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Kenyans Abroad: It Took Me 20 Years To Build A Successful Business In The US

Ralph Kithuka Kilondu
Ralph Kithuka Kilondu

Coming to America as an immigrant and going straight into business is perhaps one of the biggest things I have ever done to date. Some twenty odd years later, I still find myself in awe of my business that has seen me raise my four kids successfully into great careers.

Starting life away from home in a very complicated jurisdiction and getting to understand the swing of things was not easy but by God’s grace we have made it this far. 

I am equally proud of the success of my kids in studies in the American education system. I am also a founder member of the Kenya USA Diaspora Sacco, where I sit in the Executive Board as its honorary Secretary.

Building a business in a foreign land: Sustained management controls of the company, keeping up with evolving business trends, consistency and adherence to regulations governing my industry have been critical to the growth of my business.

Also, leveraging business networks within my industry has greatly helped my company source business opportunities with relative success. For example, during the 2008 recession, when most corporations withered with the collapse of the American economy.

I have modeled my life against the principle of ten. This means that I plan my next phase of life ten years ahead since our lives tend to change at the turn of every decade.

My worst deal: Getting into partnerships in projects that I have very little knowledge about. I took part in the Second National Operator (SNO) licensing award in 2003-4.

I was part of the local consortium at a time when the Kenyan telecom industry was being liberalized.

I ended up losing a lot of money. This was mainly because I was not able to travel home to understand the scope and feel of business matters on the ground. This taught me the value of becoming an ardent investment research student.

Losing business: The 2008 recession hit businesses across the entire spectrum of the US economy. I lost over 200 business customers and had to reduce the fleet of trucks to levels that could sustain my household. Everything beyond that was a risk to my very existence in the industry.

I also had to give up business premises that I owned and moved operations to a smaller location. The company has since re-emerged from the turbulent ten year period and there are signs of steady growth over time. The Covid-19 pandemic, however, is threatening both our businesses and our very existence. 

Fortunately here, the government is financially cushioning our enterprises to sustain operations for the near term.

My life’s regret:  I don’t think there is anything I would change. The factors inhibiting my growth are already a part of who I am.

For example, my being an immigrant and a member of the minority grouping in the US will always stand in my way for as long as there are these universal inequalities in the West.

How I invest: I am a little old school on methods of saving and have always invested any surplus funds in income generating activities. I prefer investing funds in instruments that generate me more additional income that I can then use to invest in government financial Instruments, projects in real Estate (REITS, Rental and Commercial properties), and farming.

My punch line: I have learned the art of being slow to judge and quick to learn from those that have come before me.

I have also been schooled through life experiences that you’ll always get a good harvest from your investment if you grow your portfolios with modesty and invest with a long haul mentality.

Ralph Kithuka Kilondu is the owner and president of Alpha Couriers Incorporated, a logistics and delivery company based in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

The firm founded in 1999 deals in the transportation and distribution of goods from Atlanta firms to cities and States across the South Eastern United States (Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, North and South Carolina).

This feature was first published in the Saturday Magazine by Daily Nation Nation Media Group.

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