BY LEILA BURAJE: My name is Leila Buraje. I started my mitumba business immediately after I finished my Fourth Form due to lack of college fees. I did it because it was the only thing I could do then to earn a living. I had also gotten into marriage immediately after school and my family felt like I had really let them down and so everyone treated me like the black sheep of the family.
I got a stall by the road side in one of the estates and during market days I would follow the mamas in my neighborhood to the market on Sundays. We got to the Market by 6.00 am and left at 6.30 pm.
At this point, my entire stock was worth Sh. 5,000. Despite my business putting food on the table for me and paying my bills, I was ashamed of myself and could always hide whenever I saw the people we went to high school with doing good jobs.
My turning point came when I gave birth to my first born in 2005. Life was so hard and with my hubby being a mtu wa squad Kwa Matatu, I had no option but to embrace my business more and look for new strategies to grow. I vowed never to hide from my high school classmates and decided to tell them what I sell so that they could be my customers, though they always referred to me as “mama wa soko”.
I joined my first Chama where I was paid Sh. 300 per week. We were eight members and so after two months one could get Sh. 2,400. Joining this Chama made me work even harder because I believed that the Chama was my pay day just like those in employment.
Out of the Chama, I managed to save and move to a Sh. 2,500 house from a Sh. 800 one. Through hard work and resilience, I was able to hold on even as the family grew bigger to 3 kids. I was the main financial pillar of the family. I joined more Chamas and saving was my priority because I had now started thinking seriously about my children’s future. I joined SMEP Microfinance where I started saving and got my first loan of Sh. 20,000.
I had bigger dreams of owning my own home some day. Little by little, my loan limit grew to Sh. 150,000 and with my savings from Chamas of Sh. 100,000, I was able to get a small piece of land in 2011.