James Kaguima is a entrepreneurial innovator & social entrepreneur, founder of Hasani Design, a platform that helps startups & brands Digitalise their value online through implementing digital innovation & transformation strategies. He is also interested in the advancement in emerging economies through innovation and empowering the next generation to lead through Social Entrepreneurship & Community building.
His social entrepreneurship journey started at the age of 16, where he was the youngest youth worker in his area, and was tasked into securing a grant from UnLtd. to help coordinate an event that had a positive social impact in his local area. He managed to successfully secure funding through pitching his idea to UnLtd. and they awarded him a seed grant of £500 to set up a social enterprise that will host a community sports event that brings together young people and grownups. Later on in my career I became an ambassador for Youth Employment, at Youth Employment UK we provide expert guidance and support to all organisations working with and employing young people.
What made you choose this career/industry?
My main inspiration for Entrepreneurship and business in general came from my Grandfather, James Waweru Kihara, who became a Real Estate Developer in my home country Kenya, where he rose out of poverty, raising himself and putting himself through education and eventually setting up his own Real Estate agency. I grew up being inspired by hearing about rag to riches stories of how prominent individuals that built their own businesses & scaled them to new heights. I plan on applying their work ethic to my own journey.
I founded Hasani Watches, during my Law School exam season, which is a brand started with the goal to promote an eco-friendly lifestyle and reduce wastage of wood resources and utilise it for a purpose by offering handcrafted Wooden watches. We partnered with a Charity called One Tree Planted, so for every watch sold we planted one tree in honour of our customer’s sale. (I was always involved in social entrepreneurial projects when I was young, but this was my first ecommerce where I invested money that I have raised and gained a return on my investment into the watch brand). You will always remember your first sale, treasure it as it is no small feat.
I also won multiple Business pitching & Hackathon events (October 2019 – March 2020 was the period where I was on a streak of winning & becoming finalist in these competitions. I always had a strong work ethic, but this burning desire to succeed only came about during my time in Law School – whilst also learning how to develop healthy routines that enhances my physical & mental health (Going to the gym & maintaining a positive outlook on life, through positive thoughts or prayer)
What has been your biggest challenge or setback during your career?
In my Last year of Law School I overcame some hurdles and setbacks due to mental health, but eventually signed up to Gym and started to get my life together just in time to graduate during a period where I almost lost hope & was in despair. However, with determination and a new unshakeable confidence, I preserved the pressures life brought & strengthened my faith in God. One of my favourite quotes for that period, “Rock bottom teaches you more than mountain tops ever will!” (You will grow more from Hardship than you would in comfort).
Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
- A burning desire to become your best self and doing whatever it takes to achieve your goals.
- Unshakeable confidence – Learn how to shake off negativity and unhelpful criticism -When striving for success there will be those who will try to tear you down, just prove who you are through your actions.
What do you think gave you the drive and determination to succeed?
The doors that closed their door on me, the constant rejection from job application, promises made by Gatekeepers that never materialised. I was fed up and hell bent on creating my own lane and navigating the world of entrepreneurship & the startup ecosystem – So far this journey transformed me into a person that believes that anything is possible if you put your mind and your skills to achieve it. In one of my favourite rapper’s songs (Drake) he said “I’m gonna buy the building of every door, that closed on me” which was a quote that resonated with me, as each door that closed on me ignited a strong desire to achieve my goals and blaze my own path to success.
What is the best bit of advice that you have ever been given?
One of my favourite podcastors is Naval, he is the founder of angel list and prominent philosopher. I saw he created a thread post on Twitter where is listed out advice on how to become wealthy, without getting lucky. One of the quotes that resonated with me was this one below “Earn with you mind, not with your time” – I made a visual design which also went viral and gained the recognition from him and the viral tweet helped me make sales on one of my ebooks. Through the Ebook sale I was able to earn with my mind, not with my time. A Ebook is made one, but can be sold multiple times without having to build it again. This is leveraging your knowledge and monetising it to create a business model that allows you to not trade your time for money. When a subscriber asks you a question, make a blog post, podcast episode, a youtube video answering their answer and you save yourself time as I guarantee other people will have the same question. Leverage your mind via media & technology.
What is your advice to people who are wanting to start a business?
The truth is that, anyone can come up with an idea, but it is all about turning that idea into reality. Ambition without Action is just a dream, which is why it is important to set goals.
You need to know why you want to start a business; is it to become rich? Clout? Fame? Or is it because you want to build something that will stand the test of time so your children will have something that will provide for them whilst you’re gone.
That is called Generational Wealth, passing down your fruits to your next of kin.It is very important to set goals, because having NO goals in life is like driving a vehicle with no destination and the journey to Success requires you to have a destination.
What is the biggest lesson that you’ve learnt along the way?
When you build with results, and not just empty announcements with no action, you build a reputation as someone who can deliver. The only time you tell people your plans is if you are willing to build in public and are ready to accept any criticism or negative comments that come your way, however, you may receive positive feedback and support which shows
What would your advice be to someone managing a team?
When you are building a team, the best thing you can do is make the members feel like they have a stake or ownership in the vision you are creating, otherwise they will have an agent mindset & not an owner mindset. When your team has an agent mindset, they are basically mercenaries and are not loyal to the cause. But if you cultivate an atmosphere where everyone is included and has some equity or ownership into your business or brand, they will treat it as their own. (Not everyone is worthy to be given equity/ownership into your business, vet them accordingly)
Covid 19 questions
What has been your strategy for your business during corona?
My business was already digital, so I had no problem pivoting and adjusting to the current times. However, I’ve learned that other businesses were less fortunate and did not know how to navigate through these times of remote work and running your business online, so I’ve created content & an ebook called How to navigate the Digital Frontier – a guide helping businesses and startups learn the fundamentals of digital marketing and how to market their brand online.
Many founders are afraid of rejection
But for a startup to succeed
At least one person or a team in your startup/business will have to spend a lot of time on sales & marketing
The world is becoming more digital, more skilled, more automation and less employees
You need to start taking digital innovation & digital transformation for your business
The world will move with or without you but it will move regardless – If you want your business to still be here in the next few years, you have to start looking at it as a tech startup that is constantly adapting to the rapid changes in technology & innovation
In 2019, James Kaguima was picked to be one of the faces to appear on FounderVine’s Global Entrepreneurship week campaign and discussed the top qualities of an entrepreneur – Below you can view the video
This Blog was written when I was 23 years young…