Recently Mtwapa has been hit by lots of power cuts regularly throughout the day and night… this sounds like bad news doesn’t it?
Not if you run the only Solar Powered mobile phone charging stop in Mtomondoni!
Mama Saidi is making the most of the power cuts by charging extra when there is no power elsewhere in the town!
Her fledgling business is growing steadily and Rieder is supporting her to continue managing the savings to provide for her family. He is also looking into other locations for the family to live at her request, so that she has more passing trade.
We hope that soon she will make enough to pay kindergarten school fees for Simon, Saidi’s younger brother. Stay tuned for more updates soon!
In a previous post we mentioned that Mama Steven was keen to start her own business selling charcoal. As promised, we wanted to tell you a bit more about it.
We have known Steven and his mother for quite some time; so we were aware that they are a very vulnerable family with little in the way of support. We wanted to give Mama Steven the chance she needed to provide for herself and Steven independently in the long term.
The business involves buying a large sack of charcoal at wholesale prices from the forest, transporting it to Mtwapa and then dividing the charcoal into small bags which she sells in the community. Charcoal is widely used for cooking in Mtwapa and there is a lot of money to be made selling small convenient bags.
This is very similar to the business Mama Saidi successfully ran last year and she has been very keen to share her knowledge and experience with Mama Steven, so she has a mentor right next door!
Rieder (Milele sponsorship co-ordinator) has also been helping her, visiting each evening to see whether she has been able to make any sales, helping to record her takings and to calculate how much from each sale she needs to put aside to buy the next bag of charcoal.
So far she has begun to establish her reputation and has made some early sales, she is hoping to build a link with one of the local shops who will buy the small bags of charcoal from her as a regular customer. Hopefully with time, she will be able to make enough money to support herself and Steven, paying the rent and putting food on the table.
Last year I started writing a series of articles about businesses which were being setup in Mtwapa with help from Milele business grants. Having arrived back in Kenya a couple of weeks ago we went around to find out how things had been going.
The biggest success story has to be Fauzia (Mother to Ummy) who has been running her cookery business for the entire year and is still going really strong. She continues to cook three times a day and has been able to support her family with the profit she has been making. Fauzia is the perfect example of how a business grant can work, providing a small amount of money upfront enabled her to purchase the basics she needed to get started and then her skills and passion made it work!
Khadija (Mother to Saidi) got off to a great start and had been running a profitable charcoal business via a local shop for over a year. Unfortunately she started to pay into a ill-fated saving scheme which collapsed just before her pay out was due, this put her into a really difficult situation which meant she was unable to continue operating. We have spent some time talking to her about what happened, whilst we are here we will be working with her to improve her financial planning and try to find an alternative business for her to run in the near future.
The final story I have to tell is about Isaac’s Mother; we originally helped her to setup a cafe business which was going well until her landlord decided to redevelop the plot which she was using. This was a big set back and we were really disappointed to see all her hard work go to waste, but we needn’t have worried. Mama Isaac regrouped and adapted, she took the profits from her cafe and bought the ingredients needed to make soap and bleach which she now sells around Mtwapa. Building on this success, she has started to make pillows with recycled materials and foraged cotton pods which she plans to start selling (for a tidy profit) in the near future. Not content with 2 business plans, she also collects any small glass bottles she finds on her travels which she cleans (with her bleach) and sells. I have honestly not met a more dedicated business woman in Mtwapa and it just goes to show that if you have the will to succeed and a positive attitude there can be opportunities everywhere!
In this episode of the Milele Business Grants series we are going to focus in on a few of the food businesses which have been setup or expanded with the help of a business grant.
The takeaway food industry in Mtwapa is really vibrant, if you walk down almost any street you will find someone selling some kind of food. Whether it’s sweet kiamati in the morning, chipati and beans at lunch time or fried pili-pili fish (straight from the fishing boats) in the evening; there’s always something interesting.
The popularity of takeaway food makes it a really good option for those who have received a business grant. With a small investment to buy equipment and ingredients, the family can use their existing skills to cook up some tasty treats and be making money by the end of the day. Best of all, if there’s any unsold stock the family can eat it for dinner so it’s rare that any food gets wasted.
Fauzia, the mother of Ummy, who is sponsored on the Milele programme, received a business grant to set up a food business and is making a huge success of it. I’d like to take you through a typical day so you can get an idea of just how hard she works!
Fauzia begins her day at around 5:00 am when she starts cooking so she can catch the early breakfast trade. She makes a few different dishes at breakfast time but by far the most popular is Mahamri; which is a triangular shaped savoury donut that I particularly like to dip in sweet tea! She cooks hundreds of these every morning and sells them directly to her customers as they walk by the stall.
