Esther Ndeti and Kevin Mutiso failed in some aspects of their lives. But they gathered all the strength to stand on their feet. And now at Fuckup Nights, they share their failures to motivate others
Nobody likes failure. But in life, it is inevitable. And now there is stage for it. Dubbed Fuckup
Nights (FUN) failures meet to share their stories.
Here, you get to hear of a business that crashed, the partnership deal that went sour or the product that had to be recalled. And Fuckup
Nights has become a global movement with events in 250 cities in 80 countries and 26 languages (and growing).
Recently, such an event took place in Nairobi. It was at this forum that Esther Ndeti shared her journey. She had just broken up with her husband of eight years, leaving her a single mother of one. “When my marriage failed according to societal standards, I was devastated,” she says.
Just as she picked herself up, Esther immersed herself in work. “I came up with a business idea in food production. I got a co-founder and together we set up a shop.
In its early stages, I was up and about forging networks and relationships with potential producers and clients and learning the ropes of the business,” says the mechanical engineer graduate. Her business partner was working part time.
“And I understood because he had another job, but I just had this job. I had put my blood and sweat into it because I had to keep myself busy to avoid getting into depression and I still had a mouth to feed. I was the face of our growing empire,” she recalls.
A lot of the financial and moral support she got during that time came from her family. “They would look after my daughter while I made sure my other baby (my business) was able to stand on its two feet. I would have never imagined that I would be ousted out of my own brainchild company,” Esther sighs.
“We did go to court and I eventually did get back my capital, but that was as far as it went and I was discouraged,” says the long-distance cyclist. “Getting away for a while and seeing life through different lenses really helped me cope. I then formed Hadithi Njoo where people could share local experiences,” she adds.
The executive director at East Africa Venture Capital Association (EAVA) shuns the way society depicts failure. “It is not a disease and no one should feel as if they are less of a person if they fail. And no one should look down another person just because he/she failed. Failure is a learning experience,” she says.
Kevin Mutiso, 30, is CEO and co-founder of Alternative Circle. The company developed a Kenyan Mobile-based app “SHIKA”, that enables individuals with little or no credit history to access affordable microloans. While this is his story now, Kevin too had suffered a major setback.
“There was a time I lost confidence in many things, myself, the banking system, and the court system. I suffered from depression and if it wasn’t for support from a few close friends and family particularly, my father, I would have lost it all,” he says.
He pulled through many entrepreneurial exploits, but the most challenging moment was when the lands office nullified a collateral they had placed for a loan and the bank recalled the loan. “It was one of the toughest moments in my life,” sighs the father of one.
“Research shows that humiliation, which is associated with feeling lowered in status in the eyes of others, is one of the most intense emotions that someone can experience. The reason we host Fuckup Nights is to create a culture shift around failure, and enable a mindset of innovation.
In African culture, we talk more about our successes and very little about the lessons that we learnt to get us there. We are going to change that to show that everyone f*** up, and that failure is a necessary part of the journey to success,” Stella Nyaera notes.