From the ashes of political turmoil that followed Kenya’s 2007 general election arose a business idea that used storytelling to reach the youth who were vulnerable to chaos and violence. Two years later the originators of that idea registered Well Told Story limited, a socially dedicated media research and production company based in Kenya and Tanzania, focusing on positive transformation of young
people in Africa.
“It became clear to us in the wake the post election turmoil that there was a need to give youth in Kenya access to good ideas, opportunities and inspiration so they could take action to improve their lives,” Rob Burnet, 46, told the Business Daily in an interview. Eight years later, Well Told Story the enterprise finished number 11 in the Top 100 mid sized companies’ survey an achievement that testifies to the rapid growth it has realized since it was formally registered six years ago.
“We saw an opportunity in that space, for a socially motivated company that could create value shared by youth, corporations and by development agencies all anxious to reach the youth demographics in positive ways,” he explained. Well Told Story Limited was founded by Mr Burnet who works along with a group of individuals and has incorporated other partners in the business.
The company’s main business is telling the ongoing story of DJB, the pirate radio DJ at the heart of Shujaaz the multimedia channel on FM radio, social media, video, TV, film and the Shujaaz comic books that are distributed in the Saturday Nation, a publication of Nation Media Group and from M-pesa kiosks every month.Like most startups, Mr Burnet recalls his first month of doing business as hard but that hardened his grasp to push on until the end.
He categorizes his hardest part as getting to the launch of the platform with all the necessary partnerships in place. However, he says the easy part was connecting with young Kenyans who loved the Shujaaz media right from the outset. His first clients were and still is mobile services provider Safaricom and the Nation Media Group who distribute Shujaaz comics including Coca Cola that does the same in Tanzania. “We still work with the United Kingdom government. Our base has broadened to include the Gates and Hewlett foundations, Unilever, Vodacom in Tanzania and others. And the audience has grown too, Shujaaz now reaches 69 per cent of Kenyans aged 15-24,” said Mr Burnet.
“From the outset our motivation was to offer genuine, measurable value to Kenyan youth. Maybe we were naive but we figured that our business would be sustainable and grow if we delivered to young people first, our clients second and ourselves third. We still work to maintain that order of priority.”
Well Told Story Limited breakthrough came in the year 2012 when they won the first of our two International Emmy Awards for the way they tell stories across multiple media platforms.
He says knowing they are among the best in the world at what they do has been a boost to every part of their business. Currently, the company has around 40 staff in Kenya and Tanzania, as well as a lot of freelance creatives spread across the region. Well Told Story Limited said their business segment has not received much competition. “Almost everyone else puts profit over purpose. We stick to our core we serve our audience first”
He says the only fears are about moving as fast as our market. On expansion plans, the company plans to spread into further countries in Africa and is currently developing opportunities for strategic growth with focus to stay on underserved young people.”We are working on a number of strong new ideas that add value to our existing brands,” he says.