How This Kenyan Entrepreneur Used Blogging to Jumpstart Her Career
How can you use your blog to launch a career in marketing and entrepreneurship?
Read about what Esther Kinuthia AKA Miss Independent has to say about creating her personal brand, why she refuses to be average, and how to think about chasing money as a young person in Kenya.
I have to add that this is really a special episode because Esther, who is Kenyan, works in Ireland! To get the full story, we skyped and then finally met in person when Esther was in Kenya in December.
Esther ALSO visited the Duma Works office when she was here in December to do a workshop with a few lucky people about how to pitch yourself, reach success, and approach job interviews. I’ve included some photos throughout this interview from what was a phenomenal event. (Duma Works is also hosting another epic event this coming Saturday called Dress for Success…check it out!)
This is a long read, but don’t stop reading halfway! There are some excellent tips for young, ambitious people on how to be successful toward the end of the interview.
Hope you enjoy!
So Esther, Tell me about your entrepreneurship journey and where your blog fits in.
My entrepreneurship journey is mostly in relation to blogging.
My blogging journey has been really interesting! I didn’t think I would be a blogger or a writer. It didn’t come across my mind in highschool at all.
In November 2012, two guys from Strathmore High School approached me and commented on how much interaction I apparently had on my Facebook account. I had no idea, but these were IT guys working on something called odipodev.com, and they did data analytics and saw that I was top 3 in Facebook interactions amongst their friends. So, they approached me and they wanted to give me a blog. In February of 2013, we started the blog, and I was left to decide what name we call it. My friends said “Well, you already call yourself Miss Independent on Facebook, so why don’t we just use that name?”
Now, at the time, I was calling myself Miss Independent on Facebook because I was getting over a breakup and wanted to show everyone – I’m single, I’m successful, and I’m independent.
But when I started the blog, Miss Independent took another meaning. It’s about Kenyan youth chasing their dreams and trying to be best they can be – it can be a man or a woman.
What did you want to blog about?
At the beginning, I didn’t know! But then I realized that I like pushing people to chase their dreams. For example, once I went with my sister and we started buying material fabrics to work with a tailor and get her business started. Once I saw an old grandma borrowing money outside and thought to myself that grandparents should be treated like gold. So I felt that since no one would give her money, I would give her the savings. That’s just me.
I wanted to do something to impact the world and help the Kenyan youth that want to be rich right now. Now, young people in Kenya don’t always realize they have to work hard and have values in order to succeed. That is the thought that shaped how Miss I. would be blogging.
Then, people really liked the blog and I decided this was it. I’ve already started building a brand for myself through this blog, and I even went and got MissIndependent.co.ke and registered it myself. After that, I felt like now I had become truly independent.
Do you generate revenue from your blog?
Initially, no. My focus was to accomplish my vision – Affirm, Inspire, and Ignite African Youth.
So I spent less than 2 years without making money, but I built a brand for myself. I was named 40 under 40 women in Business Daily in January of 2013. In 2015, I got to Top 25 Under 25. Then I won an award with Airtel recently as well.
Years after I started – this June, I started to make revenue.
That being said, I make sure the type of partnerships align with my vision. For example, people think bloggers make money through ads, but I didn’t want to make money there from just any company because I prioritize my users.
Like if people wanted to advertise alcohol on my blog – Here I am talking about CV writing, interviewing CEOs etc. It doesn’t make sense for me to show alcohol. You can’t read a CV and then see Tusker right there. They won’t write those CVs nicely. People will just be writing CVs drunkenly.
Do you have other sources of income?
I have an online mentorship program as well. People pay me to write articles about them, but their articles are good for the youth.
Also people pay me to help connect them to youth. I design marketing strategies and figure out how to use social media to promote other companies. I can understand this marketing through a blogging approach. And I may get like 2 clients in a month but it’s worth it. I don’t think ads would generate that type of revenue even.
Have your plans changed since moving to Europe for your career?
Definitely. What we just talked about was how I’m making money in Kenya. But I’m in Dublin now! So I need to again find ways quickly to understand what is gonig on with Kenyan youth here and now.
It’s a very interesting journey as you can see, and I’m glad I’ve chosen social entrepreneurship.
What would you say about your relationship with entrepreneurship?
We can say I didn’t become an entrepreneur by choice. I never sat down and thought about it. It’s an opportunity that I was given.
So what would you say has been your secret to success? Where do you find all these opportunities?
I think I really appreciate people and most of my opportunities come from friends. In university, I participated in a competition with Unilever that someone shared this with me. For that application, I filled in the form and I started writing ideas at 11 when deadline was at midnight.
I also just go from it no matter what – (#RTBA/Refuse to be Average) Someone in my club in AIESEC told me not to hold my breath (about winning this competition) because the best of students were applying and I might not get selected. But it turned out my idea was selected! 🙂
I stared beginning to think – Wow, I’m a first year and all the other people here are from 4th years. So I started believing in myself. I tell people I didn’t just become who I am today – it’s been a journey.
Ah, so that was the beginning of the idea to refuse to be average?
Yes! I started looking for things to do because I realized when you put yourself in a position where you have the opportunity to do amazing things, you can really begin to identify your skills.
So I looked for AIESEC on campus and joined as a Product Development Manager. Through this opportunity, I learned how to spot opportunities as a blogger. It’s the culture of business development that you learn. You spot an opportunity, go pitch, convert the client, and move on.
So that was fun, I worked with companies and the Lion’s DEN competition with AIESEC. This made me comfortable sending proposals to companies. Again, I grew as a person – enhanced my communication skills, interacted with all sorts of people in an organization, learned how to be confident, not cocky.
