Leah Karimi has been trailed with a lot, through thick and thin, but what ever a man faces he learns through and carries on. This 31-year-old mother of two has certainly learned a lot from her personal financial mistakes, and turned that into a book that has so far sold over 8, 000 copies.
Born to a modest family in Subukia, Kenya. Leah had always been fascinated by entrepreneurship. After her high school she moved to Nairobi to stay with an aunt and got herself a job as a personal assistant to the owner of a marketing firm in Nairobi, earning Sh10, 000 a month.
The job gave her the entrepreneurship background she needed, as her boss was barely in the office. “I took charge,” she says. “I met all the clients and handled disputes. At that time, I did not know this was an informal training ground for me.”
Her ambition and aggression then landed her a marketing assistant’s job at Golden NeoLife Diamite (GNLD), a multi-level marketing company. Finally, in 2005, she garnered enough courage to resign and start her own firm.
“I took a loan to start my business because I believed that I had enough clients and enough persuasion skills to survive as my own boss”, she says. And that’s when things started to go downhill.
Her first mistake was the office she chose in the city. “The location was poor for my clients. I took on a partner to share the office. I should have found out a little more about my partner.”
But that was not all. “I had no business plan so money would come in and I would spend it mostly on clothes and expensive shoes,” she says. “I bought everything that pleased my eye, and that dented my pocket as I tried to keep up with (everyone else).” With no money coming in and bills piling up both in the business and for her studio apartment in Adams Arcade, Leah sold the business for Sh500,000 less than she had started it for. “I got depressed,” she says.
But she still had passion for business, so Leah enrolled for a diploma course in business administration.
However, with no plans or ideas forthcoming, she decided to use her hobby to make some cash to survive. That hobby was writing, and she chose a topic she knew something about: Finance management. “I wrote a newspaper column about budgeting, drawing from my mistakes,” she says. “The knowledge I got from school and the online courses I took about money just put everything into perspective.
I got feedback from people who had benefited from the points I had made in my articles, and it motivated me to learn more about money and its relationship to the person holding it.” She discovered, for instance, that many people fall prey to wasteful shopping habits because of emotional handicaps that they are seeking to fill.
No sooner, her glamorous moment came. “I realised how incredible it was that these experiences coalesced into my career as an author and personal finance coach.”
In early 2007, she got married. Her husband, a chef, moved jobs a lot and she followed him, taking every new country and city as a chance to sample spending habits and their relationship to demographics. At one point, her command of the English language and persuasion skills got her a job at a five star hotel in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, working alongside her husband.
But even with good pay, happiness was far off. “The money was good and my bosses were happy with how I had marketed the hotel, but I was not fulfilled… I could not put a finger on it, but I wanted more,” she says. Seeing her discomfort, her husband encouraged her to gather all her articles into a book.
Leah was also pregnant at the time, and doubtful that a career in publishing would pay off. Still, she took a chance and when her husband moved to Khartoum on his next assignment, she came back to Kenya. After much scouting she found a publisher who would agree to her terms.
“I asked the company to foot all the bills, then arranged to split the profit,” she says. Later that year, her book was published. She was surprised at the reception. “I would sell between five and 10 copies a day just from home,” she says,
The book, Get Rich By Making The Most Of Your Money, has seen Leah coach all sorts of people. She loves to talk to women, particularly, stay-at-home mothers. “I tell them they cannot stay at home idle. Get a hobby – cook, bake, sew… in order to have an identity,” she says.
It is not over for Leah: She will launch a magazine and another book on finances late this year. “I may have a television show coming up, I do not know how far this will take me.” Whichever way it goes, one thing is sure: Learning from mistakes is now Leah’s passion.