A Kenyan Living The American Dream in Texas
The shy entrepreneur is busy monitoring his business empire in Arlington, Texas, USA, as he waves at acquaintances in Kisumu, Kenya.
Although his teachers trained him to nurse torn muscles and broken bones, Dennis Mekenye, 35, has departed from his calling to pursue his dreams in America.
Mekenye obtained a degree in Occupational Therapy nine years ago, but he had left Kenya for the US 14 years earlier. The businessman says he did mundane jobs to sustain himself in the first four years in the US.
"I washed dishes in restaurants and even worked as a security officer with a number of firms. Life was very harsh," he reveals.
In some of those jobs he earned a paltry $3 (Sh240) per hour. This is very low compared to his skills and the high cost of living in the US.
After backbreaking sessions as a truck driver, Mekenye recalls how he used his savings to purchase his first truck for $18,500 (Sh1.5 million) in 2004.
He currently has 30 trucks worth $3.5 million (Sh280 million). Mekenye has also contracted 30 additional trucks and is operating in 50 states.
"Businessmen give me their trucks, which I manage and then get a given percentage from their returns," says the father of two.
He has employed 80 workers from about 20 countries. Some of them are from East Africa, while others are from Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Malawi and Mexico. The young entrepreneur has proved that the US is truly a land of opportunities, where a combination of hard work, creativity and skills is rewarded.
When The Standard catches up with him, Mekenye is tracking his business in the wee hours of the night, to ensure that operations at his company, Demco Trans Inc, are on track.
"I am used to this routine. If I slacken for a moment, things would easily go wrong," he explains. "I wanted to further my studies, but I did not have sufficient funds for my fees," he says, adding that prompted him to work as a truck driver.
Mekenye adds: "After buying the first truck, I opened an office in my house. Business quickly picked up. A few months later, I acquired another one."
Unlike in Kenya, where Sh10,000 can afford one a two-bedroom house in most areas, a similar unit in the US costs Sh70,000 per month.
He garnered a C+ (plus) in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examinations in 1992. Mekenye transports diverse products such as building materials and foodstuffs. In addition, he does brokerage and warehousing.
He explains that the cost of doing business in the US is much lower than in African countries, including Kenya.
"Corruption makes business expensive in Kenya, as one has to bribe to get some tenders. Even on the road, truck drivers have to pay bribes to traffic police. These impediments are not in the US," he says.
Additionally, the good roads in the US ensure vehicles don’t break down often.
"The money resulting from absence of corruption and good infrastructure is used to pay workers well, and as a result, they perform better," he argues.