Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Will the real entrepreneurs please stand up

Today, I am inspired. Watching the Barclays sponsored Enterprise Kenya on KTN last night showed me just how far I am from calling myself an entrepreneur. The source of inspiration: a woman called Joyce Wairimu and her amazing fortitude in starting and running her eatery business Babylon Kitchen. Every aspect of her story seemed so keeping with the entreprenuerial spirit that I was tempted to think it all scripted.

Joyce Wairimu was a victim of the Molo clashes in 1992 which displaced her and family. The clashes uphove her life and she found herself separated from her husband, penniless, and destitute, with five children to care for. A chance boarding of a Kayole bound matatu found her living off handouts in the streets of Kayole.

But the woman's spirit was not broken and a good samaritan welcomed her and her children into her home and also introduced to her to work that could earn her an income. Joyce started making a little money by working in the City Council farms and washing clothes. It paid little but Joyce knew how to save and put away K.Shs. 900 (US $12) every week.

Joyce joined a welfare group Maisha Bora where she deposited her savings. She narrates how the welfare changed her life by allowing her borrow double what she had saved and invest it in business. With K.Shs. 7,000 (US $ 96) she began a tea kiosk in Kayole and gradually built it into a popular restaurant with outside catering. With financial discipline, prudent management, perseverance in the face of adversity, and always putting the customer first Joyce saw her business grow and flourish.

Six years later her business and personal assets now include real estate, land and are valued at K.Shs. 2,500,000 (US $34,247). Joyce has also bought property for her children and given them capital to start their own businesses. She is now reunited with her husband, remains an active member of the welfare group which started her off, and is happy and content with her life. She is a truly wealthy entrepreneur by all standards.

The story behind Babylon Kitchen is one of knowing what you want in life and using business as a means of achieving it. It is the true entrepreneurs story, one that makes you realise there's more to it than just making money. Today I feel challenged to be an entrepreneur as Joyce Wairimu is an entrepreneur.


egm said...

Thanks for sharing this story. This is encouraging and a true rags to riches story (and not just fiscal) story.

Anonymous said...

Very inspiring! It is very amazing how just a little capital, well allocated, can create such wealth. She is very special.
On the subject of little capital and the difference it can make...there's a website, It basically allows anyone anywhere in the world to lend a minimum of $25 to a micro-business in the developing world (including Kenya). they have some good support from PayPal, Microsoft and the Clinton Global Initiative. Harry, may you could consider placing their banner on your page? They have created some special banners for this purpose so as to spread the word on what they do.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that story. It is really inspiring. I just came across your site from Kenyan Pundit. I will link up to you. Thanks once again.

mama shady said...

ditto what everyone has said!persevearance does really pay off. i wish her well.

Anonymous said...

I'm trully moved! What an inspiring story!! My grandfather used to tell me this proverb as a little boy, "Yumbukaga iri mbute". This kikuyu proverb means that even when you have slaughtered a chicken, and you've removed it's feathers, you may assume that it's helpless, but you'll be suprised when the bird suddenly flies away, albeit you killed it.
So with this enterprenuer, she may have been down to her last dime, surviving in the streets of Kayole...but just like the bird, she managed to rise again and fly away.