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Teacher finds silver lining in the middle of pandemic



The onset of coronavirus outbreak in Kenya in March this year brought unprecedented suffering to many people. As the crisis progressed, many people lost jobs, businesses were closed down, while some families lost loved ones to the disease. Despite the dark cloud coronavirus has brought on many levels, it has also presented a silver lining for others.

For Beldina Kirito Oluoch, an entrepreneur, the Covid-19 crisis presented an opportunity for her business to grow. When the pandemic hit the country in March, Beldina and her husband were running two successful businesses — a bakery, Beldina’s Delicacies based in Kikuyu, Kiambu County and a landscaping company, Elegant Gardens Landscapes.

When schools and public gatherings were banned in March 13, Beldina, who is also a teacher at Alliance High School saw an opportunity to concentrate on her businesses.

“ The businesses were well-established and were running independently but I suddenly found myself with so much time in my hands after schools closed,” she says. Within days of the ban on public gatherings her baking business took a hit.

“From doing over 30 birthday cakes in a week our orders in March decreased to five,” she says. With the dip in orders, Beldina could barely pay her 10 employees at the bakery in March and April and was forced to send some on unpaid leave and retain others on half pay.

“Paying rent for the business premises also became a struggle and we had to negotiate with the landlord to offer us a grace period. Additionally, we also negotiated with micro finances that gave us loans to support our businesses to review our terms of payment,” she says.

With the effects of the pandemic getting tougher by day, Beldina and her husband had to re-strategise in order to remain afloat.

“Things were tough, but there was no time for a pity party,” she says. With many people being indoors due to movement restrictions, Beldina saw an opportunity in putting up kitchen gardens through her landscaping business.

Initially, the company had been specialising in installation of carpet grass, making lawns and laying of cabro and pavements, but had never designed kitchen gardens until the opportunity presented itself during the outbreak. The demand for kitchen gardens was so high between March and April as people were keen to grow their own vegetables. We would install up to 30 vertical gardens in a good week,” adds Beldina.

During the business hiatus at the bakery, Beldina decided to set up a YouTube Channel and teach baking skills online. The channel attracted a lot of interest, as many people who had lost jobs were keen on learning skills to help them earn an income.

Others were just keen to learn a new skill to beat boredom. At the same time, Beldina kept herself occupied by trying out different recipes in the house and sharing the outcome on a group she had created on Facebook. “From this experience I realised that I had a passion for cooking. The feedback from the group was also encouraging and an idea to set up a hotel was born in May,” she says.

Big leap of faith

With few adjustments, including offering online baking classes and making home deliveries, the baking business begun picking up in July.

The business that was initially offering basic and advanced baking training also resumed the classes in July. “We took only five students per session for classes that would initially accommodate 10. The two classes offered daily were always fully booked,” she says.

With the baking business, picking up Beldina and her husband were able to mobilise resources from friends and set up a hotel, Elegant Garden Hotel on a two acre rented space in Karen.

The hotel was opened a week ago. Beldina admits that it was such a huge risk opening a hotel, especially when similar businesses were closing down. But seeing her baking business rise up from brink of collapse encouraged her to take the big leap.

“When I shared the idea with some friends some thought that I was crazy. But I knew that there was an opportunity because people were tired of being indoors and were interested in eating out,” she says.

Beldina says that the pandemic has taught her important lessons on life including the need to have multiple sources of income at any given time.

At the same time, Beldina says she has learnt to be adaptable and change with the times emphasising that capitalising on online platforms to promote her businesses has been helpful in keeping them afloat.


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This enemy called average



Do you realize there is a lot of potential in each one of us? Do you also realize that not all of us get to maximise our full potential?

The problem is because we settle on a place called AVERAGE! Join me this Friday 2nd October from 4pm, as we discuss on how we can exterminate this enemy called average.

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The Sh180,000 cat breeders



People love their pets, but how often do they think about the costs?

For years, Kenyans have been splurging cash on expensive cars, houses, fine wine and whisky, art pieces, and jewellery, but there is a new breed of young wealthy people buying expensive cats.

These cats are rare and their bloodline is documented.

“Human beings like class and social status. Because the rich do not want to remain in the same class with everybody in regards to pet ownership, they are going for Persian, Siamese, and Scottish fold cats,” says Dr Charles Muriuki of Jingi Vet clinic in Nyali, Mombasa.

Considered the ‘Ferrari of cats’, the Persian cats are highly sought-after and admired for their long and thick coats. And they do not come cheap.

“Right now you can get a Persian for about Sh50,000 but a few years ago it cost around Sh100,000, then you add the freight charge, you pay Sh150,000,” says Dr Muriuki.

Pablo and Nura are Persian cats and some of the few in Kenya whose every whim are indulged by their owner Mohamed Shurut.

At his house, during the interview, Mr Shurut says things like ‘let the furry bosses come to you instead of picking them up’, ‘never wake a sleeping kitty.’

