One drizzly morning seven years ago, Rosaline dropped in on a friend who ran a wholesale shop. This friend was complaining about her light bulbs supplier when Njeri did some quick thinking.
She had Sh10, 000 in her handbag, so she caught a matatu to town and purchased three cartons of bulbs which she brought back and sold to her friend. Today, she runs an electricals supply company that has clients in Rwanda, Southern Sudan and Kampala, Uganda.
“I had been a stay-at-home mum for one and a half years and I was looking for something to do. I grabbed the first opportunity that came,” she says.
House help troubles were what had prompted her to quit employment to stay at home with her two little boys. She had worked as a medical lab technician with a local NGO. While the pay was good, the job was involving, requiring a lot of travel and night shifts. She had no connection with her firstborn son.
“On the day I was supposed to report back to work after having my second born son, I wrote a letter of resignation. My parents hit the roof; they couldn’t (understand) it.”
Now, a year and a half later, she had stumbled onto a business idea. After this first sale, she started visiting small supermarkets where she saw that there was demand for not just bulbs, but also switches, sockets and security cameras.
Two months in, she landed her first big order worth Sh70, 000. She went to her husband Peter who gave her the cash.
“I was aggressive. Business picked up fast. Two years in, I had a functioning company and I had established a rapport with several contractors who would give me orders for fittings for buildings they were constructing. Life was good,” she recalls.
HITTING ROCK BOTTOM
Then, her husband unexpectedly passed on. Njeri was devastated. After the funeral, everybody else went back to their lives. Having little left in common with her married friends, these friendships waned. Rosaline sank into depression. Her business stopped becoming a priority. She stopped going out to collect orders and would only make deliveries to those clients who called her. This went on for a year.
“One morning, my former boss at the NGO who was also a friend called me offering me my job back,” she recalls.
Now that she was raising the boys by herself, she was sure that she didn’t want to be away from home for most of the day.
She turned down the job offer but this phone call snapped her back to action. She realised that she had children who she needed to feed and clothe. She dusted herself up and revived her business.
This time round, she sought to also work with contractors outside Nairobi. She invested her time in the business and it gave back.
“In 2013, I saw that there were a lot of counterfeit electricals in the market. I figured that by importing the items for myself, I would make more money and also be sure that I got the genuine products.”
She went to her bank with that proposal and got a loan that saw her travel to Dubai and then China that same year.
This business decision boosted her business. She now no longer generates dead stock and her profit margin is bigger. She expanded her stock to include security cameras, security lighting, garden lighting and street lighting.
PIECES FALLING BACK TOGETHER
Today, Rosaline employs a permanent staff of 12. She established contacts in Dubai and doesn’t need to travel to re-stock. She dreams of owning her own brand of electricals and electronics in the next few years. Running a business in a male-dominated field, she admits, hasn’t been easy.
“There is the assumption that women are weak. There will always be that person out there who is trying to con you. I am street smart though and I can handle it,” she says.
As her business grew, all the other tiny pieces in her life started falling back together. She is now happy with her current partner, Edward. Together, they have four children. Being an entrepreneur, she says, allows her to organise her life to allow her adequate time to spend time to also be a present mother.
“There were times, especially at the start, when I contemplated going back into employment. Now I don’t think there is a job offer that can make me go back into employment.”
HOW SHE DID IT
The freedom that comes with running a business can make one lose focus. She has cultivated discipline.
Instead of working hard, she worked smart, constantly looking into untapped areas of her trade.
She reckons that one needs to have faith in something. She leans on her Christian faith during tough times.