At around 10:00 am she packs up her breakfast stall and makes her way to the local fish market where she buys several kilos of small fish. She cooks the fish in a large curved pan filled with bubbling oil, by the time the fish come out they are golden and crispy, the perfect addition to rice or ugali. After a few hours cooking fish, Fauzia cleans up and starts preparing for dinner.
In the evening, Fauzia mainly cooks a type of spiced potatoes which are usually accompanied by greens and perhaps some meat or fish. After a few more hours of cooking and selling Fauzia is done for the day, all that is left to do is pop to the market to buy the ingredients for tomorrow… and cook dinner for her family!
Fauzia is one of the hardest workers I have ever met, not only does she take every possible opportunity to make the money she needs to support her family, but she does it 7 days a week. Fauzia is making a good living for her self and her family and they are now able to achieve things which were not previously possible.
What’s amazing is that Fauzia is not alone in working this hard, many of the other business grant beneficiaries work just as hard and are becoming just as successful!
In the first of our Milele Business Grants series we are going to meet Khadija and her family. Khadija was one of the first to receive a Milele Business Grant and decided to set up a business focused on one of the most fundamental of human needs, Fire.
Khadija is the mother of Saidi who is one of the children on the sponsorship programme. You may remember that when we first met Saidi he was living in a very run down building and his whole family were severely malnourished. As well as providing emergency assistance we wanted to find a sustainable way for Khadija to support her family.
Khadija desperately wanted to find work but she suffers from a rare form of Polio which had left her unable to walk, this meant that the usual forms of employment were not open to her. After spending some time talking through the options it seemed that the best idea was to open a business which Khadija could run from home and Rieder proposed the idea of selling Charcoal.
Khadija buys large sacks of charcoal from a wholesaler; she then breaks up the bigger pieces of charcoal, packs it into small bags and sells to local families. The small bags of charcoal are really popular as they are they are the perfect size to cook one meal over a small stove called a Jiko.
Khadija and her family received a small start up grant to buy their first sack of charcoal back in 2013. With Rieder’s help, she has learnt how to run her own business and has started to make enough money to support her family. Over the years Khadija has built up a number of loyal customers and she can now sell a large sack of charcoal in as little as a week.
When we visited Khadija we asked her what she had been able to do with her money. As well as feeding and clothing her and her 5 children she has also been able to secure school places for her children and make some household purchases. Her home is now furnished with 3 plastic chairs and she has been able to invest in not only a new Jiko but a gas powered hob which she uses when it rains so she can safely cook inside.
Astonishingly, we have not got to the best part yet. When we visited Khadija a year or so after starting her business we found the family at their new home happily sitting outside on their new chairs. When Khadijha invited us inside we were amazed to see her stand and walk with the aid of a stick; being able to eat properly has given her enough strength to get around the house and immediate area. This is more than we could have hoped for and has transformed Khadija’s life for the better!
One of the biggest challenges facing families in Mtwapa (and the surrounding area) is being able to make enough money to support themselves with a regular income.
One of the largest industries in the coastal area is tourism, there are a number of hotels which have historically been big employers but in recent years the number of tourists has dropped and many hotels have scaled back and now employ significantly fewer members of staff. This all has a knock on effect on other industries which supply the hotels with food, drink and entertainment.
Outside of tourism, there are a few other large employers in the areas of education, manufacturing and agriculture. Jobs within education and manufacturing often require specific qualifications which makes them unattainable for many and whilst agriculture jobs do not generally require formal education, competition is high which means it is hard to secure a job and the pay can be quite low.
All in all, good employment is tough to come by and many people in Mtwapa choose to setup and run their own business. This can be a really good option as it gives a greater level of flexibility than traditional employment and if a person is willing to work hard the earning potential is huge.
When we talk to families we regularly find that they have lots of good ideas but often cannot find the money needed to get started. This is where the Milele Business Grants come in!
Milele works with families to find and develop a business idea, together we create a list of resources required to get up and running and then our coordinator Rieder provides the family with support to find the best prices and buy everything. A standard startup grant is usually around £40 but this is generally all that is needed to get a small business going. As the business starts to make money the family can invest the profits to buy more resources and expand.
To date we have helped 10 families and whilst not every business will succeed we have found that many have grown to become profitable business in a very short period of time and change the lives of the families involved.
Over the next few weeks we will be releasing a number of articles which take a look at a few of the businesses and the impact they have had on the families involved. We really enjoyed speaking to the families and hope that you enjoy the articles!