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September 24, 2018

Turning embers of passion into business success

It is rare for someone to muster courage to venture into an unfamiliar territory and concur it, and especially one in which they have no formal training but guts to follow passion.

This is exactly the story of Moses Ntiritu, a digital content developer who delved into the industry armed with sheer interest.

Ntiritu, 32, had just landed a job as a credit officer at K-Rep Bank in 2006 and posted to Mombasa. He is a graduate in Community Development and had no prior experience in animation till he one day stumbled upon a movie making software.

He taught himself how to use the software and soon realised he create a documentary. It was then that he asked his colleagues in the bank's marketing department for some customer profiles that he could use to create a story.

He received a few feedback testimonials and photos with which he put together a promotional documentary on customer experiences with the bank.

To his utter disappointment though, none of the top managers, including the managing director, offered their feedback on the documentary he sent through the staff email to them – at least not for the next 18 months.

During this time, Ntiritu was transferred to K-Rep's Nairobi branch on Kenyatta Avenue, still as a credit officer, then earning Sh25,000 monthly.

He was surprised one morning in February 2008 when the bank's then executive director Carol Musyoka beckoned him to his office, as he had no idea why he would be summoned to the lender's top-most office.

Musyoka wanted asked to ascertain whether Ntiritu was really the original creator of the customer feedback documentary that had been emailed to the managing director.

That was the beginning of a new journey. The director assigned him the task of setting up the bank's intranet, which led to Ntiritu then establishing K-Rep's communications office.

Seeing his passion rekindled, he started taking classes in animation at the Shang Tao Institute in the CBD. His thirst to create digital content, through video production, has since never been whetted.

He even quit his job in December 2009 to pursue this line of business.

Little did Ntiritu know that getting business would be his toughest test yet. And when business finally came through, the modest start up capital of Sh100,000 that he had saved was inadequate for such a venture – as is often the case with most entrepreneurs driven solely by passion.

"It was just an absurd idea to ask for money for to create cartoons. Banks and many financial institutions thought it was weird, so they declined to offer any financing. What made it worse was that we had no collateral for loans," he says.

The one distinctive thing with passion-driven enterprises is that proprietors never give up; not before trying every imaginable strategy. Ntiritu wasn't quitting this too.

He knocked on many offices to sell his idea and it was at the Vision 2030 Secretariat that his ideas sounded good. Finally someone could see through his lenses, and he got a chance to create visuals of the then proposed Thika Superhighway to give a clearer impression of the finished project.

His company, BlueSplyne Studios, did a few jigs for private companies that liked his ideas. However, he needed some substantial cash flow to least enable him buy machines to create more complex videos.

One microfinancier, Micro Africa [now known as Letshego Kenya], lent him some cash to equip his business based on the profile of jobs he had accomplished.

"They had confidence in me, something that surprised me. They initially loaned me money to buy a few machines and eventually topped it up to enable me get machines that cost Sh3 million," he says.

Over time, BlueSplyne Studios' deals from private companies and non-governmental organisations dealing with issues ranging from governance to HIV/Aids started growing.

"I have done a documentary for the Kenya Wildlife Service to sensitise people against poaching. The concept was to use animals and have them talk about their own tribulations, which would eventually catch the attention of the government. This video was received well locally and internationally," Ntiritu says.

A documentary can cost anything from a few hundred thousand shillings to millions. Depending on what the project is intended to achieve, his firm offers some free services.

He is presently working on Bible stories in conjunction with a religious organisation that has been keen to translate the Bible stories into local languages.

BlueSplyne employs five animators on full-time basis. Ntiritu writes the concept notes with clients, creates the characters and then supervises the story flow from start to finish.

He attributes his success to unique product packaging and ability to adapt to the needs of his target audiences. Today, Ntiritu's business is making millions every month and has offices in Nairobi's CBD.

Ntiritu's plans are to establish presence to the whole of East Africa with a view to tell stories in local languages. He recently won the Entrepreneur of the Year Award during the Citi Micro Awards hosted by CitiBank Kenya and the Association of Micro Finance Institutions. The award carries a Sh100,000 cash reward, which he intends to inject into the business.

Ntiritu now runs more online businesses, including offering bulk SMS solutions, obituaries and short code services.

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