Guy

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There is a bottle of 14-year old Oban waiting for me at Babalus Bar when I pitch up at the Crowne Plaza hotel, courtesy of the GM – Anthony. It’s a bonhomous Wednesday evening. Alice, the barlady, pours me a double and drops one ice cube in it as I instal myself at the bar. There is that moment before the first sip, the moment of liquid innocence, when the aroma of whisky seductively drifts to you, that sweet spicy smell of dried figs, fruit, honey-sweet spices, old burnt wood and heady smokiness. The ice melts slowly in the short-glass, breaking down the small Scottish port of Oban and the lores of its small but boisterous distilleries into an aroma of stories; the story of worn, wooden tubs on rooftops, the story of salted sea air and of fastidious Scots keen to keep a tradition. It’s only fair that you let this moment simmer in the glass for a tad longer, so you let your whisky sit there, unclothed.

I turn my attention to the center of the heavily carpeted room where a clutch of birds are enjoying post conference cocktails. Corporate types. One, with a beautiful, heavy pearl necklace, has her legs up on an unoccupied chair, her discarded high heels lying under the table, their red underbelly flashing the room. She’s taken the expression “put your feet up” to heart.

I eventually take my first sip and it’s a burst of insanity, a mercurial pleasure. It’s like tasting an exotic liquid fruit soaked overnight in an urn of smoke. Leonard Mudachi pitches up seven minutes before the appointed time of 4pm. Such a pleasure dealing with people who keep time. He is carrying a massive book – The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy – and a black iPad. He passes on my whisky invitation and instead, orders some weird juice with beetroot in it, talking of a cold or some throat thing.

Leonard Mudachi reminds me of a boxer with one knee on the canvas, having been bludgeoned on the head, blood streaming down one side of his face, struggling to see through the blood of his one good eye, slumped, head bent in near defeat, the frenzied blood-thirsty crowd cheering as the referee – who is called Life – counts slowly towards ten. The crowd doesn’t want him to get up because crowds like it when you remain down but on the seventh count, he gets up on his wobbly feet and sways like a rubber mannequin, his head swimming and his vision blurred. But he gets up. He gets up because men like him get up.

Unfortunately this story doesn’t start (or end) in a ring, but at Carnivore restaurant.

It is there that Leonard made his bones as a restaurateur, six years on that grind, joining as Simba Salon manager in 2000 (before that was a stint at Hyatt Regency, Houston Texas and then Sarova Stanley) and leaving as the Deputy General Manager in 2006.  

“If I hadn’t met guys like Gerson Misumi (GM Carni), would I be as passionate about the industry?” he poses. “I was lucky to have worked under teachers and bosses like him. They taught us. And at Carni we had a ball,” he reminisces. “We were doing fun stuff like New Jack Swing, Rock Night, Soul Night and concerts, I had clarity about the job and a boss I liked; all this set the stage for me to go out and give it a shot. That level of mentorship gave me the confidence I needed to say, ‘I can open my own shop.’”

So at 30-years, he resigned from Carnivore and decided to open up his own restaurant called Blanco’s Lounge and Grill, along Argwings Kodhek Road, a chic afro-fusion restaurant that took guests’ coats to hang in the cloakroom. Starting capital was 6-million; raised from savings, friends and family.

“When I think of Blanco’s, I remember your stir-fry matumbo,” I tell him nostalgically. Behind me a waiter balances a tray full of cocktails and heads towards the ladies in the middle of the room.

“The question I asked myself before I started the restaurant was ‘Where would you take a visiting CEO for dinner if they asked for authentic Kenyan cuisine?’ So we fused local dishes like three-ways fries featuring  ndumas, sweet potatoes and regular potatoes, we called it Mseto Wa Vibanzi.”

“Eish, what is vibanzi?” I ask.

“Fries,” he laughs. “We used Asian style of cooking on some meals, continental style on foods from say coast, we tried crazy stuff like omena on toast in cream sauce that tanked a good one. But, guy, it was fun.”

Then he knocked on doors and got investors to support his next big thing. He opened Blanco’s Sports Grill in Galleria Mall, a behemoth 30-million investment sporting big screen television sets even in the bathrooms. During the 2011 Rugby World Cup the place was kicking. “We had cracked it,” he says, and indeed things looked up for a while but then one day all this  came a cropper; first auctioneers closed down the Sports Grill bar and then a few months later Blanco’s closed. It all went down like a pack of cards. He was defeated and in debt. He was 35.

“You know when I think of Blanco’s closing I picture you sitting in that office in the backroom where I once interviewed you,” I tell him sipping my whisky. “ You have just closed the restaurant for the night, the last staff has said goodnight and closed the door behind them and you sit there in the darkened tomb of impending failure, the low light from your desk lamp throwing a ghoulish shadow of you against the wall. You hear the sound of the occasional car driving by on the now-deserted Argwings Kodhek road, you look at your books and know for sure that this ship is sinking and you are afraid to go back home to your one-year old daughter because she might see defeat and dejection in your eyes. So you sit in your office for a little longer. You stew in foreboding.”

