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David Karangu Car Dealerships
In 2007 David Karangu would sell his Mercedes Benz, BMW, Ford, VW, Subaru and other dealerships and retire at age 40 as a self made multi-millionaire. He then relocated to Atlanta from Augusta. The city of Augusta is famous for hosting the Masters PGA golf tournament and was the home of the late singer, James Brown. Before settling in Atlanta he took a world tour and then built his house which is today arguably one of the biggest houses in Atlanta. By mid 2010 he would find himself pulled back to the business he fell in love when he was 18 years old.
He bought the biggest Chevrolet Dealership in Atlanta and has now added a second dealership, Ivory Mazda Mall of Georgia. This dealership is in Gwinnett County-one of the fastest growing counties in the country. I asked David about his new venture, his advice and offers to Kenyans in Atlanta, Kenya in general and his future goals.
To someone who may want to follow in your footsteps, what type of capital is involved in buying a dealership and stocking it? How much capital have you invested in the two dealerships?
This is a very capital intensive business. It requires millions to acquire the real estate, inventory and shop equipment. The usual route to owning a dealership is having an existing dealer partner with you. Through hard work you eventually buy them out. Most people who own them started in the business as salespeople and worked their way up, which is what I did.
With consideration of the capital investment and the employees you have for the dealerships sales and service divisions, do you consider yourself a major investor in Atlanta?
In the overall scheme of things, I would say my investment is peanuts compared to the giants like Coca Cola and UPS. Among medium sized businesses, we rank quite favorably. Among minorities I would say we are in the top ten.
You last year offered great deals to Kenyans living in Atlanta. Will you be offering similar deals with the Mazda dealership? How much in savings can one make through these offers?
I want Kenyans to be proud of one of their own. I feel that it can be a symbiotic relationship where they buy cars for me and I in turn support their causes. I already support various Kenyan churches and charities that benefit people back home. For example, last year we donated a car that was used to sell raffle tickets at a Kenyan church.
What cars would you advice Kenyans who are looking not to spend much yet desire to be with a new modern car?
The quality of cars has greatly improved even for domestic makes. I would say that they can buy a pre-loved vehicle from me at a reasonable price that has a warranty.
Fuel prices are today high. From the two dealerships you have what car models would you advice customers especially our Kenya readers looking to cut on fuel expenditure to consider?
Well, if you stay away from the big SUVs that we all love, you can find a vehicle that will be fuel and budget efficient. Just visit my website- www.ivorymazda.com or www.ivorychevy.com
You have previous stated you grew from humble beginnings in Thika Kenya, attended Nyeri High School before moving to U.S where you found your passion for business. What would you tell young people searching for their dream?
The hardest thing for young people is to figure out who they want to be in life. Our duty as parents is to expose them to very many professions. For example, my daughter grew up working at the dealership in the summer. She even appeared in my TV commercials. Later on she decided that she wanted to try other careers. I sent her to work at my lawyer’s office. She loved it right away. She is now in College pursing a law degree.
Do your friends ask you whether growing in Kenya had anything to do with your liking of the car business? Did growing in Kenya influence you to the car business?
Actually no. I had never been to a dealership in Kenya. I loved cars with a passion as a kid. My uncle owned a Mercedes and a BMW. I wanted to be just like him. My Mom drove a Mini Morris, but she taught me the essence of hard work. I went to work at a dealership as an intern when I was 18 and I got a high from selling cars. I still enjoy personally selling cars.
You have stated you put 70 hours per week or more to make your business a success. Is hard work the first thing to business success?
A good plan comes first. The love of what you are doing is second, you would do it for fun. Hard work then follows along with a little luck.
At the Washington D.C conference last year you stated having started from the bottom and your desire to succeed more than anything else made you who you are today. What advice would you give young men and women in U.S, Kenya and across the world with the same desire?
Read about other successful people. Surround yourself with positive people. Create the utopia of a bright future in your mind. You will start to notice things falling in place.
Kenya just found oil. What did you think when you read the news?
I was very happy but very cautious. I hope we don’t run off the investors with internal wrangles. Secondly, I hope we don’t become victims of our fortune like we have seen in other places. I think we need to clearly spell out what we do with the revenue now. At the end of the day we want Kenya to have better education, better healthcare and a higher standard of living.
Will we see an increase of cars in Kenya?
As the population continues to grow, it is inevitable that there will be more cars. I’d still like to see high speed rail as an option to more cars.
Do you see yourself opening car dealerships in Kenya?
Absolutely not! I’m happy doing what I do here without political interference. Kenya is a great place to invest in real estate.
It takes hard work to make a fortune. Business investment is a risk. What makes you invest in a business like you just did on a car dealership? How do you evaluate the risk?
Knowing the industry you work in is key. I’ve made mistakes and lost money doing things outside my expertise because I didn’t do my homework. Talking to people in that industry and studying trends can mitigate those risks. With the internet, you can do all the research and be able to make good decisions.
As Kenya looks to attract investors like yourself in future, what advice would you give those aspiring to serve Kenya County Governments or National level when looking to attract investors?
The issue of fake titles and corruption is a major hindrance. Bureaucracy is another problem. Countries like Rwanda make it so easy for you to be licensed and provide assistance to make sure you are successful. Political drama also scares away investors. I’m holding out on investing there until after the elections.
What two car models are the models you liked driving most and why?
I drive a different car every week to make it easy for me to sell cars. If I had to choose I’d say a Range Rover because I saw them assembled in Thika when I was growing up. I promised my Mom when I was 10 years old that I would one day carry her in one. Thanks be to God that the dream became a reality. I also replace a Mini with a Mercedes, I think she’s happy.
In less than 2 years you have gone from one to two dealerships. How many car dealerships do you see yourself expanding to or will it be just two this time around?
As I grow older, I’m learning how to delegate more which means that nobody is waiting for me to make decisions. This frees me up to own more. I’m planning on owning ten dealerships within the next five years.
Click links to David Karangu Dealerships
Ivory Chevrolet Dealership www.ivorychevy.com
Ivory Mazda Mall of Georgia www.ivorymazda.com