Kenyan living in US plans to open 50 restaurants in major cities

Kevin Onyona
Written by See Africa Today

Entrepreneurship in the United States

Kevin Onyona, is a Kenyan entrepreneur living in the United States, is working hard to change the perception of entrepreneurship in the United States. Onyona has started a journey to open 50 additional restaurants throughout key US cities under his Swahili Village brand.

Onyona gave the media a tour of a new restaurant opening in Newark City, New Jersey, State. He is the epitome of an optimist. He sees optimism in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, which left the hotel industry paralyzed.

The New Jersey Performing Arts Center is across the street from the new eatery. The competent authorities have given their approval to everything. This is one of Onyona’s 50 restaurants in the works.

Kevin Onyona

Kevin Onyona, the proprietor of Swahli Village in the US. Photo/Eater DC

Swahili Village

The restaurants under the Swahili Village brand have a solid Kenyan-African motif, which is vital for branding. You will find this reflected in his first significant restaurant, Swahili Village in Maryland. Onyona is pleased with the progress made thus far, particularly with the opening of the new restaurant.

It suggests they’re starting to push the boundaries of how they approach the sites. They are no longer on the backstreet. They’re on the main thoroughfare of one of America’s most populous cities. The Consulate, an Onyona restaurant in Washington, DC, is open for business.

Did COVID-19 Pandemic Affect Swahili Village Expansion?

The design of the branch was by Mark Kibutu, a Kenyan designer working in the United States. The décor is warm and inviting, with Kenyan wildlife paintings adorning the walls as a statement of African history. President Uhuru Kenyatta dined at Onyona’s restaurant in Washington, DC. He praised Onyona’s tenacity and entrepreneurial spirit.

However, Covid-19 struck ten days later, putting the entire city under lockdown. You can only imagine how quickly they went from having a lot of traffic to having almost no customers and relying solely on takeouts. They struggled at first but eventually adjusted to the new normal.

Kevin Onyona Optimistic

When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, Onyona was preparing to launch new restaurants in Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, and Virginia. He remains optimistic that he will realize his desire by the end of the year.

The 50 units will employ at least 3,000 people once complete. When he looks back, he attributes his success to his perseverance and will to succeed. The founder of Swahili Village has also made sound investing judgments.

What they did successfully was to manage their financials so that we were appealing to banks. Borrow, payback because they didn’t have anyone to back them financially. It’s just straightforward economics.

Even though Swahili Village is a Kenyan brand, it only serves 5% of Kenyans. The majority of the customers are from West Africa. Another 15% mixed Africans from East and Southern Africa and the remaining 15% being Americans. He claims that the number of West Africans in the United States is more than Kenyans.

Muthee is one of the Africans excelling abroad – miles away from his Kenyan motherland. Lily Richards, the current president of Kenyan Women in the US (KWITU) has done well for herself too.

Lily Richards, Another Kenyan Excelling In US

Lily is also a businesswoman both in the US and in Kenya but it’s all about the effort and sacrifices she made 13 years ago.  Lily’s first job was at Maicy’s and her second engagement as one of the African immigrants in the US was in direct care where she worked for a day and left.  All this time, she was being hosted by another Kenyan who arrived in the US earlier than she did.

She decided to go back to school and pursue a degree in Finance while working part-time to raise tuition fees. She was lucky to secure a job with a local bank on a full-time basis.

Entrepreneurship in the United States

Lily Richard a Kenyan entrepreneur who is among African immigrants in the US. Photo/AfricanMagazine

The Kenyan woman yearned for success and she hustled for another side job while still studying and working. This wore her out but when she looks back, she would never have made it in the US without such selflessness.

Seven years later, she quit her banking job – in 2014 – and ventured into consultancy. Lily then opened an errands firm, Premium Errands back in the US and in Kenya. She is also the proprietor of Lavish by Lily, a company in the US and in Kenya dealing in cosmetics.

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About the author

See Africa Today

Pharis Kinyua is the editor of See Africa Today. With over seven years of experience in digital media, he has a soft spot for African tours and travel. His drive is to tell the rest of the world what Africa offers, the best accommodation facilities, national parks, culture, shopping malls and best airline deals to travel to Africa

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