Thursday, 21 March 2013


Dennis Itumbi’s journey to being a household name has not been easy. Apparently he was not brought up with a silver spoon. In fact he was once a normal ordinary herds boy and while celebrating his birthday two years ago he wrote the memoir below on his journey to success.

Hope it inspires you:

It is possible to succeed without any relative holding your hand, or even knowing someone who knows someone.

As I celebrate my Birthday today 10 years down since I first came to Nairobi on my own, I confirm its possible to dream and live a dream.

The word here is living the dream. Experiencing it. Let me share abit of the journey.
I remember my last speech as a Form Four leaving Meru School where our Motto was “In Understanding be Men” those who were in school with me will recall how we all sang to “We shall Overcome” the World that was ahead of us which we had no idea about.
Many years later I came to Nairobi, I keep saying on a Valentine Day, dressed in a shady Maroon Kaunda Suit that was a mix and match of Maroon and White, and it felt seriously smart and Hot.

I remember getting lost from Tea Room and finding myself in Ngong Avenue Two.
You see, i grew up herding cattle, an experience i value to date and thank my parents and my late grandparents for exposing me to.

There is something in knowing the basics like how to deal with artificial insemination, how to help a cow that is giving birth and has difficulties, how to harvest and sort our coffee into the different grades, how to take care of a Coffee Tree from planting, weeding through to production and the most fascinating for me how to Milk.

Like many of us here who grew up in the village, school sounded real because it taught us what we did practically, I first swam in a river, that was our natural bathroom as boys, wading away from the occasional green snakes that fell off the sugarcane plantations on both sides of the river and we had a natural scare for them, i have never known whether its scientific, but tying the arrow root tubes on your waits as you swam scared the snakes.
There were many other things that worked, when you saw a squirrel and walked back five times and made a wish it came true. A scratch on the Nail always faded bringing with it a gift either a shirt or a shoe.

Blocking the water with mud and wood to create deep ends was particularly lots of fun. Cows straying to a neighbors farm and eating up the plants and the beating you got from the neighbor and then from grandpa and parents later on was such a basic that prepared us on communal values.

It was great knowing that the only day that you could dress in immaculate shine was Sunday. The clothes worn on Sunday were special, Grandma used to lock them in her room and you would only get them on Sunday.

Sunday was a special day the only day you did not wake up to six to go the farm if it was a holiday. Sunday specials included being allowed to sleep till 8am and on that day the children were not allowed to milk, we grew being taught that literally Sunday is a no work day.

The best bit of Sunday however was that after Sunday school, we got to have soda, you see that’s the only day we got to the shopping centre, 8km away from home (16km) to and from.

I have said it before it was a great experiencing the taste of Babito – especially what i thought was stone – only to learn later it was an effect of the Fridge.

Many times i have overturned while riding in a bull pulled cart – that was early life.
Later in Nairobi, together with my good friend Dennis Onsarigo, we could not afford the rent of a room in Mukuru slums valued at 3,500 as we struggled our way into survival.
Not once the room was locked and we had to seek creative ways to survive including sleeping in rooms at University of Nairobi as we hustled for the cash.

Our First jobs paid a partly 9k and less for a month’s work but we took it on our slide and kept our eyes on the ultimate prize.

Ethnicity was not a factor, we held different ideologies but were united by our collective dreams, later as we moved on I met Martin Gitau, a man I have literally grown up with from my days as a teenager and we together took a single room in Mbotela Slums – definitely an improvement from the former place we lived, but here we had Richard Bosire, Imende Benjamin and Kiura – t least here rent was not an issue, but I leave it to your imagination how we handled our dating and romantic lives in a single room.

Later me go back a bit one day we went out with Onsarigo and the house we used to live in was on kind of a basement, we had temporarily moved to Nairobi West, it was raining. We did not know that when it rains the water gets into the room, so my good friend had gone out with his girlfriend and being the perfect gentleman he said, “ladies first”, the poor lovely gal fell into a pool of water…I rest that story there.

Back to Mbotela, life was great as we nursed dreams collectively, shared the sorrow and the dream jointly, all of us believing that the future held that promise for us in Nairobi and having no God Father to claim the space for us.

Fortunately, despite our challenges we laughed, we calmed each other, we dated and we lived the challenges as they came, getting the stamina every day.

Sometimes we walked to town, other times one of us got a deal and we helped each other and by the way am talking of 2005-2007...just the other day.

I remember walking from Valley Arcade to town as we dropped CV’s and hoped to get a call from somewhere somehow.

We had three suits which we hanged collectively and used to attend interviews when they presented themselves.

It all paid off eventually, we got off to our careers, and the struggle had prepared us for excellence. We bagged awards separately, we moved the ladder smoothly and we dreamt on.

The journey took me from People, to Baraka FM and to Voice of America. My friends one day will tell their story but so far each of them smiles on.

I will not say I am at the Destination, but I will say the journey has been awesome and sitting where I am today I can confidently say for those that dare to dream it’s possible.
Instead of just dropping CV’s drop them with a plan of how you intend to do your job, instead of waiting for a job register a business name its only 1,000 bob, or register a self help group it will cost you 600 bob and begin selling services.

There is space for each of us with a dream, you see swimming in the river as i grew up taught me that when the water washes you away don’t just look to hold onto anything, instead be that something that can be held on. The lesson from the river was always keep floating and you will not drown, just make sure you are floating the challenges notwithstanding.

Pick a pen and write down your dream, write one that is reliant on employment, but write one that is not reliant on employment. What is not written is fantasy?

In between the career growth i never let my talent die, I wrote plays and poems and trained many schools some to National level and that helped me make many friends and kept the real me going. Kenyan Theatre by the way is the next big thing.

I started blogging with a blog that was called, I really loved it, I had discovered that Kenyans read only 20 % of what gets into a newsroom due to space constraints and started a place that would tell the stories that don’t hit the mainstream. I made no money with abunuwasi, but the feedback was great, my challenge was how to turn the feedback into a resource that would show in my account.

In my duties as a reporter, i met a lawyer, @Kamotho Waiganjo who told me he liked abunuwasi and challenged me to do something bigger and structured, he helped me register a company and he left me to think, literally left.

I will forever be grateful for what he did, I then started The Fountain, that was a great hit, not only did attract corporate business but it opened my eyes to a whole industry that was still virgin in utilization.

I tendered my resignation to VOA, a bold step, to concentrate on blogging, it was not making as much but I knew that was the answer.

A blog posting about Birds one time caught the attention of an International NGO and that was the beginning of serious blogging, approached me to write about journalism, UNESCO made me their Mobile journalism consultant and within no time blogging had become a serious venture.

I will one day write the rest of the story, but this was meant to encourage someone out there by saying yes there exists something like a Kenyan Dream, I have lived it and I know, there will be challenges and hurdles but it is there and you need no God Father you can be what you want to be by doing what you must and keeping your eyes on the goal.
Birthday thoughts. Hope someone out there is now energized to dream again.

God Bless. I dedicate this birthday to mentoring and inspiring people.


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