From millionaire to hawker – How Muthee is rebuilding his life from scratch

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In a recent interview with The Standard, Muthee said he joined Bidco as a casual worker before leaving in 1998 to start his business as a freelance photographer.

His business was getting customers from all over the world very quickly and soon enough. He photographed for presidential events, business executives and CEOs who paid very well so he was able to purchase $ 2 million worth of equipment and his first car in 2002.

Services started from Sh25,000 to Sh150,000 depending on the customer’s time and request. In a bad month I got Sh250,000 and in a good month I would get up to a million.“Declared Muthee.

Most of his work came from referrals from satisfied customers who would recommend his services to friends.

I remember once I was booked for 5 days to photograph a wedding in Mombasa and the client took care of everything including flights“, Muthee recalled.

The photographer’s successful business came to a standstill after the Covid-19 pandemic began.

Things started to go downhill when one of his friends who was a Shylock offered Muthee a Sh200,000 loan that he didn’t need. During the interview, he said that the sight of the cash convinced him to take out the loan and grow his business.

I had accessories worth 2 million Swiss francs, a new car and a good business that I had built with no debt. One day a Shylock friend came into my office with Sh200,000 and started counting it while I was editing videos. I don’t know what happened to him and he offered me the money to repay as Sh240,000.

My problems started when I took the money. I thought I could expand my business and get more money to pay back. I bought printers, other video supplies, and photo paper“, Muthee recalled.

When the loan was due, he had been left with Sh180,000, for which he chose to return to Shylock, who then claimed the balance of Sh20,000 and interest of Sh40,000.

The Shylock said he would consider the balance of Sh60,000 as another loan and gave me another month to pay with interest of Sh12,000 on top of that.

Sensing danger, Muthee decided to sell his car. He also took a Sh100,000 loan from another Shylock to repay the previous debt before finding a buyer for the vehicle. When it was finally sold, Muthee paid all of its debts.

One of the companies that booked him noticed that it was taking much longer to get to work and decided to fund his car, which he paid for through his work.

Muthee ran into financial difficulties again and sold the vehicle. The same company helped fund another car, which he eventually sold due to the debt cycle that had consumed him.

This debt cycle has amassed a lot of money, nearly Sh4 million. Two of my banks gave me credit cards, one with a limit of Sh 250,000 and the other with a limit of Sh 100,000.

In a month I was able to spend Sh350,000 which wasn’t my money. Credit cards attract high interest rates when you fall behind on the payment schedule, so I started borrowing money from friends and family to repay it“, Said Muthee.

One of his creditors even dressed him with a knife one day and led him to an ATM where he was supposed to withdraw and repay money. Unfortunately the ATM card was “swallowed” by the machine.

Muthee pondered how he could get back on his feet since his photography business had been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and was settling down in his neighborhood washing cars.

The popular slogan “Salimia watu pesa huisha” became very real to me. When you have the money, sometimes you think you will have it all your life,” he said.

After washing cars for a while, Muthee turned to the offer of masks in Thika Town, where he sometimes overheard people on the streets saying he was fine but now he’s having problems.

Don’t be afraid to start small because God will bless it. I took the step because I know this is not the end. I also plan to do something else because the pandemic will end.

My mask trade business has now helped me pay off more than a million shuttle debts while doing my own thing“, Muthee concluded.


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