The House of Mumbi has a collective sneer for posh business names.In fact,if you want to succeed in business in Kikuyuland, avoid a pretentious name but go for a folksy one that catches the locals attention.Or operate without one and folks will get it for you.
Lets say for instance, Muthoni opens a pastry business, say in Muchatha.Muthoni’s Yummy Confectioneries.Swanky name that can even be captured in Google’s search engines because its rich in keywords.
All non- Kikuyus will refer to the business by its official names- Muthoni Yummy Confectionaries.But not so for the House of Mumbi.
First, from the educated to the village bum, Kikuyus wont break a sweat trying to pronounce “Confectionary”.It will be promptly Kikuyunized to Kofeki.Muthoni will soon become ‘Muthoni wa Kofeki’.Or Muthoni wa Migate( Muthoni the bread monger).Then finally Muthoni Migate.You will hear fellows shouting into their phones- ‘ tùrùgamìte haha hakuhi na Kofeki ya Muthoni’. We are standing near Muthoni’s Kofeki.The business is already a landmark.
Muthoni Migate will be her official name.It will appear on Truecaller, Harambee and wedding invitations cards and finally on Google Maps.The name, just like any other Gikuyu word,will be subjected to the morphological rules of the Gikuyu language.
If she is a slim petite lady, she will be ‘ Muthoni ka Migate”.Denoting her diminutive stature.If she over feeds on her pastries and balloons into 120kg, she will be’ Muthoni kia Migate’.If her loaves are too small for peoples liking, ‘ Muthoni wa Tumigate’.If folks particulary like her bread alot, she will be ‘ Muthoni Tumigate Kwagira’.Muthoni of yummy bread fame.No billboard, however big,no paid up advert, however prime, can beat that free advertising.
Thus it follows that across Kenya are scattered several brand names who get free advertising from their localised names in Gikuyu language.One of them is Equity Bank.
The people of my home are Kangema where Equity top honchos have roots, simply refer to the bank as Kwa Mwangi.In the larger Central Kenya, the bank is known as “Muiganania.”The Equiliser.A name that pays homage to the role the bank played in disrupting banking in Kenya and making it affordable.
Another such business is Kibira Chicken joint at Kutus in Kirinyaga County.You mention that name and everyone identifies it as the yummiest chicken in the region.The chicken may be made with lots of soup, cabbage- but thats Gikuyu food for you.Kibera chicken is the KFC of the region.The gold standard of how to fry Kienyeji chicken.
Then there was Chege’s hotel in Garissa town.It had another name which escapes me, but to everybody, it was simply Gwa Chege.Despite Alshabab grenading it several times, it was always the first port of call for any member of House of Mumbi sojourning in Garissa.
Lastly, we have Njuguna’s Pub along Waiyaki Way.A commonplace joint with the fattest houseflies, killer goat ribs and a butcher who steals your meat as he cuts it for you.They all do that.Njuguna the proprietor passed on some years ago, but in his business,his spirit remains.
The long and short of it all is that business names dont matter much among the Gikuyu.
Just serve people well- and they will get a powerful business name for you- of their choice.
Next I will do an anthropological treatise about why the Gikuyu carry along their home area names to any diaspora they settle in.