Nine years at helm of corporate was enough
Sept. 16, 2020
After working for nine years with Henkel, a German multinational consumer goods’ company, Rosemary Ndinda decided to quit in April 2020. She had been the country head, Consumer Adhesives, Eastern, West and Central Africa until then and worked with a multitude of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), guiding them through a path of sustained growth.
Ms Ndinda studied Bachelor of Commerce (Marketing) at the University of Nairobi, did her masters in Strategic Management at the same university before joining the banking industry. She would later find herself working for Henkel.
But when Ndinda decided to take a break earlier this year, business suitors flocked her door. After a moment of thinking through all the opportunities that were on offer, the sales and marketing guru decided to start a consulting company, Solidlaunch Consulting Kenya. The chief executive talks about her background in sales, marketing and distribution and why she is not rejoining employment.
Nine years in a well-paid job. What prompted you to quit?
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At some point, I realised that the job was taking a toll on me, and I decided to take a break. Quitting meant taking time to think about the next move, but I was always open to going back to work. I also knew that I did not want to retire without having my own venture to lean back on.
What happened after quitting?
I got a flurry of calls from SMEs consulting on how to brand their products and make their distribution easier and better. I realised that most of these people had the potential but had little know-how of how to maximise it. I also got calls from companies from outside the country that wanted to establish businesses and settle in Kenya.
In April, I entered a deal with Chemsols (a manufacturer of adhesives, thinners, leather care, printing inks, fillers and metal primers) where I was to help them in consultancy and execution of sales, marketing and distribution.
But even as early as May, job offers were trickling in aplenty.
What changed your mind about being open to employment?
Starting my venture, I intended to have it as a side hustle. In May, I met Nikhil Sadhwani, the Group CEO of Metal Can and Closures Africa. A five minutes encounter turned into a four-hour conversation about the market, retail, trends and finally about my plan, to which he responded “Rosemary, you’re brilliant, I am amazed at your deep understanding of the market: you’re good at this. I would dare you to focus on consulting, in six months, it will pay off.”
And that was it. I was going it my way.
And so… what is Solidlaunch Consulting principally about?
Solidlaunch Consulting is like a one stop shop, a focused consultancy devoted to helping organisations realise growth and capture more value, offering a package that includes every tool a successful business needs. Solidlaunch Consulting brings together experts from diverse fields and with expertise aimed at providing multifaceted solutions to the customers. We do consultancy and execution for companies in sales, marketing, branding and distribution.
We have solutions that are tailored to fit individual customer needs. Every company has its budget within which we operate. The aim is to offer expertise for SMEs through which they don’t have to pay with an arm.
We offer digital solutions such as website development, social media marketing, SEO and E-Commerce. Covid-19 paved way for the digital golden age. Digitalisation, once considered a ‘nice to have’, is now a ‘must have’. From the Mama Mboga stalls, to other kiosks, to huge multinational organisations, business owners must embrace digitalisation.
How do you acquaint yourself with companies?
I have been doing aggressive digital campaigning. I formed a web of networks when I was still employed and these have helped me a lot. I have also established professional connections on LinkedIn. Further, the power of referrals cannot be overstated. Once you have done a good job for a company or two, they will spread word about you. It has been happening.
How do you manage to execute for companies that need more than just consultancy?
We outsource. We hire competent people who can do marketing and distribution. As a market expert, I am able to tell who can deliver what.
Some of the most important lessons you have learnt about the business?
There were many SMEs that did not understand the importance of marketing until we met. Marketing is very important. I have seen the gaps that exist for SMES and that limit their success and thus I am able to help them seal such gaps. I have also learnt that if you give 20 per cent of your attention to business, it will only yield 20 per cent in profits. You need to give 100 per cent in business.
Business rewards consistency. If you treat it as a side hustle, it treats you as an option.
Also, people should consult before starting a business. So many ventures go wrong because of lack of a proper plan and a lack of consulting.
Would you advise someone to leave employment for business?
Well, that depends with individuals. Employment is quite like a marriage. You cannot tell someone to leave until they decide to do so willingly. You will wonder why they are being harassed but do not seek to move away, but it is until such a party decides to exit that they will. Such is employment.
What do companies look out for when venturing into new markets?
Ability to win. A company will go into a market where there is an opportunity to thrive and where the chances of success are high. This is what we call ability to win.
Word of advice....
After I had quit employment, one company approached me with an aim of hiring me but it could not afford me. I was earning higher than the offer they put on the table. I went ahead to launch my consultancy.
It is always important for one to know their worth and not to back down. Do not compromise on your value. You see, cheap and good do not go together.