Sean was born and raised in Canterbury, Kent in England during the latter part of the 2nd World War. Thus he is a "Man of Kent" as Canterbury lies to the East of the River Medway. Had Canterbury been situated to the West, he would have been a "Kentish Man". That should put to bed a question asked by many English folk!
Sean was educated at St. Edmund’s Canterbury, and later enrolled at the Kent Farm Institute to study horticulture. Having completed his studies, he joined his father’s agricultural business as an agricultural adviser and sales representative. In 1968, Sean decided that it was time to spread his wings and venture abroad to expand his knowledge.
He emigrated to South Africa where he became the manager of a large apple farm in the Western Cape. After a year, he was ready to return to England but just before departing for home, Sean was offered a job as a Sales Executive with Brian Porter Motors in Cape Town. At that time, Brian Porter Motors were Chrysler & Fiat agents.
Sean decided to follow his love for cars by staying for a while and try his hand at selling cars. He loved the challenge and environment so much that he decided to stay and leave the agricultural scene. Sean quickly rose within the ranks at Brian Porter Motors; the Sales Executive soon became Sales Manager then Branch Manager and eventually Dealer Principal for the Group that the company had now grown into. By this time they handled a number of franchises such as Toyota, Land Rover, Mazda, Ford, and Jaguar.
In the following years, Sean continued to run their prestigious companies handling models such as Rolls Royce, Porsche, Jaguar, BMW and Land Rover. This lasted until 1993 when the group’s chairman, Mr Brian Porter, died. There was a change in the company’s structure and Sean was not happy so he decided to leave and start his own motor retail business.
Sean had not even started his own business when BMW South Africa approached him. They wanted him to move to Kenya and take over the reins of Mashariki BMW which at the time was in a bit of a recession. His love for Africa and good memories of Kenya after a short visit to Nairobi and Mombasa made him take up the challenge, joining Mashariki in May 1994.
His ambition and love for the challenge was demonstrated by an impressive increase in sales. With the help of a good team he had put in place, he increased sales volumes from nine units per year in 1993 to 120 units annually in 1999 when he left. Other motor companies were after his secret to such success and before long he was head hunted to join Cooper Motor Corporation (CMC) as the General Manager of Land Rover Kenya. Sean left CMC after two years and joined DT Dobie as the General Sales Manager of Nissan in March 2002.
His decision to join DT Dobie was influenced by a major restructuring program in the company, following the takeover by CFAO of France. This would offer further challenges which appealed to Sean. A second restructuring program in 2005 saw Sean being transferred to Daimler Chrysler passenger cars as General Sales Manager, a position he held until retiring in February 2007.
Retirement gave Sean the opportunity to fulfil a long time ambition of forming his own New and Used Car Company. Finally he could live out his dream and use his experience in Kenya’s motor industry to make it a reality.
Sean became a Kenyan citizen in 2005 affirming his intention to stay in Kenya and Africa for good and started Sean Garstin Motors in conjunction with St. Austin's Service Station on Ngong Rd - a high visibility site with excellent service facilities.
"I have been close friends with the Karmali family for many years and I wanted to work with them, knowing it would prove beneficial to all parties,” Sean said. “Between us all, we make one hell of team!" he added. The Karmali family are the owners of St. Austin's, Bosch Kenya and Concord Motors.
Because the new venture proved to be more successful than initially expected, it was moved to Jacaranda Motors on James Gichuru Rd, Lavington in November 2008. Here Sean has built a very impressive office with a visible display area for the quality used cars he sells.
We are very excited as we have just signed a 15 year" back to back" lease with Jacaranda Motors and thus have a permanent home for the next 15 years at least.
“The premises in Lavington have proved to be very successful. We now have ample display along with a very smart and friendly office. Here we also have access to a very good general workshop & panel shop - all in all, a one stop shop!” says Sean.
His first three years in operation have been fun, a huge learning curve and with the help of an old Mombasa friend, Simon McCreed, he has become a bit of an expert on importing used cars from Japan.
“We only buy live, on auction because that way the auctioneers guarantee the authenticity of the vehicles,” Sean says. “Since its conception in February 2007, we have sold over 850 cars of which over 400 units have been imported from Japan and the UK. Every vehicle has been perfect and we have never had to use the 6 month warranty we give each car! – Mind you we go to a lot of trouble sourcing the correct ones with the invaluable help of our Japanese counterparts,” says Sean.
One of his two sons has followed his father's footsteps in the motor industry. He is a sales executive with Toyota in Cape Town.
Perhaps one day, he will put this experience to good use, come to Kenya & take over the reins from Dad, Sean says.