Samo Obanda and Akil Ahmed are quickly building a name for themselves in the digital marketing industry.
Theirs is a story of hard work, perseverance and determination.
The duo quit their jobs about five years ago after graduating from the University of Nairobi (UoN) and the United States International University (USIU) respectively.
Mr Obanda, a former Google employee graduated with a degree in electrical engineering at the UoN in 2010 while Mr Ahmed, a former worker at Digital Agency Network, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in information technology from USIU in 2011.
It is the desire to be their own managers that pushed them to quit their jobs to venture into digital marketing.
“We quit our jobs because our passion was in driving things to the next level in the digital space. Furthermore, our business had a great potential for growth based on an analysis we had done,” said Mr Obanda during an interview with the Enterprise in his office on Riverside Drive, Nairobi.
Armed with Sh100,000 as their startup capital, the duo established Alternative Agency in May 2014.
However, like any other new entrepreneur will confess, starting out was not easy.
Mr Obanda says they did not have enough capital or clientele and, worse still, not many people were in for their idea.
“At one point, we pitched to potential investors but it wasn’t easy because we were relatively new in the market,” he says.
“We generated just enough cash to kick-start operations though it was not enough.”
Today, Alternative has grown into a network of marketing services that are innovating the way brands are built in the digital economy.
The firm has curved its niche building brands and translating business communications to a digital audience.
The company, they say, provides a change in marketing away from traditional norms. They work with businesses to “harness and unpack opportunities” in digital technology.
Some of their clients include Spire Bank, UAP insurance, Chase bank and Google.
“We are an experience, design and technology company that is building brands of the future. We imagine, design, and engineer brand programs and platforms for today’s most innovative companies,” says Mr Obanda.
The enterprise makes between Sh500,000 and Sh1 million in monthly sales.
The firm has also been awarded prestigious awards in recognition of their hard work in transforming brands. Last month, they won the best product launch campaign for the Beefeater Pink Campaign, and was also the best product re-launch campaign for Jameson Restaged Bottle. It also emerged as the best in a brand building campaign with AAR Healthcare.
The firm was listed alongside industry experts including, Safaricom, Scanad, Ogilvy and Unilever.
“It was hard when we began. However, I can confirm that things have changed,” he says.
Although they have managed to break into the market successfully, they have had to face a number of hurdles. For them, the biggest setback so far has been dealing with clients with low budgets but expects quality products.
“The best thing we have done is to come out clean on the cost for all the services we offer. This has helped us a lot,” says Mr Obanda.
In the next five years, the duo intends to open up more branches in East Africa.