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Enterprise

I set up my real estate firm with Sh600,000, now it’s worth millions

Leah Wambui, founder and CEO, Cheriez Properties Limited. PHOTO | COURTESY 

Leah Wambui is quickly building a name for herself as an entrepreneur in the real estate industry, a field known for its cut-throat competition.

Ms Wambui is increasingly proving that she has what it takes to scale the heights of the sector. However, all this did not come on a silver platter. Hers is a story of perseverance, hard work and determination. But the series of hurdles, she reveals, have been a source of important lessons that have served to propel her forward with a clearer vision, unmatched resilience and unshakable desire to succeed.

It all began with in October 2015 when armed with Sh600,000, she established Cheriez Properties Limited, a real estate company based in Nairobi.

With help from private equity, she hit the ground running building a sound business model around off plan financing.

Her first property was Royal Finesse (gated community of 78 town houses).

But like many other entrepreneurs will confess, starting out was tough. For her, and as is always the case with new ventures, she did not have enough capital, a clientele base and, worse still, not many people were willing to support her idea. She had a hard time convincing investors to believe in her idea.

“We didn’t have funds, no one knew us in the market and to make it worse, I didn’t have any collateral that I could give the bank to apply for a loan. This made our work entirely difficult,” says the graduate of Strathmore Business School.

Despite these challenges, she was determined to realise her dreams in real estate. Now her efforts are beginning to pay off with her dreams having taken a concrete shape. Today, the firm holds its own space in the real estate sector, and Ms Wambui promises to continuously provide products that will enable stay ahead of competition.

The company has also helped create employment opportunities to about 30 permanent staff since it was established.

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Their houses go for between Sh15 million and Sh19 million under the off-plan model.

The company’s total annual turnover as at last year was slightly more than Sh150 million.

The fortunes of the company are however expected to take a radical turn for the better with forecast returns from their ongoing project that is expected to push the firm’s a turnover in excess of Sh1 billion.

That the real estate firm has made tremendous progress is illustrated by the accolades it has bagged in the recent past, the latest one being the runners-up under the category of ‘most promising mid-level low rise residential developer’ during the 2018 Real Estate Excellence Awards.

The firm also emerged as the winner in the category of ‘best mid-level low rise developer’ of the year at the awards which were held in Nairobi last month. Among its flagship projects that are currently ready for sale include ‘Royal Finesse’ 78, five-bedroom all ensuite semi-detached houses, located along the busy Kitengela-Namanga highway.

The other residential development by the firm include “Royal Gates”, which Ms Wambui says is “an exceptional housing concept” with 78 ensuite town houses and DSQs.

The developments feature a playground for children and parking space. Other key emenities in the development include a swimming pool, fully-fitted gym, borehole and electric fence.

The Royal Gates project, which started in 2015 is set for completion in the first quarter 2019.

“It is primarily targeted at the middle class earners looking for serene locations to stay within the city. We have employed modern techniques of construction to cut down on costs,” she says.

Although the company has managed to carve out a sizeable market share in a relatively short duration, it has not been spared the usual challenges that every entrepreneur is bound to run into in the business world.

For Cheriez Properties Limited, it has been challenging securing long-term funding to push their projects to the next level.

Ms Wambui says the hardest hurdle she has faced so far is the high interest rates banks charge home developers. “We do not rely on banks for loans to finance our projects because they are too stringent in financing developers especially those who are new in the market like us,” she notes.



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