Michael Muthiga: the 33 year old who made millions from Faiba cartoon adverts!

In Kenya, many people love and enjoy watching the hilarious ‘faiba’ animated cartoon adverts that air on major television networks. However, what most people do not know is that the creator behind the characters is a 33-year-old campus student named Michael Muthiga. He is the founder and CEO of Fatboy Animations, one of the leading animations and illustrations companies in Kenya.

Muthiga’s love for animations started in childhood, where he enjoyed watching cartoon programs. He pursued Arts and Design in high school, which introduced him to the world of illustrations and 3D animations. However, he couldn’t pursue animations in college due to his parents’ objections and financial constraints. Instead, he spent a year learning the basics through Autodesk Maya, a software used to create animated video games and 3D illustrations. He then applied for and got his first job as a junior developer for ‘Tinga Tinga Tales,’ a kid’s cartoon program that aired on Citizen Television. He worked his way up to become the lead animator before the show was closed.

When the show ended, Muthiga became jobless, and his parents convinced him to pursue a ‘better’ career by going back to school. He managed to secure a scholarship to study Civil Engineering at the University of Nottingham in Malaysia. Despite changing his career path, he continued to explore more about the animation industry, sharpening his skills. Upon completing his studies, he returned to Kenya in 2011 and registered Fatboy Animations Company.

Muthiga started by creating a YouTube channel where he would create funny animated characters such as the ‘Huratete cartoon’ which became a hit. His channel began attracting an audience, and one day he received a phone call that would change his life. Joshua Chepkwony, the founder and CEO of Jamii Telecommunications (JTL), asked Muthiga to create a short TV advert to promote the company’s fiber network. Muthiga accepted the offer and after a month of hard work, he resurfaced with the first episode of the ‘Faiba’ advertisement ad, which became a headline across the country. He was only 25 years old at the time.

With the Faiba ads going viral, Muthiga’s phone began ringing off the hook. Oglivy approached him on behalf of Orange for a five-episode animation that earned him Ksh 3.5 million. Safaricom and Barclays Bank (now ABSA) also reached out to him for the next six months. Today, Fatboy Animations employs 15 people who work on an average of ten projects every month, charging between Ksh 1 million and 1.4 million for a 60-second advert. In 2014, Forbes named Muthiga one of the 30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs when he was 27 years old. Two years later, he was among Africa’s Top 30 under 30 Entrepreneurs released by Forbes in 2016.