- July 15, 2020
It’s expected of a graduate that after the tossing up of the graduation cap, a journey is embarked on to chisel out a lucrative career from the course undertaken.
But then, there’re a few who have proven that it’s possible to swim against the current; the men and women who choose to dexterously weave a different destiny for themselves― a new road away from what they studied. They start their own companies to solve problems faced by humanity, at a profit. What does entrepreneurship; a lonely furrow to plough given the uncertainty of heavy fog sitting on the road up ahead, really take?
An affable and young Isaac Muigai loops us in. He graduated in 2018 with a degree in International Relations from the United States International University but holds the title CEO, Humanum Ratings― a startup. He opened the door to the burning chamber called entrepreneurship, in where flames may fiercely lick and consume you, or refine not only you but also the society.
Who is Isaac Muigai?
A young CEO filled with a passion to serve humanity. He is specifically interested in issues affecting young people. Where humanity and personal growth is, you will find Isaac.
You are currently running your own company, despite not having a business degree. What did it take to pull this off?
It took passion. It took a heart yearning to improve humanity. It took a mindset that University education opens up your mind not just to what you pursued, but to whatever possibilities you envision and set your mind to. With education, you have a key to whatever doors you walk towards, so long as you infuse thinking with courage.
What is Humanum Ratings and what services do you offer?
Humanum Ratings is an agency that empowers Kenyan businesses with cutting edge ratings, advise and research. The key focus is on organizational development whereby a comprehensive regime of diagnosis and change initiatives is done in order to fortify the state of organizational culture/behaviour. Through this, organizations are able to identify their salient strengths and soar higher, while also identifying areas to build on and improve.
The conception of this idea, when did it happen and how many people do you work with?
It all started when I was in my third year of university. I was highly motivated by the idea of Corporate Social Responsibility and impacting the society, which I presented to my friend and professor at USIU, Scott Bellows. He helped me refine and redefine it through the incubation centre at USIU. Later, genius mindsets came on board: Sela Mumuli and Steve Muriithi who have since been the building blocks to what the company is today. Sela is the Director of Partnerships, Steve the Finance Director, and Professor Scott Bellows the ratings and organizational advisor. We pool together for any given task, share ideas and come up with well-thought plans.
What projects has the company undertaken so far?
Humanum Ratings has worked with NGOs funded by USAID and UKAID, major distribution firms, dairy processors, media houses, county governments and leading hospital systems.
What would you say to a student who believes there’s a happy employer waiting to embrace them immediately after school?
Employment is not a matter of belief. It’s about what you are offering and the practicality of the solution you are providing. Nobody will hire a belief but the brilliance of your skill-set. Otherwise, will live all your life believing. Refine your skills, and also don’t just set your sights on an employer. You could be the solution the world is waiting for.
How hard or easy is it to start and run a business in Kenya?
It’s very easy to start. The test is in running. How much can you take when things are not going your way?
Did you try seeking employment using your papers?
I started transforming the company’s concepts to concrete while still in campus. I have applied for very few jobs. Three at most. In the end, I turned my focus towards the startup.
How has COVID-19 affected your company?
It has hit hard and affected the entire world economy. It saddens me, and I look forward to when we shall overcome it. As a business, Humanum Ratings has been affected just like many other businesses. To provide a reliable organizational health check for our clients, we engage them chiefly through research (questionnaires among other professional means) and we also do training. We have since significantly reduced the number of people we interact with during a study, and we have been forced to opt for online training or really cut down on the number of people.
What lessons has the outbreak of COVID-19 taught you?
I can break down the major lessons COVID-19 has taught me into two categories: Mass retrenchment, and mental resilience. Even before the pandemic forcefully barged into our spaces, changes in the way we work had long been on a conveyor belt rolling toward us. I remember reading a futuristic article last year that predicted a time when people work from home, flexible working hours, and machines taking over, leading to loss of jobs. In as much as we were not fully prepared, this pandemic has made us reconsider our business models as it has pushed us to the edge. Many companies now dread the painful claws of dissolution if fast and wise decisions are not made.
When it comes to mental resilience, this is what I have learned. It is really important to be conscious of where your mind wanders to, otherwise, it will lead you into the woods. The unprecedented changes caused by the pandemic brought an end to social interactions. At first, many people were happy that there was no more going to the office, but soon the absence of social interaction was felt. Add to it the loss of jobs and considerable reduction in earnings, and the demons of depression rose from their pits. These times have been a major cause for the rise in cases of depression. I have learned that it all zeroes in on our individual responsibility. Each individual should begin by building a healthy mental state. A wise man once said, ‘If you can stay alone and feel terrible, you are in bad company with yourself’.
If someone paid you 5 million Kenyan shillings today to forget about Humanum Ratings, what would you say to them?
A big NO. You aren’t wealthy until you have something money can’t buy. Why? Courtesy of the place is to leave it better than you found it. With this startup, I’ll leave the earth a better place than I found it. That’s legacy.
What are your fears and motivations?
I fear losing myself. I am motivated by the genuine Kenyan stories of people who are devoted to impacting society. People like Dr Josphine Kulea of Samburu Girls Foundation, Francis Amonde, of Cup of Uji , Mwalimu Tibachi, and Leroy Mwasaru of The resolution project.
What’s your typical day like?
Apart from keeping the business rolling, I do meditative practice for my inner well-being and learn more about my area of practice. Depending on the day of the week, I watch documentaries, movies, and busy my thumbs on PlayStation pads with friends.
A book and a movie you’d recommend?
‘Doctor Strange’ and ‘The Matrix’ (I find the two more documentaries than movies). As for a book, I would ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tole.
If you could have a super-natural power, what would it be and why?
Psychokinesis; that ability to move objects by mental effort alone. I love quantum mechanics and everything to do with human energy frequencies.
If you love, love strong. If you hate, hate strong. Whatever you do in life; live strong. Otherwise, you live an insipid life not knowing a thing about anything.