Alphonse Kioko resigned from his lucrative job as Precision Air boss to dive into the deep waters of entrepreneurship, and today, he is behind a multi-billion hotel that has changed Machakos’ skyline
Njeri Maina @Njerimainar
Loans are like soap; by the time you are done using it, you should be clean. This is just one of the many gems of knowledge that we get from a sit down with Alphonse Kioko. A firm believer in taking prudent loans and an astute businessman, Kioko is a man with the Midas touch; every business he touches, flourishes.
Kioko comes from a very humble background. He was raised in a small village near Machakos, where he attended Kasaini Primary School. He then attended Mumbuni High School, Machakos from where he still has fond memories of his teacher, Daniel Mulwa, who he attributes for giving him a sense of community.
He would do his A-Levels at Nyeri High School in Nyeri then proceeded for his undergraduate in Economics at the University of Nairobi. At the university, he did so well that he got three scholarships. He chose a scholarship to study a Masters in Planning.
His first job was at the City Commission now City Council. He immensely enjoyed his job, but he needed a bigger challenge. So he decided to take a 50 per cent pay cut from earning Sh7,000 to Sh3,500, and moved as a graduate trainee to Kenya Airways.
The biggest lesson he learnt while at KQ is willing to learn from others whether you are more qualified than others or are at a higher station in life than they are.
“Be humble. Don’t look down on anyone as no one has a monopoly of knowledge. You can learn something from anyone,” he explains.
Kioko worked his way up from being a graduate trainee in the Marketing Research Department to being a Route Manager in Middle East and Asia, and then the Area Manager in Dubai and the Gulf countries. He would later move to Precision Air in 2003, which had just been acquired by KQ in 2003.
He managed to steer the company from making losses into making profits and even helped them acquire their first Boeing. He would leave Precision Air in 2013, where he was the managing director to focus fulltime on entrepreneurship. He founded Gelian, a four star hotel in Machakos the following year.
It is important to note that even before his resignation, Kioko had always been doing business on the side.“You have to be willing to make sacrifices and invest. You also have to try and have an extra source of income as your salary will never be enough. Moreover, it is not wise to be over-reliant on your salary. But be careful to balance the two so that neither suffers,” he sagely advises.
While still working as a graduate trainee, he started a shop in Machakos town, which would supplement his earnings. While working as a Route Manager in Dubai, he would ship auto-spare parts to his friend in Kenya who would resell them. He later started Club 700, a matatu business, which plied the Nairobi–Machakos route. He also tried his hand at truck business. All these businesses took off, but he chose to terminate them to concentrate on a bigger dream.
In 2010, while still working with Precision Air in Tanzania, he started Almak Aqua Drillers, a company that has invested in modern state of the art rigs to drill boreholes in the most effective and efficient manner. The company has drilled over 400 boreholes since inception.
Kioko says he takes loans to finance his businesses. “Entrepreneurs should never get stuck at the financing stage. As long as you have a great idea, there is always someone ready to provide the finances. Create a great business proposal, approach your networks and you will find someone willing to invest in you and your idea,” the businessman explains.
Just like any true serial entrepreneur, Kioko’s exploits do not stop with Almak and Gelian. He is looking to launch a hospitality school early next year with the aim of filling in the skills gap in the market.
To anyone looking to get into entrepreneurship, Kioko’s advice is to simply just do it. “When you get a business idea, learn everything you can about the field you want to get into, then actualise it. Just do it,” he concludes.