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My Sh50 startup journey

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When Njeri Muchina lost her job in March 2018, she would find herself plunged into a sea of hopelessness. She had been working as a sign language interpreter at MediaMax and now, for the first time in her life, she was jobless. Having worked for non-government organisations before, and armed with a credible degree certificate in Social Work from the University of Nairobi, she didn’t think that it would have been so hard to catch another break. But boy was she wrong.

“Seated idle at home in Limuru, I could not understand why my friends had gone silent when I was at my lowest.” The pity party would last for seven months before she realised that it was all up to her. Today, she owns and runs Max Hub, a cleaning company based in Meru. The young company recently bagged the International Women’s Day grant, one of six African businesses awarded, for creating employment opportunities for women.

Njeri shares her business journey with Hustle hoping that it will inspire those grappling with economic setbacks because of the pandemic.

Let’s start in 2018. After you lost your job. How did you get out of the slump?

An opportunity presented itself in October 2018. But it was in Meru. A friend told me about it. It had been a good seven months out in the cold and I was desperate to get working so I packed up my bags and moved across the country. What I didn’t realise at the time was that the opportunity wasn’t all I had hoped for.

What happened?

It was an insurance brokerage job. I went and applied for the job, and was, fortunately, picked. When I reported for training, I heard people testify about their previous month’s earnings. The job was paid on commission terms, and the highest had made Sh12,000 that previous month. I am not very good at marketing, so I knew it was not my place.

I left the training frustrated, certain I was not suited for the job. But you were now in Meru with no job…. Yes. I needed work, and to make money. I remember boarding a matatu to Makutano, a little centre 15 minutes away from the town. On my way there, a plan solidified in my mind. I was going to clean people’s shops and get paid for it. I would charge Sh50 per shop cleaned and maybe could manage to wash 10 shops in a day for good measure. It felt like a good idea. I entered the first shop and told the attendant that I wanted to clean for her. Seeing my immaculate attire, she suspected I was something of a con and dismissed me. She also had her next door neighbour dismiss me too. I wasn’t about to give up. I headed to a cyber cafe just paces away and explained my plight to the woman who ran it. Midway through my pitch, my daughter’s school called me and told me that I was required to send Sh500 for her graduation gown. She was moving to pre-unit. Desperate and with no money on me, I broke down. I needed things to work out.

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Was the pitch successful?

Yes, I was lucky. For Sh50, I cleaned for her. Next to her shop was an animal-feeds shop. Kimathi, the man selling there, saw me crying, then mopping the cyber, and came to ask what the matter was. I explained to him. He told me to share my cellphone number so he could call me later when he contacted potential clients. He called the following morning, and I came to find some women that wanted to see me, more to believe in the story they had heard than to hire me. They asked how much I charged to clean a shop and Kimathi said I charged Sh100. I cleaned four shops and earned a quick Sh400. Ruth, one of the women, later took me to her house to clean and left me there. Such trust at first sight. I gave my best and was done in three hours. She was so impressed she gave me Sh1,500. I was elated! Fact is, many university graduates will cower at the thought of cleaning for money. Did you feel embarrassed? There was no time to feel ashamed or consider what people were thinking about it.  I needed money and I needed to work. People looked at us as cleaning women, but that has become part of my motivation. It is one of the things I am trying to change.

READ ALSO:   How retrenchment made me an employer

Did you go back to cleaning shops?

No. An impressed Ruth told her friends about me. Word spread like wildfire and I got referrals right, left and centre as elated clients told their friends about me. In just two weeks, I was booked back to back. Ruth advised me to charge nothing less than Sh 1,000 for house cleaning. I was giving the best I could.

How did you handle the upsurge of demand?

I soon found and trained Rukia, who clients liked. I also hired another woman called Faith and taught them how to do a clean, diligent and honest job for our clients. By March 2019, I had six employees. I had a solid agency, “Klean Team.” I could make up to Sh3,000 a day cleaning two houses and charging Sh1,500 for each.

Was that the big break?

No. One of my doctor clients invited me to bid for a cleaning job in one of Meru’s top hospitals. I made my pitch, presented my budget and, luckily, won the tender. The annual contract was actually renewed last April.

Are you still doing home cleaning?

Yes, but not entirely. 2019 was an awesome year. My company, now called Max Hub, grew, and we stopped doing laundry manually. We bought machines, a vehicle, and started delivering cleaned, ironed laundry to clients, packed in branded bags!

