Business is Booming in Nairobi

Business is Booming in Nairobi

I wrote a few weeks ago about adapting to the challenges of starting small businesses in the slums of Nairobi. Slums are crowded spaces with temporary structures that people live in permanently. And they are also places brimming with shops, stalls, and roadside hawkers.

This week Wambui Nguyo, our local coordinator in Nairobi, sent an update after visiting the SIA businesses there. Their stories, though Wambui’s report, help to fill in the picture of both the challenges and the amazing ways that SIA grants are helping people improve their lives.

Businesses started in May 2014:

Felister Marina and Rhoda Njoki listen to their fellow Small Business Fund leaders at our meeting in Korogocho this summer.

Kale for Sale: Felister Wairimu of JIINUE GROUP is always smiling and in high spirits. Theirs is a family group with her two daughters who also have children. She is still going strong with her green groceries business by the roadside. In addition to what she sold before, she was able to add potatoes and ‘sukuma wiki’ (aka kale), which are very popular because almost every household eats this daily.

Besides the challenge of the rising prices on foodstuffs, she has a reason to smile more. Her children can go to school; she can buy shoes and feed them too. Her mother is unwell and she goes to clinics on weekly basis. Her business has helped her assist her to see the doctor.

Jamarose Onyango is the treasurer for the SIA merry-go-round savings group. She told us this summer that she used to just stay at home all day and now she is happy to have a business to tend to.

Women Entrepreneurs: UPENDO GROUP is still going strong as friends and business partners. Jamarose and her daughter Melvin, a single mother, sell used clothing. Jamarose was able to assist her daughter in her pre/post natal clinics. She also needs some medical attention on a condition she has and is able to afford this. When the business is down, Rhoda Njoki helps them make sales by hawking. Rhoda has a son who got a secondary school scholarship and now she can afford to give him pocket money and bus fare.

New businesses, started in August:

Much-needed jobs: JOY GROUP is led by Abraham with his wife, Rose Waswa, and sister-in-law, Josephine Amkoya (Rose’s sister). This is a new business of selling new T-shits and Lessos (sheet/sash). They will take them round the Korogocho slum area during the day and in the evenings stand in one central place like the bus stop to make their sales. Abraham lost his job and used all his savings on his ailing mother.  All were unemployed before starting this business. 

Large Family Sticks Together: PSG GROUP is made up of orphaned siblings who are Muslims from the Somali community. After Wako Bule, age 17, completed his 8th grade education at Josephine’s informal school in Korogocho, she helped him set up a Playstation business. With this grant, he and two siblings will open a new Playstation (video game) cafe near the predominantly Somali community.

There are fourteen children in the family and they live in one single room. Wako is the sole breadwinner. Seven siblings in Josephine’s school and the two older ones cannot get identity cards because of who they are (Somalis). They are often abused by the rest of the community and told to go back to where they came from. Sadly, they were all born in Gitathuru in Korogocho.

************************************

While there is much need, there is also much hope. It was Wambui who reminded me of the quote, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” And so Spirit in Action Small Business Fund grants are those small things, which ripple out to become great things, and it all comes from a place of great love.

Malawi Small Business Fund in Five Photos

Malawi Small Business Fund in Five Photos

Five photos from our visit with Small Business Fund families in Manyamula Village, Malawi in July. For more about the Small Business Fund, read the FAQs here.

Rev. Issac started his photography business in 2007. He has reinvested his profit to purchase speakers and a TV screen so that he can provide slideshow and video services to his clients. On the wall of his house was a photo he took of me and Boyd during our visit in 2011!

Rev. Issac started his photography business in 2007. He has reinvested his profit to purchase speakers and a TV screen so that he can provide slideshow and video services to his clients. On the wall of his house was a photo he took of me and Boyd during our visit in 2011!

Rev. Issac has hired these two young men to form bricks for a new rental house. They will make about 15,000 bricks for the project, which will be left to dry for 3 days in the sun. The bricks will then be  burned to increase their strength. The men will earn about 1 cent per brick, or about $150 for the whole project.

