Eva Muraya – Founder & President, Brand Strategy and Design (EA) Ltd, Kenya
Words of Wisdom: “We all have the opportunity to succeed where we are. We have been gifted as African Women. We have virtues that are beautiful – we are creative, respectful, and we have amazing cultural diversity. We must use all these gifts to find that opportunity to retrieve the success we were designed for. We are designed our success!” – Eva Muraya
Interview with Eva Muraya – Founder & President, Brand Strategy and Design (EA) Ltd.; Kenya
Eva Muraya – Founder & President, Brand Strategy and Design (EA) Ltd.; Kenya
Eva Muraya holds over 20 years of diverse brand strategy development skills and experience, having managed the regional brand building programs for a variety of top local and international companies. She is however best known for her entrepreneurial success in building an award winning regional branded business awarded ISO 9001: 2000 certification in East and Central Africa. Eva has been recognized both locally and internationally for her business innovation and leadership.
Eva co-founded the Kenya Association of Women Business Owners (KAWBO), which she currently serves as chairperson. KAWBO is a forum where women in business come together to discuss pertinent issues affecting women owned businesses in a dynamic marketplace.
Ms. Muraya is the current chairperson of the board of Zawadi Africa Education Program, designed to provide scholarships for needy, academically talented young women from Africa. These young women must demonstrate leadership skills and have a strong desire to pursue a premium or graded education in the United States.
Eva Muraya YouTube promo video (approx. 2 min.)
Brand Strategy and Design website: http://www.bsd.co.ke
Eva Muraya – Founder & President, Brand Strategy and Design (EA) Ltd.; Kenya
Note: The key messages in the interview have been transcribed and slightly altered for legibility and succinctness. More information is provided in the audio and video version above. Please comment on the site, we want to hear your wisdom!
[ Suzanne F Stevens ]: Catalyst for moving from Corporate to Entrepreneurship:
[ Eva Muraya ]:
- I had a very successful corporate career, and felt I had hit the glass ceiling. My husband was an entrepreneur, so it always was something I was considering. An opportunity presented itself in 2001 to invest in a business to produce branded material, with my corporate and brand communications background it was a nature fit. So with a partner we set-up Color Creations.
[ Suzanne F Stevens ]: Most rewarding elements of being an entrepreneur?
[ Eva Muraya ]:
- It stretches you
- Opportunity to be innovative as much as possible
- Your investment and energy can socially economically transform the lives of your employees
- Opportunity to manage your team in ways that will be fulfilling for them. That has been quite the motivation.
- You can be smart about the investment that you make and you get financially rewarded.
- Especially in my later years, it is rewarding to find people have learnt something from my courage of venturing out as an entrepreneur. This has been an inspiration to young entrepreneurs.
[ Suzanne F Stevens ]: Challenges of being entrepreneur
[ Eva Muraya ]:
1. Landscape in Kenya is changed in the last 10 years, however, the challenges when I started included:
- Access to credit, but now there are a lot more sources of getting credit, although still not ideal
- Limited access to technical skills
- Limited access to market insights – at affordable fees
- There were cultural prejudices in the earlier years. That landscape has been improved. Our government has done a lot to entrench policies and regulations and structures that will respond to younger entrepreneurs.
2. Big challenges more recently in the last two to three years with the international recession.
- If you haven’t been through a recession, you don’t know how to prepare for it, or to respond to one when you are in it.
- I am better for having gone through it; it has been learning curve.
3. As women in business, I don’t think anyone ever prepares you for managing business and family. It is extremely difficult.
- When you start your business you are everything to everyone. You must ensure you manage all elements of the business and not to forget to manage the family. As a woman entrepreneur, it’s a learning curve.
[ Suzanne ]: How did you respond to the Recession? What did you differently as a result of the slowdown?
[ Eva ]:
- We were ill prepared for it, I can admit that. When I started to conduct research I experienced a profound revelation.
- Many of the world’s top 100 brands successful navigated through he recession, which started me to question, “Is the African entrepreneur aware of place of brand? Should another recession come to us how can we insulate ourselves against it?”
- There presented an unique opportunity for me to study and put together learnings that African companies who were not addressing the pertinent principles of brand building have a poorer chance of survival through a recession then if we invested in brand building even during the good times.
- This realization crafted an opportunity to create a training division at BSD. We now offer training for people to understand that brand is critical element of business – it is the business of business.
- The best brands where hardly shaken during the recession because there was such resilience of the top brands. These organizations brand building principles did not happen over night; they had created matrix that have come institutionalized in their organization.
- My team understood the vision and if we stayed focus on the brand promise and delivered on it we would make it through the recession.
How to positively brand yourself
- You need to be clear about your purpose as an entrepreneur
- Once clear, you need to make the promise of what your personal brand stands for
- Then you need to communicate your promise – This is what I stand for as entrepreneur X or Y.
- Outline ways in which you must keep your promise in a sustainable way. You cannot be one thing today, and another tomorrow. You will loose integrity and credibility to the people who are most important to you – customers and the people who rally around your cause.
- Lastly, this is one that has to be thought through on ongoing bases – ask yourself how do you strengthen your promise? How do you reignite, refresh, extend the promise?
Branding yourself: Make a promise, communicate it, keep it and strengthen it.
Personal Branding working in an organization
- Branding is very important in an organization, because within that brand lies indispensability.
- People attach value to you. Responsibility is brought your way.
- You begin being nominated for leadership roles and to champion initiatives.
- You may be referred to set-up a new office, because the executive trusts your brand.