What’s the status of the company now?

I have 12 employees, four of who work in the hospital. Three employees are based at Mwitu Centre, where we manage the public area that has prime offices, a leading supermarket and public toilets. Two women are tasked with managing the toilets and cleaning the park, while a man does landscaping. I also have four women who do home cleaning, and a man who does the laundry deliveries.

Is Meru home now?

(Laughs) Certainly! This place gave me a lifeline. Within a year I had bought a car and rebooted my life. I owe a lot I have to this place.

What lessons did this fast-paced two years teach you?

Do not just sit pitying yourself for long! Out there hidden in the humblest hustle is the biggest opportunity of your life! If you have lost a job, have graduated and don’t have anything to do, or if you have a gift or talent, start with whatever you have. Clean those clothes, iron those suits, make those chapatis, cook those mandazis. As long as you are trying I promise you, you will move to the next level. I am happy I can impact someone’s life by giving them a job.

READ ALSO:   How retrenchment made me an employer

What money lessons have you learnt through your journey?

One should be very disciplined. Save for a rainy day because rainy days will come. It is so easy to move from a hundred to zero, but hard to move up from zero. When one is used to having a salary or income, it is easy to forget that they need to save. Respect money and it will respect you. However, one has to use money to make money. In some instances, don’t just save. Keep on expanding. In my business, sometimes I have to invest in new machines as work increases.  What are the main challenges you have faced in the process of setting up the business The attitude of clients towards cleaners. It was really demoralising at first. I cleaned a house for a woman and she said she would pay a maximum of Sh400. My standards deserved more, between Sh1,000 and Sh1,500, and she already knew I charged that. But she eventually said that a cleaner did not deserve that money. There has also been the challenge of male clients. Some do not treat this business as a professional activity.  

Goals for the business?

Expansion. I want to reach out of the county and enter Embu, Laikipia, and other nearby counties. I want to be a household name in the cleaning business. I came here as a desperate job seeker, ready to survive on crumbs. Now I am an employer. I want to give back. I am actually considering starting a programme where I can teach women on a certain standard for home cleaning so that they can gain maximum value for their service. In essence, change the perception that is given to the cleaning women and make the job professional.

By Standard.co.ke

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Business

The road less travelled

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According to a June 2020 study by Flone Initiative, women make up 10 per cent of the work force in the public transport industry in the country, 85 per cent of them being matatu conductors in Nairobi; it is no longer a male-dominated job. However,

“I used to ride the so-called nganyas to school every day, and being that I am a social and open-minded person, I would interact with the accomodating personnel and with time, I deeply fell in love with the unique culture that is the Kenyan matatu industry,” she tells PD Wikendi. A daughter of Italian parents who met and got married in Kenya, Lucia is thankful to have been born and bred in this country with an atypical public transport sector, which would become her biggest passion.

After completing high school, she joined Montessori College in Nairobi to pursue teaching, a course she did not complete, as what she desired was to work as a tout. However, she would again proceed to pursue a certificate in pharmacy, which is her mother’s profession. In 2015, Lucia ditched her pharmacy career and decided to follow her heart, becoming a full-time makanga in Kitengela, a route she says she felt comfortable in, being that she was serving people she grew up around.

Lucia recalls how at first, residents of Kitengela, seeing a mzungu on the matatu door calling on passengers to board, were certain it was a prank. “In my first days, people were dumbfounded, wondering if it was a stunt. They even became reluctant to board the vehicle, as they thought that maybe there was a hidden camera somewhere recording the ‘prank’. No one believed a mlami could take this job, but, eventually, they realised it was for real and got used to it,” she recounts.

READ ALSO:   How retrenchment made me an employer

The venture was fraught with challenges for her; not only was she a woman in a rough man’s world, but also a ‘foreigner’. “Some commuters felt they could get aggressive towards me, for example when disgruntled by what they found to be high fares. Dealing with a rude passenger who does not want to cooperate and respect my hustle is still among my worst moments while in the line of duty. Some passengers like to show that they are allknowing. Again, there were instances where people thought I don’t understand Swahili or sheng, which I speak fluently, so they would throw jabs at me, but I never let it get to me. If you are a strong woman who respects herself and you understand that this is a job like any other, there is no situation that would be too difficult to manoeuvre. Women are many in the industry these days, and people now take it as a normal thing,” adds Lucia, who currently works in Crisis of Wamasaa Sacco.

