Why would one forgo all the fame in the music industry to venture into a business that it totally different from the line of work he is used to?
Joe Kariuki, a once high flying music producer is now convinced that his luck lies in the mining and air transport sectors.
Kariuki who last year made the painful decision to shut his record label, says the move was inevitable because it was a loss making business that had no signs of breaking even.
The record label, Candy n Candy Records was opened in Mombasa in 2013 and immediately hit it off with popular artists because Kariuki was already a big name in the entertainment industry, having worked for Virgin Records – a United Kingdom based record label that has international networks, during his stay abroad. The 36 year-old left for the UK when he was a teenager and relocated to Kenya in 2012.
However, despite his influence and connections transcending in the local entertainment scene - business was not smooth for the newly established label.
“I have signed mega stars like Jay-Z, Mr Nice, Top C, TJ Feror, Hussein Machozi, Baby Madaha and many others. But Candy n Candy seemed like charity work to artists as it failed to make any money for the two years,” he told the star in an interview.
“The problem with Kenya is that there is no money as artists are unable to sell music because of piracy,” he says.
Despite the flop of his music business, Kariuki still sees himself as a strategic investor who has a keen eye for exploring new opportunities in business.
Kariuki who reveals love for all types of music, says he never joined the entertainment industry for fame, but was drawn into it with the hope of making money.
“I have taken a break in music and now I want to venture into the mining and airline sectors because I believe there are massive benefits in them,” he says.
He has a 200 acre piece of land in Taita Taveta which he acquired in 2012 and another one in Tanga region of Tanzania where mining will be done.
He says the land is rich with precious stone and metals. The former music label owner is eyeing gems such as, blue tourmaline, black tourmaline, emerald, red garnet, green garnet, ruby spinal and tanzanite
“I have registered a company under the trademark Hard Assets which now has a licence to mine along the coastal belt. We will be shipping the minerals to Europe where they will be refined and sold to the American gemstone market,” he said.
He says he has already landed a deal with the American Fund for Third World to develop a proposal for the rehabilitation of some the mining areas at the Kenyan Coast region.
This will include assessment of the mining fields in order to recommend the vegetation cover to be planted through vegetation cover succession plan.
Hard Assets will also mark those mines that could be rehabilitated into ecological parks for tourism activities in order to establish income generating activities for the host communities, Kariuki says.
“Hard Assets will steer this programme with an aim of ensuring the results are achieved."
On the airline business, Kariuki has started leasing out planes for contract businesses or short private trips. Although he admits it is challenging owing to competition and being new in the market, the young entreprenuer says he is up to the task.
The plane charter business whose brand name is Candy Air is currently operating three planes on a private aircraft charter adding that the planes are currently doing contract jobs.
“Our strategy for the airline business is to serve key niche markets in East and Central Africa where demand is either unmet or poorly served. We want to achieve flexibility and responsiveness,” he says.
Kariuki is reluctant to divulge how much he has invested as capital in the two business ventures. His capital, he reveals, has been raised from the savings he made while he was still working in the UK in Virgin Records.
“Starting a company is easy but the issue is keeping it running considering you get no profit at the beginning,” he says.
He says he has amassed enough resources to support the investments adding the benefits of a longterm business are always huge one it breaks even.
“I am in these two businesses to stay because I believe they won't disappoint,” he says.