Galloping to success in a Kenyan riding schoolBy BBC | Tuesday, July 17 2012 at 10:00
Ten years ago Kenya's Anthony Muthama suddenly lost his job in a bank and decided to do something completely different - open a horse riding school.
"It wasn't something I'd really planned. It wasn't something I'd been trained in. Actually my son got me interested in it because he used to love riding and I used to take him to ride," Mr Muthama said.
One day, two horses were waiting when he took his son for his riding lesson - one for him
"I hesitatingly got on that horse, we took a walk - we were up around Mount Kenya area - and I really loved it. The bug bit me straight away," he recalls.
But then the unemployment bug also bit him and he did not know what to do next.
"One day I said to my wife: 'I think we should start a horse riding school'. I was just saying that. I hadn't thought about it, I didn't know how we'd go about it, and she said: 'OK, let's do it, get on with it, let's do it'. Really, she threw the gauntlet at my feet," he explained.
So he accepted the challenge and decided to invest around $5,000 - from the final pay package given to him by his former employers - to start the school.
According to him, that money did not last very long.
"Even before we had the horses running, it was already finished," he said.
Getting started was, in his words, a "steep learning curve".
"We had to buy some horses, build stables, start feeding those horses - because there was no money coming in to buy the food - and it was really quite tough."
It took them around seven years of hard work to get the company off the ground and really start making a profit.
"We used to be running on a deficit. Our biggest challenge, I believe, was in marketing. It was very hard getting the market, getting people interested to come and ride, getting people to see the value of paying for it," the entrepreneur pointed out.
Today his school - called Hardy Stud and located in Nairobi's affluent suburb of Langata - has around 20 employees.
They teach an average of 200 children a week, many of them from neighbouring schools.
The centre, which also trains adult riders for competitions, had a turnover of more than $70,000 last year.
Horse riding safari
"I feel very proud to see little kids riding horses. When you just see the progression, there are people who come and they're really scared of animals, they see them and they want to run away.
"Then they just build enough confidence to come closer, they build the confidence to touch them, they build the confidence to get on and, you know, every stop is a milestone which, to me, I feel very proud of."
Now that the business is trotting at a steady pace, he wants to develop a horse riding safari product.
We'll be marketing to take guests out into the wildlife areas of Kenya where they'll be able to ride horses among the wildlife - with luxurious mobile camping."
What advice would he give to young entrepreneurs?
"If anyone has an idea, don't keep thinking about how to solve all the problems. My advice would be: 'Get started and you'll sort the issues one at a time, as they come'.
"I think a lot of people don't get started because they think they don't know all the answers. You don't need the answers. Just get started and be faithful, and be determined."
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