He chuckles at my dramatic construction. I ask him, “How did you know that it was all coming to an end and how does it feel to know that everything you have put up will be no more?”

“The end isn’t even an event, guy. The biggest heartache isn’t that you are closing down, it’s that you are closing people’s dreams, you are shattering your staff’s dreams. These are guys you have bebad with you all through, guys you sold  your vision to, guys you have built and sold dreams to, and now you have to tell them that it’s all over, that you can’t carry them with you anymore, that the ride is over. Guy! That is the hardest thing I have had to do.”

[Leonard likes to prefix the word “guy” before a sentence. So he will say, “Guy, that story was scary” or “I went there and what I saw! Guy!” It’s his signature.]

“We need to be more honest about entrepreneurship,” he ploughs forth. “Because entrepreneurship has been made sexy. Everybody wants to quit their jobs and do their biashara but without the full knowledge of what it really entails. It’s fun yes, the freedom and building your own thing, but you will also cry.”

“Do you regret leaving employment and starting your own restaurant?”

“Look, this, for me, is passion. From an early age I was clear that I wanted to be a chef. I’m the kind of guy who does random barbecues at home, inviting friends over for a chat and some nyama. It’s my thing. I don’t regret it. I have rehashed the situation many times over and I still insist I couldn’t have waited any longer to start a restaurant. My problem was naivetë, hubris and some arrogance,” he says. “I also grossly undercapitalized my business. Guy, it just couldn’t stand on its own two feet.”

[Note: I’m starting to feel like a guy]

At this point Anthony, the Crowne Plaza GM, ambles to the bar in a grey suit. The sort  that Steve Harvey would borrow for a wedding. He’s carrying diaries, obviously coming from (or on his way to) a meeting. He has a rich voice; rich and charming. “Boss, did you get my whisky? Do you like it?” He asks. I say it’s fantastic, thanks. “Oh, this is Leonard Mudachi, you might know him,” I say. They shake hands. Leonard tells him, “I interviewed you once for a job at Utalii some years back.”

“Oh yes! I remember!” Anthony says. “You sit on the board at Utalii, right?”

“I do,” Leonard tells him. “Good to see you again.”

“Good to see you too,” he says. “Listen, I will let you do your thing as I finish some work and I will join you later.”

He walks away. He is a bit bowlegged, walks like a casino owner. The walk of someone who knows the buck eventually stops with him.

“What can you tell me about this moment of failure?” I resume the conversation after asking for another double and one ice cube. I am experiencing a nice buzz, by the way, that beautiful floaty feeling.

“I can tell you that as employees we ignore the power of the brands we work for,” he reflects. “When we work for successful companies for many years we imagine that those successes are ours to claim. Being at the pinnacle of corporate success doesn’t automatically mean that you can be a successful entrepreneur. I enjoyed some level of success at Carnivore and because of a combination of naivetë and impatience I left because the market was changing and I wanted to be a part of that change. What I came to realise soon after I left was the power of the brand and the weight it comes with.”

“Are you sure you don’t want a proper drink?” I ask him.

He says he will have something else and orders a Gin and Tonic (“Bombay Sapphire with lots of ice, please”)and that song “Classic Man” by Jidenna starts playing in my head. Another trayful of cocktails pass behind us towards the table with the ladies. Who said Ladies Night is dead?

Outside, behind the large glass windows of the bar, the rain starts falling, whipping the palm trees outside, wetting the tarmac, and turning everything a misty grey. “I love that smell. “Do you smell that?” I ask Leonard and he says, “Yes, the smell of wet soil when it hasn’t rained in awhile.”

He continues with the earlier conversations about systems. “ When you work for an established brand like Carnivore or KCB or whatever,  there is a whole system behind you that has been cultivated over time and that comes with a great deal of  goodwill and trust. You then belong to a part of a system that works. This system allows you to have an audience  and have doors open for business because you are not just going as Leonard but as Leonard of Carnivore or of KCB. It’s because of this brand and the system that you get to hobnob with all manner of important people and the successes of the brand comes with its compliments and puffs your chest out. But always remember that those compliments don’t entirely belong to you, they belong to the brand you represent and the system it comes with.”

I lean in closer, my nose on fresh trail like a bloodhound.

“When I left Carnivore, I thought naively that all these people I interacted with at Carnivore would flock my restaurant. Little did I know that when I left Carnivore I stopped being Leonard-of-Carnivore and became Leonard-who-has-opened-his-own-restaurant-that-nobody-knows-about, and that restaurant – and not Carnivore where I had worked – is what I would be judged on. I had to start building relationships afresh, build my own system because nobody really cares where you were or where you have been in business; they take you for the business you are in now. I had to learn such lessons pretty fast.”

“That’s insightful. I have never thought of it that way.” I say. “How did things go awry so fast?”

