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Monday, 25 August 2014

Kenyan Entrepreneur Kevin Mulei On Failure and Refusing to Give Up on His Dreams

Kevin Mulei is the young Kenyan entrepreneur behind Mo Sound Entertainment, he also started Kenya’s first gospel music awards. The entrepreneur spoke about his vision to encourage young people explore their musical dreams, failure and refusing to give up. Read more below:

He was just 23 and was indebted to the tune of US$23,000 because of a business venture gone bad. When Kevin started Kenya’s first gospel music awards in 2002, he had a big vision of using the platform to encourage talented youth explore their musical dreams. A busy disc jockey, Mulei had wanted to do more than spinning. He attended local music awards and events, scoured the internet for details, assembled a team and executed the first Groove Awards in 2002. But it proved a tough venture because he had no equipment, no contacts and made many mistakes. “If I’d been weak I’d have given up after the first one,” he says.

So in 2003 he tried again, but limited support from the stakeholders made the second event even harder. And frustrated that people were not buying into his vision, and with the $23,000 debt, Mulei did the inevitable. He gave up, packed his bags and relocated to the US. “I think it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. When I came back I had lots of creative ideas. My passion and vision was very clear in my mind and on paper. I am a strong believer of putting goals on paper because then I can take stock of any accomplishments. So I and the team put together the next Groove Awards and this time round I did not lose any money,” he recalls.

Today he runs Mo Sound Entertainment, a group of 12 companies which offers a wide variety of services in film, events management, digital media, brand activation and entertainment equipment. The company has expanded to Rwanda and is set to open in Uganda and Tanzania. Mo Sound has 80 employees and occasionally contracts the services of up to 50 more casuals when needed.

Although the Groove Awards, which are organised in Kenya and Rwanda, is the group’s most recognisable brand, Mo Sound also stages events for corporate clients and governments. This year it was contracted to organise Rwanda’s Liberation Day event marking 20 years since the 1994 genocide. It drew dignitaries from across the world. Last year their big event was Kenya’s 50th Independence Day celebrations attended by thousands of people and a dozen African presidents.

Mulei attributes the success of Mo Sound to his team who deliver creative solutions. “We don’t just sell gear. We have a lot of gear but what we sell is our creativity and our passionate team who can now organise any occasion, small or large. If you look back at any you attended you may not remember the chef but you will remember the good food. You will remember if you had a good time or a bad time. So we use tools and our people to create an experience that will be remembered.”
“My team is called MDF (Mo Sound Defence Force). I am always confident that the force will move in and deliver, even with major constraints,” he explains. “I talk to them and make sure they understand and buy into the vision. I make time for new staff and get to know them. I even go on location and help them set-up. It’s sometimes funny later when they realise that I am their boss.”

Mulei travels at least four times a year to Europe and Asia on what he calls learning expeditions. “I don’t go there to ask them to come here and do business. I go to learn simple things like how they arrange their warehouses because efficiency is a big thing for any company running events.” 
He reckons that whilst following one’s passion is good, nurturing it by seeing how others do it, networking and sharing ideas is even better.

There are opportunities in the entertainment industry but entrepreneurs should not come in expecting to have the flashy lifestyle the media portrays from day one. “It’s a competitive world and this makes people lose themselves because they hope to be like the next rich guy. Yes, they make Mercedes Benz cars, and their owners are us, but you have to get it at the right time. Sometimes you may have the money to buy that car but there is a better opportunity to invest in something else instead. When the season comes, you will get all those things.

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