Nairobi News

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Messenger by day financier by night

By JOAN THATIAH November 28th, 2013 2 min read

From 8am to 5pm, George Ooko works as a messenger at a media house in Nairobi. In between preparing and serving tea and picking up and delivering items, George provides loans to his colleagues at interest.

After he was confirmed as an office assistant he realised that while he had job security, his salary was barely enough to meet his needs and so he began looking for something to do to grow his earnings.

At that time most of George’s colleagues were in their mid and late 20s. He noticed that during the last week of the month, a majority would mourn about being broke.

There was always someone in a cash crisis and George saw a business opportunity there. The challenge, however, was that he did not have enough savings.

He approached his company Sacco for a loan and a days later, got his first client. Slowly, by word of mouth, his clientele grew to include even his bosses.

George, 42, is aware that his side hustle feeds off his main job in that his employer provides him with almost all his clients.

For this reason, even as his business continues to grow, he is careful not to give his bosses a reason to think that his side hustle is affecting his performance.

Daily interaction with his colleagues makes it easier for them to trust him and to come to him for business but this proximity sometimes works against him.

“When you are used to joking with someone everyday, it becomes hard to enforce consequences when they default on their payments,” he said.

For deaulting customers who are not workmates, George uses the services of debt collectors but when handling colleagues he must be careful.

He tries to be as amicable as possible which sometimes means counting his losses and moving on.

“It’s a risky business,” he said.

He has learnt to work his side hustle around his main job. For instance, he will pass by an ATM to collect money for a client on his way to collect mail for his employer.

While he makes so much more from his side hustle, he is content serving tea at the office because that is where his clients are.