“The 2007 post-election violence happened, for one,” he says. “Running battles on Argwings Kodhek road and ODM house just around the corner meant we remained closed for a month. I had rent to pay, salaries to pay and KRA to pay and nobody cared that I had closed due to post-election violence. We never recovered from that.” He sips his drink. “Then in Feb 2012 they started building the Bomas interchange and it made little sense for anyone to go through a 3-hour traffic jam to come to Galleria. The planned construction period was six months, instead it took 19 months. Guy, it malizad my business, we couldn’t survive. And I kept going back to the shareholders for more colour and of course it seemed ridiculous even for them because already they had pumped a lot of cash into the biashara and were not seeing results. They thought I was mad to ask for even more colour.  The lesson there for me was that if you have shareholders you have to have a unity in expectations.” He then adds. “When my pals used to come to Carni for Soul Night and the place was packed and they found me standing behind the Deejay’s booth they would say, ‘yaani you guy, all these tu-head paid 2-sock, you guys are making a killing.’ But what they didn’t see was when we were not full. Nobody sees restaurants on slow days.”

“Where were you when you were told auctioneers were carting away your stuff?” I ask. He thinks about it with a slight grimace. He was in bed, early morning. By this time he had managed to keep them off for many months. He had even become friends with one of them called Gathiru, whose number is still saved on his phone as “Gathiru Auctioneer”.

“Guy, in six years we saw this guy come over so many times mpaka we became pals,” he laughs. “For two years after they closed down the business in Galleria I couldn’t drive past Galleria,” he says quietly. “Guy, that thing almost finished me.”

“What predominant emotion did the closure of the business come with?”

“Failure. It’s an admission of defeat and it’s tough to admit that you failed,” he says.“It comes with self doubt that perhaps you were wrong about yourself and your capabilities. Some days you are just angry. It wasn’t easy at all.”

I don’t want to say anything. I stare at some man’s shoes as he climbs up the winding staircase to the upper section which is more private. He adds, “When I started the businesses I was single, but when I closed I was already married. I don’t know how I would have pulled through without the wife.”

“What did she tell you at that time?”

“It’s not even what she told me, it’s the presence. It’s the way she helped me think things through clearly and stopped me from feeling like a victim.”

He was 37 when everything went tits up. His daughter was one, which made things trickier because he had just gotten into fatherhood and provider mode. He could have curled up in a corner and spent days sucking his thumb but he tucked his pride in his back pocket, went out and sought employment. He wanted a job that would firstly get him back in the game to learn, but he also had creditors on his ass, beating down his door.

“2013 was bad because I spent all my time keeping creditors at bay,” he says, “and creditors are bad guys when they want their chums. Also, there are guys who want to take advantage of you when you are falling, kicking you while you are on your knees.”

He got a job at Java House in 2014 as Business Development Director and left two years later as COO. I ask him why he left and he says, “To be politically correct? Leadership differences.”

A few minutes to 5pm my phone suddenly rings. It’s an unfamiliar number. “Looks like a bank number.” Leonard says and climbs off his stool to visit the little boys’ room. It’s my bank, Stanchart. They are doing some customer survey or something. The gentleman asks me if I’m happy with the services so far and I say pretty much, yes, I’m a happy hippo. “Well, except for one thing,” I add.

“What?” He asks.

“My relationship manager,” I say. “I don’t want him.”

“Oh, I’m sorry about that Mr Jackson. [Grrrr!] May I ask who your relationship manager is?”

“Some clown called Samson.” I say and I can almost hear him smirk.

“Oh, may I ask what’s wrong?”

“I don’t have a relationship with him, that’s what’s wrong.” I say, “Do you know how many times he’s called me the past year and half?”

“No, sir.”

“Once. One time, guy!” [Leonard’s influence]

“Oh that’s totally unacceptable. I’m so sorry to hear that.”

“Yeah, me too.” I say. “Listen, what did you say your name was?”

“Bigvai.”

Who?”

“Bigvai.”

Eish boss, such an exotic name! Ebu spell it for me.”

He laughs and says, “ “B-I-G-V-A-I.”

“Wow, what a name, and your second name?”

“Mwailemi.”

Eish, Bigvai Mwailemi. I love it.” (I write it down on a serviette).

He laughs and says thanks.

“Listen Bigvai, I don’t want this relationship manager anymore. It’s an abusive relationship and I’m done! Done, guy! I deserve better. Do you have powers there at the bank to change him?”

“I will definitely talk to someone and make sure that you get a new one.”

“Thanks. I will be so grateful. And listen, could I get a relationship manager with an exotic name like Bigvai? I don’t want a Paul or John or Fred – I never have luck with such names.” He’s cracking up. “In fact, why don’t you become my relationship manager?”

Leonard comes back.

“You are 42 now, what would you say are some of the major lessons  you have learnt in life?” I ask him as he perches back on his seat.

