Former Longhorn CEO Musyoki Muli has set up his own book publishing company to battle for business with his former employer. Mr Muli opened Spear Sharp E*******n in June, and has already churned out more than a dozen Early Childhood E*******n (ECD) books.

He left Longhorn in March after serving as managing director for two-and-a-half years. He was succeeded by Simon Ngigi Gachomo. While some employers forbid their former executives from engaging in businesses that are in direct competition with them for some period, the career publisher says his exit deal from Longhorn has no such limitation.

“I negotiated an exit clause that would allow me to do the only thing I could do,” said Mr Muli in an interview, while also disclosing that he still owns shares of the NSE-listed Longhorn. “The dream to be an entrepreneur has always been there. I had told myself I would retire from formal employment at 45,” said the trained teacher who turns 50 in March next year.

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Spear Sharp E*******n, which he says he financed with his savings of Ksh21 million, has so far published 14 children books covering sounds, colouring, pattern-writing, letters and numbers. The titles are also available in Uganda where the firm has an agency. Mr Muli says the early childhood e*******n market is “big and unexplored” and that he is targeting school children purchases rather than government orders to grow sales.

The company has a subsidiary in Rwanda and has already bagged a Sh45 million government tender to supply primary and secondary text books next year to the nascent East African economy. “This is a big deal for a budding company like us,” he said at the company offices located in Mlolongo Township, about 23 kilometres northwest of the capital Nairobi. A two-storey house he intended to be the family home has been converted into the firm’s headquarters.

Mr Muli joins a growing trend where executives quit their jobs to establish their own start-ups, which engage in businesses similar to those of their previous employers. Simon Sossion quit his job in 2008 as publishing manager at Longhorn to set up Spotlight Publishers. The business has grown to a portfolio of 500 titles, mainly revision books for primary and secondary learners sitting for KCPE and KCSE examinations respectively.

Former director of private equity at Centum Investment David Owino last year set up his own wealth management firm. A team of four executives from Britam’s asset management unit – Edwin Dande, Elizabeth Nkukuu, Shiv Arora and Patricia Wanjama – quit the company to set up Cytonn, a real estate-focused private equity fund.

Spear Sharp E*******n projects it could sell 10,000 copies of each of the children’s titles it has published. (Business Daily)

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