To him, the Persian cats are feline royals.

“They are classy, loving and loyal companions. They do not like to be held so much. Give your Persian cat time as it expects you to treat it like a royal,” he says.

Every day, he spends more than an hour brushing their fur. “The fur knots very easily and it’s what makes the cat stand out. I have to groom them every day,” he says, adding that they are best kept indoors but they can be let out on a cat leash.

Many pet lovers scoff at talk about expenses to avoid being judged.

“Sometimes I fend off unwanted questions. Some people do not like pets so they ask me why I waste money on cats. I do what I feel is best for me. I love my cats,” he says.


A Persian cat owned by Mohammed Shurut. PHOTO | EAUNICE MURATHE

So how much did he spend on the cats?

Between Sh50,000 to Sh100,000 for each of his cats, minus the daily expenses of keeping them happy.

“In a month, you’re probably looking at spending between Sh8,000 to Sh10,000 depending on what kind of cat food you’re buying. I give them fish oil. You also have to factor in the veterinary bills, grooming, litter and multivitamins,” he says.

Another seller

As the exotic cat market is thriving, and supply rarely meeting demand, Mr Shurut found a niche in supplying pet owners with prized breeds.

The 26-year-old now runs an online shop, Persian Cats Kenya, a breeding business.


“I used to see social media posts of the Persian cats owned by foreigners. I had a dream of owning one but it is not easy to find them in Kenya,” he says.

After a long search, he bought a kitten from a friend whose Persian cat had given birth.

“He had imported the cats from Egypt. He opted to sell me the male kitten and remain with the parent stock. I started shopping for a female one. I imported a female cat from Egypt,” he says.

He never imagined the cat hobby he casually picked up would end up becoming a business.

“This year I noted that many people were looking for Persian cats. I had many inquiries, especially on social media. I decided to start importing and breeding the cats,” he says.

Mr Shurut sells two-month-old kittens imported from Russia and Egypt for Sh150,000.

“The common ones are the Doll Face Persian Kittens and Punch face Persian kittens. My female cat is also pregnant and I am hoping to get kittens. The price is fair. Someone who truly values them will get them at any cost,” he says.

Another cat owner Juliet Muchira from Kiambu imported a Persian cat after seeing it online.

“I have always loved cats. I owned my first cat when I was six years old. Four years ago, as I was researching more about cats, I came across the Persian breed and I was interested. I tried finding one locally but didn’t find it. That’s when I thought of importing,” she says. The Persian cat gave birth and she decided to breed them.

She has been doing the business for almost three years now. Her cattery, Juliepaws is registered under The Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA), the World’s Largest Registry of Pedigreed Cats.

The cost of owning a Persian cat differs, she says, with the needs of a client. The most expensive cat she ever sold cost Sh180,000.

“I sold it to a family in Mombasa a year ago. I have never sold a cat outside Kenya, but I hope to. But I have sold so many kittens locally, Mombasa, Nairobi, and Kiambu. My cattery is the only registered cattery in Kenya,” she says.

The cats come with a registration certificate.

“My cats are all imported and I get them from certified and registered breeders who know their bloodline,” she says, adding that what makes them expensive is their distinctive face, tiny ears, gentle temperaments, and being a pure breed.

Pet love

Traditionally, dogs and cats were working animals than pets. A cat kept the mouse down, a dog guarded homes, and so on. But now, lots of people are latching onto the craze for buying and sharing their homes with pets and choosing to take care of them in ways that our parents did not.

Over the past 10 years or so, human-pet relationships have grown closer, says Dr Muriuki.

“Most people now are embracing the pet culture. They are keeping them as companions, taking care of them. We socialise with pets differently. For example, one cat was coughing and sneezing because the owner had changed her cologne to one that was not cat-friendly. At my clinic, she called her friends, told them that the cat was unwell, took videos and photos as one would do with a child,” he says.

Exotic cats are a huge amount of work and a considerable investment, fuelling an increasingly thriving cat product and service market in Kenya.

However, Dr Muriuki says, the downside of buying the exotic breeds, is that some breeders import male and female cats from the same parents, they inbreed and they start selling inbreeds.

Inbred pedigree cats end up suffering from life-threatening diseases like cancer and deformities.

by Business

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PHOTOS:What is happening in Amani Ridge the Place of Peace. *Today 29.09.2020



Optiven Group is committed to offering you the quality you expect and deserve.

Amani Ridge the Place of Peace

We greatly appreciate your continued business and support through this time of growth and change. It’s for this reason that all bookings made before 1st October 2020 will be honored with the current price and so we highly encourage you to take advantage of this.

Amani Ridge the Place of Peace

Amani Ridge the Place of Peace is giving you the opportunity to build your family in a serene and natural environment.

Do you want to know how to be part of Optiven family?
Call us now:
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