BRAND IS ALL ABOUT PERCEPTION. PEOPLE NEED TO TRUST THE BRAND. SOON AS THAT TRUST IS BROKEN, THERE IS A PROBLEM WITH THE BRAND!
Maintain your brand once it is establish
- This is key to strengthening your brand because markets are not static
- Audiences change all the time
- You must conduct research and development at all times to refresh your brand. No one wants to be perceived as static or irrelevant. Because markets are not static you must always apply yourself to be relevant to the market you are addressing.
What do you do to ensure you are always relevant?
- You need to know what is going on
- You must be current
- You must be in touch with clients, and know what they are thinking before they do.
- Stay ahead of your client in terms to what they are aspiring to achieve
- Communicate how your skill-set is relevant to the information you have learnt about your clients
- Then ensure you communicate that your skill-set can respond to the gaps of your clients’
- Every so often go back to school and make sure you are staying in-touch with what is going on.
This is what I do to stay current.
Have you ever implemented an initiative or project that did not work?
- Building entrepreneurship initiative didn’t work as intended
- Because of the recession we had to put on hold
- Sometimes we have been put things on hold due to financing
- Key learnings:
- Don’t give up, be patient
- Don’t second guessing yourself. Because it didn’t work, doesn’t mean it will never work.
- Look at being better resourced
- To bring in as many partners as possible. The strength of calibration is often underestimated.
- I think collaboration in today’s world is the way many of our initiatives will be realized. When you collaborate you can stay focused on your area of expertise.
Advice on how to find the right people to calibrate with:
Sometimes we are too hasty in selecting people that we collaborate with.
- It is critical you find a like minded person or organization that shares your vision
- You share a value system
- That your style and process is very close to your partner
- You need to discuss very early on your values, style and process. If this is not done it will compromise the collaboration.
- Your competencies should be complementary. No one is lagging behind. You both are putting the same amount of energy in to deliver the product or solution.
How do you describe yourself as a leader?
- There has been time to improve J
- In the past my choleric personality would come through the door ahead of myself
- I now have a leadership style that transfers what I know to the next person
- I grow leaders
- I offer leadership that is inspirational in the way that I live my life, manage my family and pay it forward. I inspire individuals by demonstrating they can take on a leadership role while not leaving too much behind i.e. family.
- Also I demonstrate that leaders must share of themselves with the community.
- Admitting you don’t know all the answers is also important. I try to be a leader that includes the opinions of my team.
Most rewarding elements of your career?
- Seeing who my daughters have become along the journey. I took my daughters everywhere.
- Being involved in the Zawadi Africa Education Program, and seeing these girls gaining scholarship and have their lives transformed in amazing ways. We have 170 girls steading around the world.
- As the chairperson of KAWBO, seeing women gain confidence to set-up business, to grow and excel. I feel such a sense of pride and humility.
- My life in a very small way has had a transformational impact on women in this continent and to my daughters.
- When I see people pass through my organizations and see them move on to be even more successful, I also find this extremely rewarding.
Women as leaders
- Women think how we can extend our space when we lead
- Women’s opinions complement the other opinions on the table
- Women’s special gifts of leadership approach that when we deny women leadership, when we exclude women from the conversation we are denying our communities of a holistic perspective.
Edgeness Insight (An enhanced version of you when you push the edge of your comfort zone).
- As a single mother, travelling away from my daughters, although necessary and sense of obligation, I didn’t always desire the need to travel.
Your biggest obstacle in career?
- Taming my ambition, my thoughts are often ahead of time. If I accessed credit much earlier, I know I would have built a bigger business by now.
- Another obstacle was my technical skills were limited, that is now changed.
What is next?
- I want to be an authority on this continent in capabilities and competency skills in brand training and developing strategies for our clients. Our business is being built to respond to African brands.
What does success mean to you?
- When I have raised two daughters to understand clearly what their purpose in life is, and translates that purpose in the way they live their life. That their lives are not just for themselves, but for the space they exist. If I can create citizens who will participate in transforming of the community, society and this world, I would have been successful.
Reflective Realizations by Eva Muraya
Q. What advice would you give to your 10 yr. old Daughter?
To take school seriously; embrace every learning that comes her way. Begin to define what you would like to be as early as possible. Begin to navigate that learning into the direction of what you want to be. Life is not a microwave experience, it is ok to wait, and things will come around.
Youth need to be patience and hard working. These concepts have disappeared with the new generation.
Q What do you wish you were told at 10yrs?
- I wish I was told I could be anything I wanted to be and work smart and hard towards it. I wish they identified my talent and skill and navigate me in the area I had promise, rather than encourage me to be an engineer, doctor or lawyer.
How do you define leadership?
- It is an opportunity to service people on a journey that is clearly defined that has an end in mind. Leadership is service. Service that focused, persuasive that will transform people from one level to the next.
Leadership Lessons from Eva Muraya
- Each one of us has opportunity to lead. You don’t need to be at the forefront to be defined as a leader. If you raise children, run a home, an elder Aunt – you are a leader.
- Leadership is service, not rulership.
- Leadership needs to be purposeful.
Words of Wisdom by Eva Muraya
We are all designed for success, irrespective of our background or where you have been born. We have to think – respective of the circumstances I am currently in, success is right down the aisle. We all have the opportunity to succeed where we are. We have been gifted as African Women. We have virtues that are beautiful – we are creative, respectful, and we have amazing cultural diversity. We must use all these gifts to find that opportunity to retrieve the success we were designed for. We are designed our success!
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