“ An old mzee friend of mine told me that he can summarise his life in a series of 20s; between 0 and 20 you learn to walk and eat and read and learn and you grow. Between 21 to 40 is the age of the experience of love and disappointment, of trying to make money, of heartbreaks, and between 40 and 60 is the age of mastery. Like you now, you are about to get to the age of mastering your writing. 60 to 80 is the age of reflection where you look at the ages of 40 to 60 with either regret or admiration. I’m in the age of mastery and I don’t intend to be 65 and look at my 40s and feel any regret. So at 42 I’m back to the marathon and in marathons you choka but you keep at it. I’m knocking on doors again, fundraising, I’m an entrepreneur at large.”

We sip our drinks.

“I think most people misunderstand what wealth is; people imagine wealth is a car, a house or pieces of land. I think that is a plastic way of looking at wealth. Wealth is responsibility and we need to teach people how to create responsibility for themselves and for others. We need to appreciate the value of carrying people with us, not going alone.”

Okay, I’m getting tipsy. Not because of this cerebral conversation about wealth and responsibility and marathons but because I’m on my fourth double and I’m light weight.

“At this age I think I’m more deliberate about things.” He continues. I have suffered an extreme type of failure and I think it was a good thing for me. After the period of mourning and all that comes with failure, I have now thrown my name back in the hat, safe in the realisation that there is far more knowledge in failure than there is in success.”

Anthony the GM joins us just after 7pm and we share my whisky. There is banter all around. Musau the Operations manager then joins us and I pour him a whisky too. Then Perez the Rooms Division manager joins us after her shift and orders a glass of wine. A platter called the GM’s platter is brought; king prawns, samosas, chicken wings. We stuff our kissers. We talk. Leonard excuses himself at some point and heads home to take care of some stuff. At 8:30pm I know I need to go home. Do you know how I know I’m getting tipsy as hell? My forehead becomes numb. As in no feeling whatsoever. Like I could touch it and feel like I might as well be touching the handle of a thermos flask.

I say I need to leave and someone says, “Aaaah it’s too early, have another one, we are also working tomorrow.” So I stick around for another 45-minutes, drinking mostly water. The bar is now buzzing, there is lots of laughter. The girl across the room has put her shoes back on. Her group is now significantly louder. A pianist called Karuma is doing his virtuoso magic on the grand piano by the entrance. His father – a grandmaster – played piano for 30-years in various bars and lately at Babalus, and when he retired the bar seamlessly transitioned to his son. Karuma plays with a small secretive smile. That annoying smile of someone who knows something the world doesn’t.

I have a motto; always leave the bar when you are having the most fun. So I grab my Scottish lover by the slender neck and whisper, “Baby, we are going home,”  and then make my way out into the wet crisp night. In the Uber (I hear NTSA guys now have motorbikes) I test the Uber guy by enticing him to taste my Oban and he laughs and says, “No, thanks,” and I tell him, “Come on, just a sip, don’t be like that.” He says he doesn’t drink and I go, “Really? Never tasted alcohol in your life?” He laughs and says “Never.” “Your WHOLE life?” He laughs harder. Atta boy.

On my way I think about the things Leonard said, they bubble to the surface in little fragments: the thing he said about there being more knowledge in failure than there is in success. And that other thing he said about brands and systems and how entrepreneurship shouldn’t be made to look as sexy as it does because it’s gore, blood, joy and tears. I also think about how Blanco’s and the sports grill looked like well-oiled machinery from the outside when they were running. Nothing seems like what it is in this town; businesses struggle and hang on strings and businessmen and women barely manage to stay afloat. I think of his honesty and his beatific vulnerability and the maturity behind it. I think of how some Saturdays when I’m running around State House road I see him and his mates wearing luminous cycling gear, big boys on bikes and he shouts, “Bikooooo!” [haha] and my running mate – Young Mogeni – asks, “Who the hell was that?” and I say breathlessly, “Leonard Mudachi” like  the whole world should know who Mudachi is.

But now I picture him on his feet, in the middle of the ring, still bleeding from a cut on the corner of his eye. He’s wobbly but he’s on his feet, squinting, trying to see his next move and the crowd, the crowd that rises and falls like  a hungry wave, is surprised and somewhat disappointed  that he’s gotten to his feet and they watch him closely to see if he will give up and fall back down or if he will remain standing.It matters little anyway because he’s up now and sometimes just getting back on your jelly feet, to try again, is already a win.

 

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157 Comments
  1. Can we appreciate wives for a minute. I see a pattern in this stories when men who would easily break glasses with their roars get bent into corners and sulk and suck at their thumbs are held together by a woman in their life. Isn’t that something to look forward to in marriage. At least it is for me. Now, guy seems like a fighter. For a minute I entertained the failure at his magnitude and maybe it looks too much for one person. Too much too for an entrepreneur with high spirits. This makes me agree with him; entrepreneurship should not be hidden behind sexy talks of success and freedom rather make it real by giving the scary details of failure, the gore side of things personal business and own boss.

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    1. We totally should. Wives give the pillow talk. They wipe your blood on the ring and ice your sore eye, and right there at the corner of the ring, just as you are about to call it quits, she wipes your forehead, kisses your bloody lips and whispers, you can do it babe. You faintly look at her and see all the hope she has in you and you gain a new strength. You struggle to get straight up, she cheers the loudest, you smile at her faintly, and with that the hope of more fire☺.

