Naomi Konditi-Kivuvani has always been an early adopter. But sometimes, she can be too early!
That was the case when at the age of 19, she created Kenya’s first online restaurant guide. Almost two decades later, the serial entrepreneur admits now that Kenya Dining Online was 15 years too early for its time.
“It was a failure,” she says. “I was too early in the game.”
But like with all failure, she was quickly unburdened to move onto the next idea with new lessons and an added layer of grit. She has since started several e-commerce businesses that span the retail, travel, technology, transport and hospitality industries.
Therefore it was no surprise that Naomi’s name was recommended when MallforAfrica.com, the Nigerian-based e-commerce site, decided to venture into the East African market in 2015. The website aims to be Africa's global e-commerce solution, and Naomi was eventually hired as the Country Manager for Kenya.
It wasn’t an easy process, Naomi says, given that she was trying to introduce a foreign company into the local market. And even though she had been working in e-commerce for over a decade, the Kenyan business set-up procedures have not kept up with global standards.
"Trade in Kenya has a lot of barriers,” she says. “It is not that inviting. It is not like they are begging you to come do business in Kenya. You have to go over a number of hurdles to get your business running.”
Naomi’s position at MallforAfrica.com is also only the second time she has ever worked in a company that she did not found or co-found—and she was headhunted each time.
To her, going the entrepreneurial route makes sense: she is driven by figuring out a need and filling it well. The rush comes from getting her hands dirty, and as a perfectionist, getting it done well. It’s why jumping on board to set up MallforAfrica.com's Kenyan division also attracted her
“Entrepreneurship is 24 hours a day,” she says. “It’s very intense and painful and all your faculties are moving at the same time. You breathe, eat and sleep your business.”
And as a woman whose home life is as active as her work life, Naomi says it is a myth to imagine you can have it all.
“Don’t be fooled that there is something called a work-life balance," she warns. "I’ve been married for 15 years, with three kids and I am a hands-on mum. To balance this out, something has to give.”