Myke Rabar: Why I’m leaving the Den

Left, Myke Rabar (Photo: Standard)

Myke Rabar is one of the prominent faces in Kenya’s corporate world, more so as founder of entertainment and events management company, Homeboyz. The firm has since diversified its offering to become one of fastest growing local brands.

Myke’s entrepreneurial acumen has been most evident as one of the business minds in the TV show, Lion’s Den that airs on KTN, picking up and financing viable ideas as well as advising the show’s participants on how to actualise and grow their businesses. He has, however, brought his time in the show to an end and will not be appearing in the upcoming season.

Hustle sat down with Myke on his experience in the Den and his next project.

After Lion’s Den, what are you venturing into now?

There is a big event being hosted by Kenya next year, the IAAF U20 World championships, coming to Africa for the first time. Kenya bid to host the event and we won it against other countries. We’ll be hosting at least 180 teams from all over the world to participate in track and field events, which will take place at the Kasarani Stadium.

Out of the 180 teams we’ll have over 2,000 athletes from all over the world for about a week and a half, just making sure that the event runs smoothly. I am the chief executive officer of the whole event and this means putting structures in place so that the company can run itself without my presence.

I’ve always wanted to do something like this and when I saw the last event, the U18 World Championships, I said I have to be a part of that. I applied for the position because I knew what we’d add to it and what it means to the country and got shortlisted.

It’s something I actually looked out for, it wasn’t by accident.

There’s a lot of learning, dealing with the Government, learning how it works, dealing with so many moving parts - hospitality, technical side of the event, dealing with the different countries, there’s a lot of diplomatic relationships we’re dealing with.

I’m meeting 180 ambassadors in the next few weeks, sending the event to countries all over the world so that they can be part of this activity, so it’s very vast. It’s actually adopting everything I’ve done in the past plus more.

What were your key learnings in the Den?

I think it’s been very enlightening. I learnt a lot being in the Den, both on and off the set. By just being in the Den, you get to meet all sorts of people in a different environment with ideas, different hopes and aspirations and the Lions bringing dreams to life.

I think for me that was a huge responsibility and the influence it had outside the show as well.

When you meet people on the streets and they talk about a particular episode and what happened, why you made certain calls, just shows the impact that the show has had in the environment that we are in. A lot of people now believe that they can actually go out there and start a small business and succeed. And they realise that there are ways of looking for and getting funding so I think it’s been very educative as well.

Your experience in the Den...

What you see on telly is not what it is. It’s very rigorous and you need to be constantly upbeat from start to finish.

You also have to fully concentrate across the day. It’s 10-12 hours of continuous shooting so it’s very taxing both mentally and physically, and you’ve got to give each “investee” the same amount of energy and encourage them throughout.

They don’t know what time you started your day so you just have to remain fresh and consistent, and it’s not easy. I think it’s also very addictive, once you start you won’t stop. Like I said, I keep getting ideas every day that come to my mail and you can’t just ignore everything so it can be great and also time consuming.

But again, if your heart is in it you find time for some of the ideas.

Lion's Den judges (Photo: Courtesy)

I think for me, I’m a risk taker, I didn’t know what to expect. Everything for me is about learning so I wouldn’t say no even to a job like this that I’ve just got, there’s something to learn across the board. I felt that if I go there, there’ll be a lot of learning around: how to talk to people in a space like that, how to engage, how to manage aspirations, how to support small businesses.

I look at a space and I never go for anything I’m comfortable with, I’m always curious to find out what it means and how I can add value to it.

So I think the reason why I jumped on it is that I felt it was something new and it was a space I’ve never been in. And there was definitely going to be learnings from there.

How would the Lions pick the businesses to fund?

I think it just became one unit. You see, almost everyone played off each other and knew who was going to take what risk, who would fall for a particular kind of inclination towards a business idea. And again, for me, the learning was immense.

Do you interact with the other Lions outside the Den?

We’re still very close, we still interact outside of the show. I still get ideas come to me and I share them with Darshan, Chris, Oliver and with Joanne as well. So I think the show never ends offset. It’s an ongoing thing, I still meet people on the streets and I share my faith with them.

What is the most unique business you have funded?

I don’t want to say there is one in particular, there are quite a number that had different nuances that touched me in different ways; I think just the diversity of the different pitches. Yes, there were a couple of them that came out strongly and we actually continued to work together up until now.

What advice would you give to young people who would want to apply for the show?

One thing that they need to work on is the angle preparedness. Some are still too green with their ideas so it’s very hard to engage them at that stage, they have to be a bit more advanced in the process.

Having them maybe run the business for a year makes more sense so you ask the right questions and you know what you’re asking, as opposed to asking questions which they have no idea where they’re coming from because they haven’t run the business, they just have it on paper.

So I think having businesses that have been running and tested and maybe just need a lift would make a big difference.