Read the dream of Stephen

Stephen Gugu 

What was your dream when you were little?

I wanted to be a doctor − my mum was a nurse at a hospital, and I went to work with her a couple of times and got hooked. I had many doctors around me too. As I grew up, I also started talking about becoming a consultant. I didn’t know in what field, but I wanted to be a ‘consultant’.

How has your dream evolved? What happened with it?

I did not become a doctor − to get into medical school in Kenya, you need to have very good grades in sciences and in languages. I got good grades in sciences but not in languages … I missed the mark by one point. After that, I remember having a bit of a struggle with my dad over what to pursue. He wanted me to take a degree in Commerce − but since I had my certification in accounting (I’m a Certified Public Accountant), I thought that would be boring, so I ended up studying Law.

When I got to law school and heard about the crazy hours my medicine colleagues were putting in − not to mention the interactions with cadavers − I was sure I had made the right choice. You can apply Law to many fields, and this attracted me because I felt it would be more interesting.

While in law school, I started interning at Stanlib, a fund management company, and I realised that I wanted to be in Finance, to work with numbers as well as apply my legal knowledge. I interned during the holidays all through law school. When I completed my law degree, I got an opportunity to teach Introduction to Finance at a local university on a part-time basis. So, during the day I went to a law firm for my pupillage, and in the evening I taught Finance at the university.
When I finished my 6 months’ training at the law firm, I was hired by Stanlib. I grew to become their head of research, but I still felt that something was missing: I wanted to be in the front line, solving real problems for the businesses I was researching.

While I was thinking about these things, I got an opportunity to apply for the Kofi Annan Fellowship at Vlerick Business School and was accepted! This proved to be exactly what I needed − the chance to explore entrepreneurship at an entrepreneurial business school and to interact with people who have done a number of things I was thinking about doing… In fact, it was an opportunity to explore how to turn my dreams into reality.

When I graduated from Vlerick, I was sure I wanted to go into entrepreneurship, working directly with entrepreneurs and helping them solve problems in their businesses. We formed a consulting company − www.invhestia.com − that builds financial models for companies to help them assess the health of their business and make better decisions regarding their future. I’m now doing what I always wanted to do!

How do you see your future?

I want to grow our company and, at some point, launch a fund to finance the companies I advise at the moment.

How has Vlerick contributed to realising your dream?

There are a number of things:

  1. Vlerick helped me dream and showed me a range of possibilities for achieving my dreams.
  2. The MBA programme also gave me skills and context that I use in my daily work, especially when dealing with western investors / business partners.
  3. I met very interesting people from all over the world − I keep in touch with them, and I hope to interact more frequently, not only from a personal perspective but from a business perspective as well.
  4. One of my professors has continued to be my mentor − and this has helped a lot.
  5. The co-founder of InVhestia was an Executive MBA student − and this was very helpful, especially because of the expanded network.

What was your experience of Belgium? What struck you most?

I loved Belgium. The things that stand out for me were Thursday nights at OdoMarkt. I had a good time at cafés with my MBA colleagues. And I enjoyed the mix of hard work and play. I must also say that I enjoyed the art and architecture − for me, Leuven’s city hall was a sight to behold. The same goes for Brussels. I brought my wife to Belgium for our honeymoon to show her what I loved about the country, and she enjoyed Brugge a lot!

What is the key message you want people to take away from your personal story?

I guess that it’s important to dream − whether or not you think your dreams are possible to achieve. Six years ago, I never thought I would be where I am now. But through a combination of prayer, luck and hard work, I’m exactly where I want to be.

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