      I totally loved this piece Biko. It was rich and wealthy. Surely, we need to be told the whole truth about entrepreneurship.
      Leonard, atta boy☺kind regards to your wife, she keeps your pharos alight.

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    2. This is such an inspiring story. I love stories of people who failed and then got back on their feet. The lessons you learn from failure are countless.
      ” there is far more knowledge in failure than there is in success.”

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    3. On my way to work, these words were ringing in my mind; ‘Responsibilities, my choices, my decisions’ . I told myself i will write them down as soon as i get to work. However, I was overwhelmed with my work schedule, i didn’t write it.
      I am seeing the bigger picture thanks to this article (and the words just came back to me). I am definitely going to write “At this age I think I’m more deliberate about things” on a sticky paper and paste it on my wardrobe.
      (A constant reminder of how one man’s choices, decisions and actions completed my thoughts)

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  2. I agree “Between 21 to 40 is the age of the experience of love and disappointment, of trying to make money, of heartbreaks”.
    Inspiring read. I’m cheering for Mudachi to stay on his feet

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  3. I love this “Such a pleasure dealing with people who keep time”.
    Things you leaern in due cause! “When you work for an established brand……..This system allows you to have an audience and have doors open for business because you are not just going as ………….those compliments don’t entirely belong to you, they belong to the brand you represent and the system it comes with.”

    Good teaching for upcoming enterprenuers…..

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  4. Guy! Inspirational and very interesting read kama kawa.
    I specifically like this quote by Henry Ford that says ​”Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

    I’m saving this for later too, thanks:
    “I think most people misunderstand what wealth is; people imagine wealth is a car, a house or pieces of land. I think that is a plastic way of looking at wealth. Wealth is responsibility and we need to teach people how to create responsibility for themselves and for others. We need to appreciate the value of carrying people with us, not going alone.”

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  5. This one touched me because his doesn’t have a happy ending, yet. This guy is still in the ring, bloodied, squinting through a purple eye. He might make it, he might not. But he’ll keep on trying for sure. And that wife of his deserves a medal. Most women would kill the man with just words once the empire started crumbling. I imagine they had a marvellous wedding and were living pretty large when the businesses were at the peak. Just when they’d started a family, everything came crumbling down. That puts a strain even in decade-old marriages so the fact that she stayed in his corner, that’s commendable.
    I hope it turns out well for him, for both of them.

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  6. This is so inspirational, success isn’t solely measured by the amount of wealth amassed, but whether or not an individual rises up after every all. This piece came at the right time for me, ati, ” I thought naively that all these people I interacted with at Carnivore would flock my restaurant. Little did I know that when I left Carnivore I stopped being Leonard-of-Carnivore and became Leonard-who-has-opened-his-own-restaurant-that-nobody-knows-about, and that restaurant – and not Carnivore where I had worked – is what I would be judged on. I had to start building relationships afresh, build my own system because nobody really cares where you were or where you have been in business; they take you for the business you are in now”-This resonates perfectly with me.
    The intro and the conversation with the stanchart staff are the best parts for me.

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  7. Wealth is responsibility and we need to teach people how to create responsibility for themselves and for others. We need to appreciate the value of carrying people with us, not going alone.”

  8. Wealth is responsibility and we need to teach people how to create responsibility for themselves and for others. We need to appreciate the value of carrying people with us, not going alone – Word.

    Thanks Biko for sharing this wisdom.

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  9. I haven’t failed as Leonard Mudachi has failed but I understand completely when he says entrepreneurship is made to seem sexier that it is. I don’t know how businesspeople survive in this economy where the very people who need the service you offer are the ones who want to shaft you.

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  10. I love stories of failure and rising again. I remember clearing campus close to 3 years ago and telling my dad, “Guy! I finished school, just like you am not going into employment!” Lol. The amount of heat you feel on graduating before snow fall commences is non-voluminous!!! Collected, the guy narrowed his eyes and said, “Look, entrepreneurship is lonely, painful, tearful and cold. Therefore are thorns the side of your hands, broken glass, needles and anything else that class. Now that you can read and write all day, try learning to talk just a little more and make relationships with real people!” That is the experience I got.
    Reading Leonard’s story brought back that memory.

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    1. Am in business and dont like using fancy names like consultant or real estate manager, you see those names are just fancy because every day is blood and sweat minus the days that you are actually paid .The reality is that entrepreneurship knocks you down and for some it knocks you out. Every week you have to keep on adding spokes on the wheel of change.

      Entrepreneurship makes you get insomnia so even if you see someone looking bright on the outside, there battles being fought everyday.

      Entrepreneurship is lonely. You learn to celebrate your milestones alone

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  11. Oooooh I’m impressed. Okay, I’m always impressed. I hope the ‘guy’ gets his happily ever after.
    I also think you should also interview Churchill, the funny guy. I mean, he’s been influential

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    1. Churchill has become too rich now to inspire. And with an image, brand and reputation to maintain, he is unlikely to open up instinctively. He will have to measure his words and it will not come out good. And it has been a long time since he was last on the canvas.