Rev. Issac has hired these two young men to form bricks for a new rental house. They will make about 15,000 bricks, which will be left to dry for 3 days in the sun. The bricks will then be burned to increase their strength. The men will earn about 1 cent per brick, or about $150 for the whole project. SIA is a job-creator in Manyamula.

Love's Bean Shop is the only one in the market that sells dried beans, which are a popular source of protein. Love is HIV+ and uses some of her business profit to travel to the nearest town to receive the treatment that keeps her healthy.

Love’s Bean Shop is the only one in the market that sells dried beans, which are a popular source of protein. Love is HIV+ and uses some of her business profit to travel to the nearest town to receive the treatments that keeps her healthy.

Children at Nellie's school recite their colors and ABC drills for us. The school started in January with just 7 children and it has already grown to over 50 students. Nellie has hired 2 other aids to help her with caring for and teaching the children.

Children at Nellie’s school recite colors and ABC drills for us. The school started in January with just 7 children and it has already grown to over 50 students! Nellie has hired 2 other aids to help her with caring for, feeding, and teaching the children.

 

McDonald used his Small Business Fund grant to purchase a treadle water pump, to replace the watering can for irrigating his farm. His grandchild had died just days before our visit and so we took time to pray with him after admiring his tomato, mustard greens, and squash crops.

McDonald used his 2010 Small Business Fund grant to purchase a treadle water pump, which replaced an old watering can for irrigating his farm. One of his grandchildren had died just days before our visit and so we took time to pray with him after admiring his tomato, mustard greens, and squash crops.

Read more stories about Spirit in Action in Malawi!

Learning to work in the city

Learning to work in the city

What’s your image of where people live in Kenya? In crowded, polluted slums? In huts on savannahs? Even though about two-thirds of Kenyans live in rural areas, more than 1.5 million people live in informal settlements around Nairobi. Spirit in Action works with partners in the slums, in the rural areas, and in emerging “in-between areas” like the growing city of Eldoret. And each area has it’s own set of unique challenges and opportunities. In the past, much of the Small Business Fund focused on helping rural families and it was just last year that we expanded into Nairobi, adapting the program to fit the new context.

A boy, a son of a SBF partner, plays with a tire, running and pushing it along the courtyard of Josephine's compund in Korogocho.

A son of a SBF partner plays with a tire, running and pushing it along the courtyard of Josephine’s compund in Korogocho.

Visiting Kenya’s Korogocho slum this summer, I was struck with the many unique challenges that come from living in such close proximity to others.

First, there’s no room to grow any food. Sure, that’s pretty obvious. I’d just never thought about it before. Even very poor families in rural areas can have a kitchen garden and grow kale and tomatoes to eat. (Over the years, Spirit in Action has sent seeds to many rural families to do just this.) In the slum the ground is hard and there is a shortage of space and water, so people have to buy everything they eat.

Secondly, there’s not a lot of free space. It seemed like mothers kept closer watch on their children in the urban area. I met with a group of women who have received Small Business Fund grants and many mentioned that before – when they were unable to afford school fees – their children had to stay inside all day. In the rural areas there is ample room for kids to run and play safely.

Lest you rural folks begin to feel smug, let me point out some of the distinct advantages of the urban areas.

Women from 8 Small Business Fund groups in Korogocho slum. Wambui, the local Spirit in Action coordinator stands behind Tanya. Some women in the back hold the bags made by Josephine.

Women from 8 Small Business Fund groups in Korogocho slum. Wambui, the local Spirit in Action coordinator stands behind Tanya. Some women in the back hold the bags made by Josephine.

The SIA businesses in Nairobi are wonderfully close to both their suppliers and their market. The reason that Madina and her mother and sister were able to really leverage their $150 grant is that they had ready access to wholesale used shoes for their stall. With so little stock before they might have days with no sales. Now they have many options to display. And Madina doesn’t have to travel for hours on multiple forms of transportation to get the new stock, because they live in the city.

