigns for the global body for professional accountants – the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), and NiElect Kenya, an online peace initiative.
“Our first client for social media management was looking to reach a larger audience online by increasing their likes on Facebook. I had noticed that there were students who were managing very popular pages and accounts on social media and I reached out to some of them and we struck an agreement where they would share my client’s content on their accounts and pages. This is one of the ways we grew this client’s page to 50,000 likes within three months,” says Kelvin, adding that Meyous understands that there is more to reaching an online audiences than having many ‘likes’. “Online engagement with one’s customers or audience is also equally important,” he says.
Meyous Networking also ran a successful campus activation for Old Mutual’s I-Invest campaign, (a mobile platform through which individuals can invest in unit trusts), where the company carried out recruitments, product testing and sampling at KU. Kelvin attributes the success of any campus activation to a wide network in the Kenyan campus market, something Meyous Networking is continually working towards. Other corporate clients that his networking outfit has worked with in various capacities include Jambo Pay, CBA, the Youth Enterprise Development Fund, NACADA, and Deloitte.
Kelvin currently runs Meyous Networking with two other partners. One of their notable challenges in running the company is constantly encountering clients who don’t regard them as professionals owing to the fact that they are all university students. “We have to continually prove ourselves by working twice as hard,” says Kelvin, adding that this has worked to the advantage of the company because it has made them proficient in what they do.
“I wouldn’t want a situation where our clients keep giving us leeway to make mistakes just because we are students. Those that have worked with us know we are professionals and deliver results,” he says. Meyous recently moved its office from KU to Nairobi’s city centre as he and his partners have completed their coursework and are awaiting graduation.
“The company is still relatively young and we continue to set up different systems to ensure its efficiency. It’s also important for us to understand the market, and receive continuous feedback from our clients so we can maintain the high standards we have set for ourselves,” says Kelvin. He looks forward to his company expanding its portfolio to offer its services regionally and also winning the ‘Company of the Year Award (COYA)’ in the near future.
Recognizing his need for more experience in the marketing field, Kelvin took up an internship opportunity at Unilever’s marketing department for four months in 2013 where he was part of a team running an aggressive marketing campaign for Blueband’s ‘Win a trip to Disneyland’ competition. Together with two other interns from KU who went on to become his partners at Meyous, Kelvin took part in Idea Trophy, a campus youth development initiative designed to create an out-of-the-classroom learning experience. The trio emerged best in the Kenyan chapter of the competition, which earned them a trip to Singapore in March this year for the global competition and mentorship by Unilever’s top global management. “We represented Africa with one other team from South Africa. It was a great experience and I learned so much that I look forward to applying,” he says.
Kelvin also bagged Kenyatta University Students’ Association’s (KUSA) Distinguished Leadership Award in April for his exemplary leadership in various school clubs. “Never try to be someone else. Be the best you can be. Find out your strengths and what comes naturally to you and do this to the best of your ability,” says Kelvin as we wrap up.
Published in June 2014