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  12. I’ve known only one Bigvai my whole life(in primary school), and I have a feeling its the same Bigvai who called you, what a name!

    “We need to be more honest about entrepreneurship,” he ploughs forth. “Because entrepreneurship has been made sexy. Everybody wants to quit their jobs and do their biashara but without the full knowledge of what it really entails. It’s fun yes, the freedom and building your own thing, but you will also cry.” – So, so true!

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  13. They will sell you their vision, dreams aspirations, some will promise you heaven and even before the project is up and running, you start to see blank spaces. But you remember their pitch and you stick with them. As they were learning, I was also learning, when they struggled I also struggled. I became an entreprenuer by proxy… Lessons learnt… Brand worship is real.

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  14. I like to think of life as the opponent. Life is not the ref. Life is the opponent. Punching the shit out of you, occasionally kicking you when you are down. The fight never seems to end. You get your moments when you can throw a blow here or a slap there, but life never gives up. Aluta Continua

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  15. It’s so true about brands we only see what we want to see, if someone pulled back the curtain it is a whole new story. Thanks for making reminding us that just getting up after failure is effort enough.

  16. If this 40s series has not taught me enough lessons already, i will never learn.This is so profound!

    “The end isn’t even an event, guy. The biggest heartache isn’t that you are closing down, it’s that you are closing people’s dreams, you are shattering your staff’s dreams.” So deep!

    Beautiful piece as always. What will i say at 40?Mmmhhh..

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  17. Awesome! I love the compassion and concern Leonard had for the people he worked with.

    “The biggest heartache isn’t that you are closing down, it’s that you are closing people’s dreams, you are shattering your staff’s dreams. These are guys you have bebad with you all through, guys you sold your vision to, guys you have built and sold dreams to, and now you have to tell them that it’s all over, that you can’t carry them with you anymore, that the ride is over”.

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  18. “It’s a bonhomous Wednesday evening”. Biko, what the hell?
    Anyway, us AA guys had such a hard time reading the first and the third paragraph.

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  19. Poor bank relationship manager Samson lol, am sure they must have backbited you with Bigvai about how big your ego is compared to your bank balances, if they are not at par!hehe!

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  20. Wow. By the time am done with this 40s series. I will be above 40-mastery it is. Leonard has such courage to say it as it is in a city where nothing is as it seems.
    But Biko what you make bank agents go through is just cheeky more like bullying in a good good way. By the way, when you are done with this 40s series I would love to interview you, si you would have turned 40 by then. TIA.

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  21. Quite an inspiring read. Keep going Leonard.
    This “…sometimes just getting back on your jelly feet, to try again, is already a win” summarizes well.
    Thanks Biko.

  22. this is the harsh reality as young people we do not know the blood sweat and tears it takes to make something stand
    thanks biko
    i am rooting for the guy to stand

    2
  23. It ain’t over til the fat lady sings………Here’s to always rolling with the punches and getting up to take the next one life swings at you!

    2
  24. “I think most people misunderstand what wealth is; people imagine wealth is a car, a house or pieces of land. I think that is a plastic way of looking at wealth. Wealth is responsibility and we need to teach people how to create responsibility for themselves and for others. We need to appreciate the value of carrying people with us, not going alone.”
    So true….

  25. Biko, are you sure he was saying Guy and not ‘Gai (to mean Ngai! – as we Kuyus mainly exclaim – but with the “N” removed by the Kuyu influence)?… He may not be Kuyu, but maybe his wife is hehehe, and we all learn from our wives.

    2
  26. I think the new shocking expression should be NTSA on bike and for the fact that its always vivid on how I used to stare at forest edge estate from blanco’s galleria and dream about Leonard got it made as much as I know him today. God speed Leonard and this 40’s People has been life school for me now.

  27. One thing keeps ringing in my mind all along. Don’t get hyped by your shit or something along that line from the interview with Pala. I read the two perspectives.

    You leaving when you are having the most fun reminds of something some girlfriend used to tell me ” Don’t push it Pat. Don’t push it”. So I am learning not to milk dry and not to believe (Total buy-in) in my hype.

    I love it when the struggles are brought to light in entrepreneurship.

    2
  28. Wow, Mr Jackson just cooked his relationship manager’s goose, and gave him the boot.
    What a story! Entrepreneurship is hard but those who take the plunge are very brave soldiers. We often see the glitz and gloss, but somehow don’t realize the struggle, the sleepless nights or see the auctioneers.
    I heard so much about Sports Grill and Blanco; and yeah, heard about Leonard, we have common friends (thanks facebook). Sad to hear they are no longer running, it would’ve been nice to sample matumbo fry from such a happening place.
    Failure is not a bad thing when your heart is still beating and your brain can dream some more. It simply means “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again,”
    Okay, enough with the platitudes. Thank you for sharing your story so openly Mr Mudachi.

