21 year old Kate Akoth is as ambitious as they come, a former contestant on the Blaze BYOB TV show she is passionate about handmade stationary and Actuarial Science which she studies at JKUAT, Karen. I caught with her to discuss her experiences on the show and her plan moving forward after her elimination.
What is your hustle?
I make extraordinary greeting cards and wrap gifts. That’s my business.
What is extraordinary about your cards?
The design, I put a lot of time and effort to make each one of them unique so you won’t find anything like them. You have to see them for yourself to believe.
What inspired you to decide to pursue this particular venture?
I didn’t really decide, things just happened, I had been making cards and wrapping gifts for my friends as a hobby until one time, one of my friends took one of my cards to campus and it was well received. I got the idea to start making them for profit when I realized how excited people were for my product and that they were willing to pay to have it.
How did you get to be a part of the BYOB TV show?
For me it was pure serendipity. Things just aligned themselves. I had won a ticket to the Blaze launch in Nairobi but I couldn’t go because it was all the way in Nairobi and would run through late in the night so I made a request to the Blaze team to attend the summit in Nakuru instead. It was at the summit that I stumbled upon the BYOB TV show audition. At first, I had no idea that it was going to be a TV show. I assumed we were competing to get business support in terms of capital so it was a pleasant surprise when I found out I had made the final cut and would be on TV competing for the ultimate prize of five million.
How was your audition?
Goodness, I was a bucket of nervous. I was so nervous. It felt like the judges were hard on me at the audition (laughing) but I made it.I am more confident now after being on the show than I was at the time of the audition.
What would you say was the most challenging aspect of the show?
You have to really push yourself and bring your absolute best. For me, it was having to step out of my comfort zone and taking on tasks that were not in the realm of things I was used to doing.
How did it feel being evicted and what do you think was the reason that you were evicted from the show?
Naturally, I felt very sad. Mainly because I thought I would go further than I did on the show and people also expected me to stay on a bit longer.
After the show, I got a chance to talk to the judges and for that particular challenge, my undoing was that my selling ability wasn’t strong enough and contributed to the low sales that our team made.
Sue, the team leader for the pricing challenge nominated you for eviction because she felt that you were unable to perform under pressure. Would you say this a weakness of yours?
I wouldn’t call it a weakness. I am able to do well under pressure, I just felt way out of my depth in that challenge, I had no background on selling agricultural produce and this was compounded by the fact that I did not know Nairobi that well, coming from Nakuru so I felt I wasn’t able to be as resourceful as I am able to be especially when it came to potential market places.
Why do you think your team lost the pricing challenge?
We didn’t do proper market research, we ended up buying a lot of things that people didn’t want so we ended up making major losses.
If you were given a second chance to be on the show, what would you do differently?
I would be more aggressive than I was.
Who was the hardest contestant to work with and why?
For me, it was Sam Ngure, especially in the first challenge, we had a lot of friction. I think its because a lot of us are used to calling the shots on our business so it takes time for you to get used to being under someone else and having to follow their instructions.
What is the proudest moment of your entrepreneurial journey?
Being selected to join the show. For me, that validated my decision to start my own business because it showed that the decision was not in vain and that other people believed in my product and saw it was good.
Meeting the other contestants during the first week was also very inspirational. These were all people doing their own thing and succeeding at it at a very young age.
What lessons are you taking home with you from the show?
My confidence has been boosted tremendously and I have left with even more focus on making my business succeed.
What is the next step for you after the show?
Onwards and upwards. It’s either I make it or I make it. I am looking into learning graphic design and making e-cards and boosting the quality of the paper that I use to make the cards. I am also interested in making a shift towards more environmentally friendly materials such as recycled paper. It’s all about constant growth.
What tips would you give to the youth on being their own bosses?
First, attend the Blaze summits and even if you don’t get to be a part of the show, keep at what you’re doing. There is a lot to learn from the Blaze summits and not just the BYOB show.
Start where you are and with what you have. The right moment will never come if you keep waiting.
Be aggressive. If you’re not aggressive you cannot push your product and make a profit.
Be passionate and believe in your idea.