The biggest challenge for rural Spirit in Action businesses is that they may have to travel both to purchase materials AND to sell their product. In the slum, the customers are right there, everywhere. Josephine sells the beaded bags that she and her daughters make along the roadside at one of the busy intersections. All day, people are walking past, waiting for matatus (mini-buses), and hanging out. She doesn’t have to travel, transporting her cumbersome stock of bags to another town or city to make a sale.

Remember I mentioned last week that I’m constantly finding out how much I still have to learn? This summer was a great opportunity to learn how to best tailor our Small Business Fund program to overcome those obstacles that urban Kenyans face while helping them seize the many opportunities that cities provide.

More about Spirit In Action in Korogocho:

Related article, which got me thinking on this topic today: 5 tips to bridge Africa’s rural-urban divide

Knowing how much I don’t know

Knowing how much I don’t know

As you may have heard or seen, the SIA website was hacked yesterday. I got a dreaded email from Google warning me that the site would temporarily be marked as hacked until I got it cleared up. Yikes! And so two hours passed in the blink of an eye as I tried to figure out what I needed to do and how to do it…

I’m pretty tech-savvy and there are still moments with the website where I feel like I’m in the deep-end trying to stay above water. I told this to my husband and he reassured me that it’s a common feeling and that this kind of experience pushes us to grow, to expand beyond our comfort zone.

Things I don't know. Prized speakers are transported by motorbike (boda-boda) to play praise music by generator in the evening.

Things I don’t know: Prized speakers are transported by motorbike (boda-boda) to play praise music by generator in the evening.

Of course, I agree. It’s just that I usually prefer to at least have my nose above water as I’m pushing, learning, growing, and experiencing new things. Sometimes with websites I’m not even sure if there is a bottom to the pool. In other words, yesterday I had one of those moments when I realize just how much I really don’t know or understand.

And I’ve learned that the best response to this kind of moment – when the vastness of the world and the limitation of my expertise is broadcast in front of me – is to turn to those who know and be grateful for them.

It’s true with the internet (we paid a nominal fee to get the website cleaned and verified by professionals), with electricians (don’t ask how long we worked at installing a new fixture before surrendering), and also with working in Africa.

SIA Small Business Fund local coordinator Nalu Prossy (Uganda) shares her knowledge with the other coordinators at our conference in Uganda.

SIA Small Business Fund local coordinator Nalu Prossy (Uganda) shares her knowledge with the other coordinators at our conference in Uganda.

Partnering with people in different countries, with different cultures, is a good opportunity to practice surrender and call in the professionals. This, in essence, was the goal of the SIA Small Business Fund Coordinator’s Conference we held in Uganda this summer. Each is implementing the same program while applying their intimate knowledge of the situation and customs in their own community. The conference was a chance for the six coordinators to share what they do to adapt the program to their community and to learn from each other.

It was pretty easy for me to admit when I started this job that I didn’t know the first thing about training someone to run a small business in rural Malawi. The coordinators know though. They know not to distribute the grants right before school fees are due. They know that illiterate parents can ask their children to help them fill out the forms. They know that buying livestock is a way to invest savings. And I know that there’s even more that they know that I don’t know. You know?

Seven years after starting my work with SIA, my nose is beginning to emerge above water – so to speak – especially after two trips to Africa. And, every day, I celebrate with gratitude our local coordinators who really know what they’re doing.

P.S. The website is all clean and safe now! Thanks for your patience!

Godfrey Matovu (Uganda) and Canaan Gondwe (Malawi) share with a women's group in Kasozi Village, Uganda. Each coordinator has different expertise to share with groups, me, and the other coordinators.

Godfrey Matovu (Uganda) and Canaan Gondwe (Malawi) share with a women’s group in Kasozi Village, Uganda. Each coordinator has different expertise to share with groups, me, and the other coordinators.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...