    5
  29. Deep. Deep.
    I just don’t know what to write so i’m giving you wafles recipe:
    2eggs
    2 cups all purpose flour
    1 3/4 cups milk
    1/2 cup vegetable oil
    1 tablespoon white sugar
    4 tablespoons baking powder
    1/4 tablespoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    Direction:
    Wait, failure has made men. The power of a woman when a man is in the middle of a storm.

    20
  30. Have had the opportunity to meet all the guys mentioned in this story..great guys! Anthony, John Musau, Leonard, Bigvai Mwailemi, Biko (oh exclude the auctioneer!)

  31. As usual nice read Biko,but then one thing *Guy (Leonard Mudachi) should know is that no condition is permanently and for sure he will be back on his feet up and running again.
    Failure is the beginning of success!

  32. He is a bit bowlegged, walks like a casino owner.

    for some reason i love how bow legged men walk there is something about them, something

    1
  33. Great piece Biko. Failure is universal, something we can all relate to. Plus, Mudachi’s “guy” thing is related in a way to how we, Ugandans, like saying “Man” before a sentence.

    1
  34. ‘Always leave the bar when you are having the most fun’ An interesting motto:

    Rule To Live By: Always leave a party when you’re still having fun (and can remember where you are). Don’t be that guest who has one or two or three too many and goes over the line you regret the next day (hangover, the walk of shame, the need to apologize). You’re still having fun – you’ve been there a while – you’ve seen who you want to see. Say goodbye. And have a good memory the next day.

  35. Biko, your polish is coming along nicely!! I reckon by 50 you will have completed the demands of the 40-60 bracket. For real though, nicely done. Such stoic character despite a dark backdrop. But see, his light is shining and he gives credit where it’s due. Wife, systems, brands. A Bigvai that calls and holds you responsible is also crucial.
    Quit trying to get Uber drivers on your expensive taste. You do that and you will be writing a piece on one of them. *eye roll *.
    As always, Biko, you satisfy.
    And from one runner to another, thumbs up! Have you tried the energy gels?

    1
    1. Weee Luke wacha zako, spoiler alert. Some of us are still in season 3 and plan to catch up over this long Idd weekend, Serkal ikituonekania. Binge watching.

  36. Ardent silent reader but just had to comment today having already been in charge of a restaurant that has all the hallmarks of Blanco’s trajectory. I have to admit this article has flooded me with memories of those grief-inducing harragues of the auctioneers and how hard we negotiated with banks for more credit and with the landlord for more leniency if only just to enable us keep afloat for our staff who were soul and blood into rebuilding the business with us albeit with delayed salaries. Entrepreneurship isn’t all instagram-glossy as the media paints it. As an entrepreneur you never have one night where you can just sleep and have the frisky pipe dreams and the wet dreams… It is just a never-ending battle month after month.And even though it finally did go burst for us,that turmoil did build me. Failure in business has a way of gruesomely destroying you then gently rebuilding you up,more graciously reselient and wiser….but it’s never easy. I’m barely 30 yet that experience made me feel so jaded like a man in his 60’s.

    15
  37. It may sound cliché but in a way – in my opinion the most important way – Leonard is a successful man. His profession is something he loves to do, he was great at all the jobs he was employed to do, then took his dream and ran with it, soared for a while, then crashed and got back up WITH HIS WIFE STANDING BY HIM HOLDING HIM UP. Everything was lost except the one thing that couldn’t be replaced. And sure enough, he’s thrown his hat in the ring again. His dream isn’t dead, and he draws inspiration from the most precious thing in his life family. He’s lived his life Fully… I wish him all the best in his new venture, and doff my hat to his inspiring wife.

    4
  38. “We need to be more honest about entrepreneurship,” he ploughs forth. “Because entrepreneurship has been made sexy. Everybody wants to quit their jobs and do their biashara but without the full knowledge of what it really entails

    1
  39. Amazing piece. ..when i reach 60 i want to look at my 40s with great admiration. Blanco’s galleria was my favourite spot in 2011 and 2012.

  40. Wow, truly inspiring. Here I am hitting a small bump and I want to give up! No, get up Biegon, Mudachi lost more! Never give up!

  41. If there is one thing I’m sure of Biko, you and your readers must have been up with Mayweather and McGregor.
    Guy all those ring references

    Alafu tell me incase I’m missing something when I make it a point to screen and block all bank calls. Why in God’s name do you want a charmy charmy relationship with the bank.

    Leonard the fact that you are on this side telling us your version means there is hope. You are. Thank you

  42. Awesome Piece , Blancos was an awesome place , did alot of dinners & recommended to friends as well ! Any who, in every failure there’s always a lesson to learn indeed ! Jack MA can attest to this.

  43. Veeeeery nice. I can taste the scotch, hear the piano, feel the weight of failure and see the glimmer of hope. Biko, high quality tipple, heightens your power of observation.

    1
  44. Trials and failure creates perseverance, perseverance creates character and character creates hope. Hope that the next season shall be better than the last.