In fact, I think business development teaches you to become an entrepreneur.
Well, I joined AIESEC in July 2012 and started my blog February 2013.
After getting business development skills from AIESEC, I started a French club because the language classes at the time weren’t super advanced. With that, I didn’t manage to have a successful club – Sometimes it’s about understanding opportunity hasn’t yet arrived and you should let go and move on.
So I said, OK – this one, it’s not time, focus on what’s important. I decided to focus on business entirely and I started getting partners for my blog like L’African Hair Designs, Suzie Beauty, and others.
At some point, I was head of election committee as well. There, I learned that you need to manage people in a way that they don’t feel like they are being managed or controlled. That was a good skill to learn.
In AIESEC, I was an Airtel Brand Ambassador as well…
People used to tell me that I’m doing so much and just need to stop. But I never reduced and I learned a lot. University is a time where you can risk a lot of things. You know you will go home and find food and shelter, and that you don’t need to worry about bills.
What made you realize the big opportunity of getting involved on campus?
I am generally an ambitious person, even from high school.
My dad raised me to be ambitious, I think. Although, I didn’t know Google was GOOGLE when I was applying. I didn’t think GOOGLE! I thought “Ooh! Marketing Intern!” In fact, I didn’t edit my CV and I sent what I had. Then when I tell people I’m working for Google, they were so impressed. So I guess sometimes I’m even ambitious on accident, haha.
What do you think is the biggest thing young people in Kenya need to realize about how to succeed?
Through my journey, I’ve realize what youth need. They are going to follow socialites online but not any person sharing good advice. Then, they will complain about unemployment rate. They are going to worry more about likes on instagram but not about who is adding them on LinkedIn. I’m at the point where I get very excited when someone senior on LinkedIn inboxes me.
So for me, my priorities are there – I prioritize what is important to get jobs and grow my career. I think that’s what other people need to realize.
What do you think makes your blog so successful?
I focus on quality. I would never ask you to send me pictures. I would get photographers as partners and have a photo shoot. I really go out of my way to make sure everything is good quality.
I was also one of the first to start blogging, so that niche is good.
I was also really myself. These days fake is reality. But for me, I’m real. I share my real self. I share my personal stories, and I’m not scared. I’m not scared to say about lessons I have learned – whether they are failures or wins.
I’m also aggressive with sharing! I will share my blog like a crazy woman. I even put it in my email signature and I’m not scared to talk about it to everyone. You can have gold but if people don’t see the gold it’s worthless. You have to show it to them!
What was the favorite article that you’ve written?
My 23 lessons from a Kenyan blogger living in Dublin. That one took me 8 hours.
Do you have a vision for yourself in 10 years? What about Kenya?
To be honest, I don’t have a vision, because I realize things move so quickly. I had no idea when making New Year’s resolution that Dublin would be where I live. And I work in a diverse environment. Google changes all the time.
But of course, there is a little bit of something – I want to be married. Hopefully with like 2 or 3 kids. I’m a family person. I really want to have kids – that’s my happiness. I see myself in a senior position at Google and I see my blog going really far.
Do you have any advice to young people about how to jumpstart their careers?
I’ve actually shared an article on this on my blog, it’s called 3 Steps To Preparing After University.
But quickly –
- Attitude. First people need to understand that having a degree doesn’t mean too much because how many people are graduating every year? Be proud, but the degree doesn’t mean people will knock on your door to give you a job. So people to get out of that mentality. Your attitude can change everything. If someone is average but has a good attitude, they will perform better.
- Carpe Diem. You don’t need to prepare for life after university. Prepare during.
- Network! If you want people to select you at a job, know people. How was I the one selected for Google? You need to do things that will make you get selected. Think about what will make HR person to select you. Do whatever necessary.
- Be passionate. Many people want to be rich quick and do everything for money. I even created a meme – “Don’t chase money, let money chase you.” For me, I didn’t chase money and money just came.
- Be very thorough. People think “Ah – You’re too much, just relax.” But be thorough at what you do. If you are given something small – perfect it. If you are given a coloring book, even if you think it is too small and easy – do it to your best.
- More Networking! I have so much to say on networking. People in university are in cliques. But after my heartbreak, I lost my phone and decided not to get my old contacts back. I still don’t have them. So for me, I can talk to anyone. I can talk to those people and also to new friends. I would go to student center to have lunch and not know who I would have lunch with. You need to know more people. They can change your life. You learn from people. Also you learn about opportunities. You might prepare yourself and be in AIESEC, but what next?
Another example – I forgot to say that I was in the Marketing Society of Kenya. A friend invited me to join as a student. That’s actually how I found out about the Google internship – because someone I met randomly knew I liked marketing and invited me to join MSK and then a friend there told me about the Google opportunity. So you really never know.
The challenge is, you can connect dots backwards but not forwards. If someone asked me how I got to Dublin, it would look like a whole planned out journey. So while you are going through the journey, you need to take every opportunity to differentiate yourself.
Life is not a straight path, but you can connect the dots back one day.
Thank you, Esther! Great event and great insights. Keep up the amazing work!
If you would like to read more from Esther, please visit her blog, MissIndependent.co.ke, and if you would like to read more up close and personal pieces of career advice, visit the Career Builder section of Duma Works.
Like I said, for the ladies reading, Duma Works is having a Dress for Success event January 30th in partnership with Closet49. Come if you want your interview questions answered and to find a brand new interview outfit that expresses your personal style while keeping it very professional!
Posted in Career Builder Tags: blogging, career, Career Advice, DUMA Works, Job Advice, Job Opening, Kenya, Marketing, miss independent, nairobi, recruiting in kenya, What It Takes