Sunday, May 26, 2024

Nyambura Munyua: I took a loan to buy Ruai plot that turned out to be a scam

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Nyambura Munyua is the founder and executive director of Thogithi Handmade community based organization in Laikipia County.

Thogithi is an initiative founded to empower women and local communities. It aims to catalyze local production, improve livelihoods, encourage entrepreneurship and address the potential women have to improve their livelihoods.

This is by undertaking activities that utilize local resources and skills to generate income and build their communities. We are focused on a for trade not aid approach and the bona-fide consumption of the made in Kenya brand.

I was looking for a solution for my cold feet when I started this organization. I am also the founding chairperson for cottage industries association. I searched for some warm yarn socks for my cold feet from the members and I found no answer.

I embarked on the knitting. We started with one knitter. As  the demand grew, we recruited other knitters into the community and the rest is history. Currently, we are supporting 70 women.

Our model is focused on impact as opposed to making profits. To manage the commercial gaps in making profits, we have been lucky to attract grants. The knitting ensures the sustainability of our projects way past the donor shelf life. One of the biggest Challenges experienced have been access to funding.

Contrary to many people’s beliefs securing funding for a startup CBO requires hard work and proof of concept. It requires governance structures, community participation and legal frameworks. Training and capacity building for the knitters to ensure that they fully understand and own the projects has also been such a challenge.

I have been employed for many years. My background is in supply chain. I have also been a teacher, a librarian. My current roles include running a CBO, an association and a SACCO. The last two are in the cottage industries ecosystem.

I once took a loan and purchased some land in Ruai, Nairobi that turned out to be a con game. I had not carried out some due diligence and I trusted a friend to do the foot work on my behalf. Lesson learnt; Always involve legal expertise if you must do it alone. Land bought under organized groups eg a SACCO is usually a safe play.

I have gone into businesses that I never fully understood.  Guess I was always chasing the shiny object. Lessons drawn; Never get into any business that is fueled by the need to compete with others. Get into the business to offer a solution, the bucks will follow you.

My most remarkable moment for me was when we launched our crowdfunding campaign to raise capital for our organization. The 1st backer sent us some money. Like a total stranger read our story on the social media platforms and was compelled to show support. Its not everyday that you hit on social media and strangers show up. That was such a moment for me.

Looking back, I would be more frugal with my money. I have an affinity for nice things in life. I guess it’s a vanity and I should focus on building wealth and my retirement package. I’m turning 42 this year and that is the age for building. I don’t want to be an old cranky broke woman living a life of regrets.

I want old age to find me at Montego Bay having a time of my life.  I would study education in university and be a teacher. I would definitely make one great literature and drama teacher.

I previously saved in banks. This proved to be a bad idea. I was always withdrawing my money whenever a need arose. This kept me in a cycle since needs will always be there. I now save in a Sacco. I have recently also started using money market funds.

Enterprenuership is a very lonely journey, not for everyone. When starting in business, I strongly would suggest that one starts with a less pompous momentum. Focus on building relationships and improving the products and the rest will follow later. The customer is more interested on the experience than the fancy office location, nice sales van, number of staff hired.

I’m pregnant and have a US student visa; Do I cancel traveling or take my boyfriend with me?

All are good but they should never be a priority. The reason is because all the niceties eat into your startup capital. Often times when starting out, one is not even sure of the direction of the business. It all seems attractive on the paper until when the rubber meets the road and you realize that vitu kwa ground ni tofauti.

Always start with the available resources within your radius. Envision your end game and work backwards. Build in silence and launch when ready. If things don’t work out as planned, set plan B in motion, then plan C and on to the next in the alphabet until you hack it right.

I have learnt about the value of the saving culture. Savings alone is a good thing but putting your money where it grows is a satisfying and worthwhile journey.

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