    2
  45. Thank you Biko for such a wealthy read. Mudachi’s experience with failure will be his most valuable wisdom on his next venture. All the best Sir!

  46. Nothing seems like what it is in this town; businesses struggle and hang on strings and businessmen and women barely manage to stay afloat.

    Word.

  47. I like the way you brought the Oban from the hotel to the Uber all to show Uber drivers don’t drink and drive, you guy are quite something. Impressed as always #TeamRwanda

  48. ‘Nothing seems like what it is in this town’ Ain’t that the truth! And Bigvai is a straight up dude, he’ll be good to you

  49. Thank you Biko for I such a great read especially when I got to the line that failure has a lot more lessons that success.That line sung to me and the notes resonated with me that I got to my feet and started applauding and nodding my head in agreement with a knowing smile just on the corner of my mouth and my eyes glazed with a faraway look. Only when I continued reading did I realise that none of this actually happened and it had all stayed in my head.
    Nonetheless, accept this as a small note of thank you, for this and many other stories which have inspired and comforted me.

  50. The line about making entrepreneurship sexy is true, We glorify the survival but we do not glorify the surviving. The fact that he got back and is here says “Look, Guy, I was beaten down but I never allowed myself to be defeated and I think that is such a beautiful kind of strength. Way better than scathing through life without bruises and battle scars

  51. I never comment but today, immediately i finished reading this, our caterer walks into my office and starts telling me his story and i mention what i just read and I ask him, do you read Biko Zulu and he goes HUH? WHO? lol so i tell him the wisdom Mudachi is talking about on entrepreneurship and he goes, what, i worked with him at Carni!!! Brilliant mind! …..he even consulted with me before opening Blanco’s galleria and we did the math, it wasn’t looking so good but he is resilient and very creative…. needless to say we have had over an hour discussion around this…. small world but i have learned a lot today.

    Hilarious convo there with Bigvai of Stanchart ☺

    1
  52. Thank you for introducing Leonard to us (for those who didn’t know him). Truly inspiring story. I feel totally inspired. As for your whisky…you describe it so deliciously…for me who never gets whisky drinkers…I think I do now.

  53. Biko I bet you referred to the Thermos flask not as the brand it is(as we have all referred to flasks) but as you picture a flask..innit?

  54. Now this is a man who has lived. I would take his life any day, with all his downs than that of one who has lived in his comfort zone all his life coz once you’ve been scared shitless by loosing it all you become UNSTOPPABLE!!

    2
  55. I loved Blancos at Galleria. There was a friendly guy called Albanus who served everyone with relish. The huge screens where i could watch my beloved tennis and athletics were my main reason to be there. Second was their pork ribs. I said an ode to it’s demise. You shall get back on your feet Leo Mudachi.

  56. Great Read and quite inspirational too.
    “Do you know how I know I’m getting tipsy as hell? My forehead becomes numb” I can so well relate to this

    1
  57. Great piece as usual Biko. Besides, I’ve learnt a thing or two… In the years to come, I wanna look back and smile and admiration.

  58. I am so happy to be reading this right now and sad too. I remember Blancos. I had just started working and was offered the suggestion to take my clients there for dinner. I loved it! And the second time was after I got my first salary and I took my family there for lunch. There is no other restaurant in Nairobi that has thus far lived up to the menu and delicacies that were Blancos. I cried when it closed down. If I remember clearly there is no other place in Nairobi where you could take 4 clients for dinner with drinks and second rounds if they wanted and manage to pay 8k. To great entrepreneuers. There is power in failure.

    2
  59. Great eye opener, entrepreneurship ain’t no bed of roses.. And am taking this and locking it up in a safe… That…

    ““I think most people misunderstand what wealth is; people imagine wealth is a car, a house or pieces of land. I think that is a plastic way of looking at wealth. Wealth is responsibility and we need to teach people how to create responsibility for themselves and for others. We need to appreciate the value of carrying people with us, not going alone.””

    Wishing Mudachi all the best and admiring his courage of getting back on his feet and starting all over again..

    1
  60. This man didn’t fail,guy.The business did….This is a reminder how politics and the govt. Can bring you to your knees! I mean PEV ,Road construction…how do you fight that.

  61. i loved Blancos galleria.used to go for their sports game nights even though i new jack shit abt sports.
    just realised this comment is 5 days too late and no one is probably reading this.LOL
    also so true about the 21-40…whaaa

  62. It’s not even what she told me, it’s the presence. It’s the way she helped me think things through clearly and stopped me from feeling like a victim.”

  63. hehehehehehe…………
    “My forehead becomes numb. As in no feeling whatsoever. Like I could touch it and feel like I might as well be touching the handle of a thermos flask”

  64. You remind me of the movies where the starring is a guy ( not Leonard’s signature, hehe) and is down there, wounded after a thousands-kilo-blows but then his wife and a kid are watching him and depending on him for freedom. We all know how he gets up…Like no blow has yet landed on him.