It’s no secret that education has been considered the key to success since time immemorial. People spend decades in schools and colleges earning degrees and hoping to live a better life in the future.
But at the same time, the story of non-graduates, including tech moguls such as Microsoft CEO Bill Gates and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, has become folklore at this point, which has seen a host of influential new executives rise to the top without finishing college. .
Kenyans.co.ke looks at those CEOs who have defied the odds to lead multi-million shilling businesses and become compelling forces in different sectors of the economy.
Cheriez Properties Limited CEO Leah Wambui poses for a photo.
Leah Wambui embodies the story of weed to grace, after she was orphaned at the age of 16 to become the owner of a Ksh 3 billion business.
At the time, she was unable to join the university due to lack of fees, but that did not stop her zeal from succeeding. Starting as a receptionist, Wambui later quit her job and used her savings to open a small liquor store in Kiambu County. Over the years she ventured into real estate, buying a five acre piece of land in Kitengela which gave birth to her business, Cheriez Properties Limited.
Through ups and downs, with many customers alienating him and numerous instances of employee theft, Wambui was able to break even and stabilize the business. Currently, the company has 200 houses, with each unit costing an average of Ksh 15 million.
GEMS Educations Schools founder Sunny Varkey poses for a photo.
Varkey is one of the few billionaires to have made a fortune investing in education despite not having a college degree.
Varkey’s parents, who were teachers from India, emigrated to Dubai in 1959 and established Our Own English School which offered English education in the Arab country.
At the age of 23, Varkey took over as headteacher in 1980 after graduating from high school.
The school later expanded to GEMS Teaching Schools – which currently has over 80 schools. The school recently operated Hillcrest International School prior to its acquisition by Braeburn Schools.
According to Forbes in March 2019, Varkey’s net worth was estimated at Ksh 272 billion. The business mogul is also praised for creating the prestigious Global Teacher Prize Award.
Sportpesa CEO Ronald Karauri in one of the Narok NYC designs speaks to the press in June 2019. To his left is Sports CS Amina Mohammed.
Ronald Karauri is the name synonymous with gaming company, Sportpesa. Born in Meru County, Karauri moved to Nairobi due to his father’s political ambitions and eventually attended Harambee Primary School in Buruburu.
He then joined Mang’u High School from where he got top marks in KCSE. Karauri then enrolled at the University of Nairobi, pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering.
However, around the time, an opportunity at Kenya Airways opened up – a niche that Karauri did not pass up. He revealed in a past media interview that he dropped out in his third year in order to become a qualified pilot.
After working at KQ for 11 years, he then took over the management of Sportpesa as CEO of its founder Gerasim Nikolov.
Silva Group CEO Heshan de Silva speaks at a past conference.
Heshan de Silva
Heshan de Silva is undoubtedly one of the youngest millionaires in the country, earning his first millions at the age of 25. His story echoes the lifestyle of a smart street kid who exploited an opportunity to make money.
At the age of 16, he enrolled in an American university and was immediately engulfed in the lavish lifestyle of his classmates driving posh cars such as Ferraris and Lamborghinis.
Losing interest in attending classes, Silva realized that his peers would rather party than study – so they sought to write their homework and essays for them. Earning Ksh 50,000 a night for homework, Silva started doing murder which later led to a party life and eventually dropped out of school.
His parents, however, brought Silva back to Kenya and registered him in a coupe of rehabilitation centers before reforming his life. While in one of the rehab centers, Silva met three friends and they came up with the idea of selling travel insurance to long-distance bus passengers.
They founded the company, De Silva Group, which has since grown into a multi-billion business.