If there is one word that could best describe PR entrepreneur, Damaris Nyabuti, the founder of Dharkemmy Corporate Communications in Nairobi, Kenya, it is tenacious. Despite all the challenges that have faced her throughout her career, she has remained true to her passion for PR and communications and been determined to realise her vision of starting her own company. She is a force to be reckoned with and understands the power of sheer hard work to make things happen. Damaris is an MBA Alumni of the Universita’ Cattolica Del Sacro Cuore Altis Graduate School of Business and Society in Milan, Italy. Learn more about this programme atwww.e4impact.org
We spoke to Damaris Nyabuti this month as part of our Focus on African Women in PR, Media and Communications to find out more about her career, the challenges she has faced, and her personal entrepreneurial journey.
How did your entrepreneurial journey start? Do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
My journey started out in the corporate world of PR. My first job was at the Cotton Development Authority after an internship as a PR Officer for about 3 ½ years. All this time I had no contract, yet I kept telling myself that if I worked hard enough they would give me a permanent job. At the time, my mother was particularly displeased with this idea, I worked like a slave, and even when I was sick I would drag myself to work. I didn’t want to give my bosses a reason not to be satisfied with my work. However, the CEO of the organisation then resigned and went into politics, after which I was officially terminated even though I was never officially hired. I was in my second year on campus.
I later moved to Vision 2030 Delivery Secretariat: Amani Kenya and worked coordinating peace campaigns for the 2013 General Elections as a Communication and Corporate Affairs manager. I was humbled to be doing something significant for the country at least, but had a boss from hell who ensured my working life was a living hell. After seeing peaceful elections take place in the country, the Secretariat was dissolved and yet interestingly enough, this same former boss called me for a job at the COG. Yet, nothing had changed in terms of our relationship and I worked there for about two months before deciding to call it quits as a result of my continuing mistreatment. I managed to get a job with an acquaintance of my former boss, but she ensured that I was fired within a month.
Later, I joined Benchmark Solutions as Head of Communications/PR and my work life took a totally different and more positive turn. My new boss who was also the CEO of the company was very kind and down to earth. At first I thought she was faking it as by that time I had zero trust when it came to female bosses. However, she instilled real leadership and entrepreneurship values in me for the one year I was there. I eventually took the decision to venture into the world of entrepreneurship for real, and finally became my own boss, starting Dharkemmy Corporate Communications.
What does your company do?
Dharkemmy Corporate Communications Ltd is a privately owned limited company with operations in Kenya. The company was incorporated in 2014 as a communications services company and expanded into providing specialised communications services to great companies across Kenya, Africa and the globe at large. Since its inception, Dharkemmy Corporate Communications Ltd has managed successful communications and strategic brand positioning transactions in various industries.
What was the eventual catalyst for you becoming an entrepreneur?
I opted out of formal employment as I felt I was not optimizing on my potential. Added to that, I got tired of the many uncertainties surrounding government and private jobs. The cycle of CV polishing and then often acts of betrayal by employers was too much to take. I always felt I wanted to make a difference as an entrepreneur and be a better boss than some of the ones I had met in the workplace.
How did your educational and training background assist you in starting up your own business?
My education played an important role to the extent that it helped me to effectively communicate and engage with people. Since PR is relationship-based and one learns most while engaging with clients, I also learned there is no one-size-fits-all for clients as each one comes with different needs. On the academic front, I did my BA in journalism and media studies at the University of Nairobi. I later Joined the Catholic University in Milan, Italy to do an MBA in Global Business Sustainability: Social Entrepreneurship, graduating in September 2015. At the same time I went to the University of Nairobi to undertake a Masters in International Studies, and will be completing it in 2016.
Tell us how you manage your daily work routine.
I am an early bird whose day starts at 4:00am in the morning and ends at about 1:00am the following morning. Although my work has no particular routine, I work at keeping tabs on all that is happening in the local and international media. This helps in keeping up with current, up-to-the-minute trends. My body also has gotten accustomed to this type of working schedule over the years. Most importantly, however, I work round the clock to ensure clients’ projects are fine-tuned. This is not the kind of career where you disappoint clients, as ultimately it costs you a lot in the long-run. Given that I am still completing my Masters degree, I also ensure that all my school assignments are submitted on time.
Tell us a little about your team.
We are a team of seven and all of us have difference communications expertise, we even have a scientist in the team just to spice things up a little. We have a print journalist, a broadcast journalist, communications development expert, PR practitioner, digital media expert, marketing communications practitioner and accountant administrator.
What lessons have you learned on your entrepreneurial journey so far?
I am also big on technology and leverage it to the full. Social media especially helps me in networking.
I have also learned that there is a tag is attached to those who work in PR practice, and that image and reputation is everything – yet there is a price to be paid in this seemingly glamorous industry – sheer hard work. Beyond the glamour there is a lot of hard work and one needs to be tenacious. However, I am absolutely happy to be in this industry as it has been quite rewarding. The process of starting my own consultancy company and mentoring others motivates me. Ultimately, it makes me want to be a better boss.
One of the biggest challenges is getting my corporate clients to understand what value PR adds to their organizations. They want to see genuine value for their money.
Tell us about the type of clients you work for at your company?
The Ministry of Health ( E-Health), the African Women Entrepreneurship Programme, Allenhark and Mambu, Miss Universe Kenya, International Association of Technicians (AITEC), Cyberoam and Administration Police, are just a few of many brands I have handled.
What differentiates you in the marketplace?
In a competitive and somewhat crowded marketplace, I am known for working hard on any project I undertake, and giving up is not in my dictionary. I also understand the power of networking and am a corporate social butterfly.
What are your future plans and aspirations for the business?
PR is no longer about spinning stories or hiding facts, rather dealing diplomatically and professionally with the image of companies, ensuring both the client and myself, emerge unscathed. Nothing has yet surprised me since passion for what I do far outweighs the challenges which I embrace as learning opportunities. Going forward, I look to have a focus on expanding my client base and on building my team. We want to have a presence in at least 5 countries in Africa. We plan to conquer Africa first, and then two countries outside of Africa. We also intend to roll out a TV and a radio station to better serve our customers, and we have already initiated the registration.
What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs looking to start a business?
Trust me, I was quick to believe in people and worked hard for others. These people often betrayed my professional trust. I am glad that my fallout with them catapulted me to where I am today. I don’t regret anything though. I appreciate my bosses, they brought out the best in me. Had it been otherwise, I would not be who I am today.