PANDEMIC STRUGGLE
At the moment, the Covid-19 pandemic, which has really hamstrung their work, is

it is still unusual to meet a woman nganya crewmember. It is even rarer to meet one from a different race. But, the well known Lucia Alessandra Murotto, a Caucasian woman conductor, never saw these as barriers to stop her from following her passion. Walking along Nairobi’s Railways bus terminus, where Kitengela matatus are stationed, you will likely meet the 29-year-old shouting herself hoarse calling for passengers, a job she has now served in for over five years.

READ ALSO:   How retrenchment made me an employer

Growing up in Kitengela, Kajiado county, Lucia, famously known as Mlami by the area residents owing to her Italian origin, never prayed for something bigger in her future than serving in the matatu industry. Her desire to join the sector grew while she was still in high school, when the single mother of one used to commute daily to school, boarding the renowned decorated matatus of the vibrant route 110 Kitee, and got to interact with the friendly crews.

FALLING IN LOVE

the biggest issue that, like others in the sector, she’s dealing with on the job. “We are only carrying 60 per cent of the bus capacity, so, hitting the profit target becomes an uphill task. To cope, investors have sadly been forced to send some crewmembers home, and we’ve also had to raise fares so as to at least remain afloat,” she explains.

Challenges aside, what Lucia loves the most about her job is how the crews she works with are humble and understanding. “We live like one big family, sticking by each other through thick and thin. We are always there for one another, be it during funerals, weddings, when one of our colleagues gets a child, even birthdays, we come together and offer support,” she beams.

READ ALSO:   How retrenchment made me an employer

When not filling matatus with passengers and collecting fares, the last-born in a family of two daughters helps her mum out at her pharmacy in Kisaju. Meanwhile, the nganya culture enthusiasm has rubbed of on her nine-year-old son, who she says knows almost all the Kitengela hot mats by name.

For now, it appears Lucia is in it for the long haul. “I have been dreaming of investing in the matatu industry since I was 16. I would love to take my matatu to Kitengela, Rongai or even Eastleigh, since I have worked on the three routes and I know their ins and outs, ” she concludes.

By PD.co.ke

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Business

Our Thrilling Two Hours Tour at Victory Gardens Phase 3, 4 & 5 on the 18th of September 2020

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It was a very electrifying afternoon as we mentored our social media followers on how to build positive and remarkable relationships.

We touched on various life issues including how to laugh with a confident and deliberate abandonment, how to build extraordinarily positive relationships in families, workplaces, with God and in our social lives.

We also spared a cool 30 minutes to point at plot beacons for our customers, showing them how trees at this gated community are flourishing plus showing customers how Optiven has done the drainages.

Oh! We even had great fun crawling through one of the drainage culvert, which easily accommodated Optiven Team Leader as he easily crept to the other end. You can catch up with the Facebook Live here: (https://web.facebook.com/watch/?v=776150606288508&extid=GOZRywQJbqSrzSDM)

You can also catch up with the entire episode on You Tube right here: https://youtu.be/apZ14dvBg_g

What’s more, we prayed and prophesied for more customers to start building their dream homes in this gated community; to live victorious, joyfully and peacefully, in this extraordinary project that is located at the heart on Kitengela in Nairobi Metropolis.

If you want to join this remarkable and amazing project or to refer someone, just get in touch with us today. (Every person who refers someone will be mentioned on our next show)

READ ALSO:   How retrenchment made me an employer

*Call us now on: 0790 300 300 or 0723 400 500
Visit our website:* www.optiven.co.ke

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Business

Shekinah Gardens Gets Surprise Bonus Value Additions

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Optiven Engineers have now camped at Shekinah Gardens to start the fencing of the entire property (concrete poles & wire mesh). The concrete poles will be painted green as a sign of customer’s prosperity.

What’s more, Optiven has entered into a contract with Weberworks to do the construction of a 15 meters tall water tower that will be holding 40, 000 liters at a go.

This additional Value Additions will allow customers to experience Value for their properties as it was not part of the initial promise, but as an additional token of love to our Shekinah Gardens customers.

In addition, the roads will be spruced up to make this project the very best in Kajiado Township.

The project is located only 1 Mile from Kajiado Town and less than 0.5 m from the Highway

If you want to join the Shekinah family 👪

Call us on: 0790300300 or 0723400500
Website: www.optiven.co.ke

READ ALSO:   How retrenchment made me an employer
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